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The Importance of a Free Hour

March 5, 2013   

Schoolwork has a tendency to pile up and catch me off guard.  I try to study ahead of my syllabi, to stay on top of all my major assignments, but the work still amasses.  My German professor could assign an essay due next class; my economics professor could email out a new problem set; my computer science professor could ask me to research a new technology.  Add these last-minute surprises to the usual mix of readings, papers and exams, and my once-free day becomes very hectic.

Yesterday, I found myself once again caught up in my schoolwork.  I needed to finish a problem set before 9 a.m. and write a paper by 3 that afternoon.  I worked at a blinding pace all morning, rushing to finish the assignments.  But midway through my frantic study session, I stopped.

I was working far too hard.  My logic was scattered and disorganized, my mind was tired and inefficient—I spent hours rewording sentence after sentence, unable to accurately articulate my thoughts.  I barely managed to finish the problem set in time and was completely lost on how to start the paper. To continue working in such a state would have been a profound waste of my time, which was a very scarce resource.

I put my books down and walked around campus.  I ran into some friends, and we all went to an early lunch in the Diner.  I spent an easy hour joking, laughing and eating; I enjoyed the pleasures of the moment, refusing to think about the fast-approaching deadlines.

When I sat back down at my desk later, the haze had been lifted.  I could work easily and efficiently.  I watched the afternoon hours fly by as my paper took shape.  I ended up with a perfectly crafted assignment, an essay I could be proud of.  That hour I took for myself, away from the stresses of work, was by far the most efficient use of my time.