This summer marks the first I’ve spent in the real world. At the moment, I define living in the real world as having a 9 to 5 job, although I’m sure this definition will change once I graduate from Rutgers.
What I’ve learned this summer working in the finance department of Linde, a gas company whose American headquarters lies forty minutes north of New Brunswick, could fill several more posts. But some of the most valuable experiences and insights I’ve had this summer come from what I learn outside the company’s walls about leading a balanced life while working. I studied Chinese grammar during the first Rutgers summer session and am working on two research projects, practicing with the Rutgers’ Mock Trial team, studying for LSATs, and having as much fun as I can and relaxing during the summer before school starts.
As I move over the summer hump and look towards next year, I’ve come to a few realizations about how I can balance the demands each of these activities place on my time.
Lesson #1 for the real world: multi-tasking isn’t all that bad.
Often trying to pay attention to two things at once leads to not really paying attention to either thing.
That being said, if you’re looking to squeeze in some extra time, multi-tasking may be your best bet. I’ve found that learning Russian, memorizing Rules of Evidence for Mock Trial, and keeping up with news can all be done while doing other things. For me, this means that when I’m commuting to and from work, exercising, cooking, cleaning, or walking around NB, I have my iPhone and am listening to a podcast, recorded text, or a language lesson.
This has come at the expense of listening to music. All I want to do when I drive home at the end of the day from work is blast Spotify. However, I can’t complain that I don’t have enough time when all the time I need is sitting in chunks throughout my day, waiting to be used.
Lesson #2: organize your life with Excel.
I love Excel. Since I’ve spent so much time learning and working with Excel this summer, I’ve tried to organize as much of my life as possible through it. I’ve explored its incredibly powerful software, but it’s the simple formatting, table, and sorting tools that I’ve found the most useful. Everything, from daily to-do lists to reading lists to shopping lists, now has its own Excel table.
Keeping organized is an important part making the most of your time, but it can be dangerous. Both Excel and YouTube can both distract, but only the former offers the chance for you to feel productive while squandering your time.
Everyone has their own way of keeping track of their life; Excel just happens to be mine. However it is that you manage it, make sure that you have something keeping you on point and that you don’t get carried away with it.
As an Excel side note: I discovered this great blog by a writer named Ryan Holiday. He has a unique perspective on how to read (and on life in general) as well as a diverse, interesting list of books he recommends. Of course my first step after browsing his site was to add a tab for his recommendations to my Excel reading list.
Lesson #3: enjoy your time now because tomorrow things may get “realer.”
As much as I feel that in my life right now I’m doing the most work I’ve ever had to do or will ever do, I know that tomorrow will be harder.
I remember talking to my older brother when I was in 8th grade and complaining about all the schoolwork I had at the time. He told me to stop complaining and enjoy 8th grade, because 10th grade is even more difficult. Whatever I’m going through now will always seem harder than anything I’ve already done in life because past experience is the only reference I have.
It feels like I have no free time now, but that’s really not true. If I will have more work tomorrow, then there must be some time today that I’m not fully using. I’m going to find that extra time hiding in my day and enjoy it to the fullest.