Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Secret Life of the Overscheduled

For most of my life, I have known people who were overscheduled. Some of them were high school overachievers, the star athlete who also did drama, took 3 AP courses, and volunteered at the local soup kitchen while also taking piano lessons and being tutored for the SAT. Some of them were people with families, kids who needed to be picked up from school or taken to doctor's appointments, dinners waiting to be made, playdates to arrange. I was never one of these people; I always made sure there was plenty of time to do everything I wanted without being rushed, and still have room left over for an afternoon nap.

I look back on this former self and laugh. I have joined the overscheduled. I go to business school full-time, which means classes five days a week and study sessions and group project meetings too. I've just landed a communications internship, which will add 16 hours per week to my schedule. I'm on a Women in Development Committee, and there are untold hours of homework reading and writing. The afternoon nap has gone by the wayside, along with the afghan I was crocheting, and a stack of recipes I was hoping to try out. Forget Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Bones. I don't even have my subways commute to myself anymore; instead of bopping along to Duffy's Rockferry, I'm now reviewing cases for class discussions, or consulting my notes on Economics.

What I find most amusing about this is that I have a once a week gig as an Academic Coach now, and when I first met my client (we'll call her Maggie--not her real name), I was dumbfounded as to how she could cram so much into her schedule. Her school, a particular religious school, takes up her day from 8-6, followed by extra-curriculars every evening (community service, drama club, newspaper, etc.). Her weekends are squeezed by Sabbath observance. I work with her on time management, building a solid schedule with awareness of assignments and due dates, prioritizing work, reviewing drafts of her writing, and so forth.

All of my work with Maggie has given me a lot of perspective on my own now jam-packed schedule. I try to approach what I'm doing with the same attitude that I convey to Maggie: be prepared. Do what you can in advance. Ask for help when you need it. I find my coaching work is as beneficial to me as it is to Maggie.

This weekend, I have scheduled in a barbecue for some friends, as my designated relaxing time. I'm coming to realize that you can't schedule so much work and relax in between; you must actually schedule your down time, or you will miss it. You'll end up filling it in with yet another hour of work.

4 responses:

Kathrin Ivanovic said...

This post made me laugh. I do not remember a time when I was not overscheduled. Even now, when I am not employed (in the traditional sense), I am swamped with an ever expanding to-do list.

KEHutchinson said...

Maybe you could share some tips that keep you from going insane while being insanely scheduled? I'd love to hear how you deal with the stress!

WorkingDefinition said...

I was recently contemplating my schedule for the week in iCal: classes, club meetings, homework time and workout time... when all was said and done, I had a very colorful screen with one little box late late on Friday night which read, "get a life."

Unknown said...

I am defiantly a member of the over scheduled. Senior year in high school I took 6 AP classes, was in the band, was the captain of the Field Hockey and Track teams and yet I still found time to do all of my homework and have fun with my friends. I wish I knew how I did that. Now I am a sophomore in Cornell University and the workload, extra circulars and part-time internships/jobs are really starting to pressure in on me. I think that even though my life is packed day to day with meetings and classes and studying that I am happier now than I would be without a busy schedule. The schedule is what keeps me going and the pressure really does help me push through the hard work. Being over scheduled can be a good thing...you just have to be positive.

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