By Hoi Wong ’17
“You’ve got mail.” Remember the good ol’ days of AOL and the monotonic male voice notifying us that we have received new email in our inboxes? It seems like it was just yesterday when I had to sit in front of a desktop to check my email, maybe a maximum of three times daily.
In today’s society, we are increasingly relying on technology to assist not only with communication, but also with scheduling and productivity. Through the years, as I became more obsessed with occupying every single moment of free time, I slowly migrated from writing down meetings and assignments on a paper calendar to inputting every minute of my day on an electronic calendar. Technology, in a way, has made it easier to be busy.
I started college never having used the calendar application on my phone or computer. I relied solely on my memory to keep track of homework assignments, due dates, and meeting times. Although this method got me through the first two weeks of class, I soon found myself tangled in scheduling conflicts.
I began my process of hyper-organization by first merging my BlitzMail account to my Gmail account so I could utilize all the Google applications seamlessly without having to constantly jump between Google and Microsoft Outlook. Adding my Gmail onto my phone, I was soon able to view and send Blitz on the go. Next, I added my Google account into the Calendar application onto both my Mac and my phone, allowing me to view and add events on the same calendar across my different devices and have them sync automatically.
The final touch for the complete revamp of my productivity was setting up alerts on my phone so I would receive a reminder on my phone ten minutes before each scheduled event. Although I am still guilty of over-sleeping from time to time, my failure to show up due to forgetfulness is now a thing of the past.
Being able to manage my email and calendar across platforms has drastically improved my productivity. Although technology has made my life easier in some ways, it has arguably made my life more difficult in others. With an electronic calendar, scheduling has become a game of Tetris where the goal is to fill up every block of spare time I had. I would feel a sense of accomplishment when my commitments fit together perfectly like a puzzle.
However, a danger of extreme scheduling is the domino effect, where missing one event or being late to a meeting can cause the rest of your schedule to collapse in a chain reaction. I learned this the hard way when I missed the first leg of my journey to New York City, having no other option than to take a $60 taxi ride or miss the next two pit stops.
Extreme scheduling and the personal pressure to maximize productivity can quickly lead to over-commitment and burnout. I found myself physically exhausted and unable to mentally focus on or enjoy my activities. For some time, I was could not fully engage and was present for the sake of being present.
By the end of this past term, I could not remember feeling so tired. I had planned activities back-to-back without making room to take a breather. At the peak of my extreme scheduling, I would have class from 10am – 1pm, work from 1pm – 3pm, a fencing practice from 3pm – 5pm, dinner from 5pm – 6pm, meetings from 6pm – 8pm, and studying/homework from 8pm – 12am. I learned an important lesson: although my calendar theoretically allowed me to schedule events for all the 1,440 minutes that existed each day, I needed to take time to sleep, to eat, and to enjoy the red brick buildings, the changing colors of leaves, and the quaint New Hampshire scenery. My solution? I scheduled “me-time” into my calendar daily: a mandatory hour and a half to breathe and to be me.