Placing Honest Efforts, Avoiding All Nighters, Undercommitting, and Acknowledging Limits
On Placing an Honest Efforts
Sometime ago, I realized that whenever I complained that 'I don't have enough time' was an indirect translation to:
'I procrastinate all the time and I don't really give some of my commitments enough time to follow through. And even if I say I'll work on x for y hours, I end up getting distracted and not really putting an honest effort'
I also complained that the day only has 24 hours. And how unfortunate it was… But how silly of me. A week is 168 hours. There’s no reason to shove all the work that needs to get done in 24 hours. There’s a whole other 144 hours in the week!
I don’t know how I have gotten away with it for 22 years now, but I know that ever since I acknowledged the fact that I am the only person solely responsible for 'not having enough time,' it drastically improved my efficiency and the quality of my work.
Lately, I’ve stopped lying to myself and I realized that I’m really not putting an honest effort into the allocated time I’ve put into my academic and other work-related commitments.
For instance, when I have allocated time to work on a homework for 8 hours, and honestly work for 8 hours, stuff actually gets done.
And note the word HONESTLY. I mean no distractions, no procrastinations, but actually just thinking and working on the problem.
On Avoiding All-nighters
A lot of my undergrad life has been working on homework assignments only at night times starting at 8pm - 1 am.
I stay up late and wake up at 10, 11 am. Lunch at 12pm then classes / other commitments until 5/6pm. I procrastinate until 7pm. Eat until 8pm… then physically work on homeworks at 8:30pm. That accounts for only 4 hours of work every night. FOUR HOURS! That’s so small compared to the work load.
Of course, when the deadline is immediate, all the distractions suddenly go away, and I end up spending some all-nighters to accommodate my procrastination.
I started counting. I counted a subset of those all nighter hours. You know what I found? Those all nighters averaged 8-12 hours of extra work.
And I think that’s when the epiphany struck. It was only after I actually put 8-12 hours of honest effort, did anything seem to get done.
Now imagine if I had just put those 8-12 hours and spaced them out throughout the week. No… even space them out throughout a day! Then really, in theory, no all-nighter should ever happen.
What a relief it has been to realize that I never need to do an all nighter.
On Not Overcommitting and Acknowledging Limits
Of course, I’ve also realized that this only works when I honestly came to terms with my own limits
I can’t do everything, and in fact no one can. And this is OK. Some might be faster than others, and others even more efficient, but really there’s a physical limit that I needed to accept. I think this is a real lesson to a lot of over achievers. There’s no need to stress and rush through everything. Nice, slow and happy is equally good.
My old roommate always criticized me for over-committing to a bunch of activities. I always told myself I can do them. But he was right in some way no matter how mean he came across. It was detrimental to my health to say the least.
Why is it so bad to overcommit?
You’re spread too thin. You get tired. You don’t learn as well. You miss sleep. You lose focus. You get sad for not following-through. Then you say you’ll be better. But the cycle repeats because you overcommit again.
Now I’ve stopped. I’ve also learned to say No to people demanding my time and only saying Yes when I feel that I can actually follow-through with that action given my current commitments.
I can say this is quite the most relaxing time for me in MIT so far.
Coming to terms with my limits, placing honest time and effort, and not over committing have been the best lessons so far.
And tonight, I’ll get lots of sleep.