Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Don’t Dream Big, Envision Your Greatest Self Instead


Finally I can breathe for the first time in a month as Summer Session I and juggling a life as a “working mom”, where:

…I took morning classes instead of night classes, while

….taking care of my “kids” (my roommates and friends) whom I would cook or buy food for, wait to pick up to and from work, or assist in their studies, while

…working at my internship, trying to manage the various tasks given to me within a short period of time,

has come to an end. As a Philomath, I thought that taking classes would be a great way to keep my mind stimulated for the summer and an internship in conjunction would only add to my learning experience and productivity. To the extent, this learning experience would be was beyond my prediction.

People always talk about time management and yet why do so many of us fail at it again and again? Common advice is to stay organized, plan ahead and prioritize. However, this is not so simple when the goals you set for yourself are set too high.

We have been raised to dream big and “reach for the stars”, setting high goals that meet the high expectations others and ourselves have created. Yet, disappointment is inevitable and the result tends to be a feeling of failure instead of a feeling of accomplishment.

Setting attainable, realistic expectations that push ourselves to do our very best can be the key to time management and greater satisfaction from what we set out to accomplish.

Time management is essential to maximizing the limited hours in a day. Having a good night’s rest, followed by an early morning rise that allows for you to get ready at a calm pace and get breakfast (most importantly coffee). It allows for you to maximize the energy exerted in your studies and at work, maintaining a competitive GPA and producing quality content at your job.

Most people learn from their own mistakes (like me), but smart people learn from others’ mistakes (probably you since you’re reading this). Therefore, here are some of my recommendations for you to take, apply and revise:

  1. Sleep. Remember that there are only 24 hours a day and 7 of those hours should be dedicated to you sleeping
  2. Overestimate. Really think about how long it has taken you to complete similar assignments or tasks in the past.
  3. Eliminate distractions. When carving out time to study, find a quiet space, where you won’t run into friends. Listen to music if this helps, but make sure it is in the background.
  4. Minimize risks. If an exam is coming up or an important meeting at work, try not to stay out late, dress warmly to avoid getting sick, get a good night’s rest.
  5. Say No. Really, Say No. This is my biggest challenge. I can easily be guilted into hanging out with someone or helping someone out with something, however, you need to make sure you have time to take care of what you need to get done.
  6. Prioritize. Really consider how things are ranked in your life because, in reality, you can’t expect to be a 100% in everything you do.
  7. Plan ahead. Keep yourself informed with important dates and allow time for yourself to do what you need to do. Don’t forget that in reality, this includes breaks, hanging with your friends, commutes. You are only human.
  8. Breathe. No one is perfect. Always remember that you did the best that you could for the situation you are in.

Yes, you could have spent a few more hours studying, but would you have gotten the sleep you needed for the exam? Sometimes life can get in the way. Grades matter, but you don’t need to be perfect. Do what makes you happy and matters to you, while remembering time is an inevitable limitation. Set goals that are attainable, but that push you to accomplish what matters to you. We shouldn’t dream big and focus on what is more unrealistic. Instead, we should envision our fullest potential. There lies where we should truly dream because in reality it can come true and we will reap the greatest satisfaction from it.

I sometimes forget to not be so hard on myself. Instead, I should focus on what I can realistically achieve and be proud of the hard work and resulting accomplishments. Hopefully, more of us will begin to relieve the pressure we constantly put on ourselves and lead better and more satisfied lives.