In college, are you spending, wasting or investing your time?

September 2, 2011 by Kenneth O'Connor

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If you are trying to create success in your college experience, it’s time to take control of your time and make the best of it. In order to do this, you need to learn about some fundamental “rules” of time. Unfortunately there is no clear rulebook about time; it’s mostly subjective and at the mercy of your own perceptions.

Time perception is actually a field of study that falls under the psychology and neuroscience field, and should at least be understood as part of a well rounded education. So let’s get to it.

Remember, there are 24 hours inside of every day for each person: One of the many ways that people are unique and distinctive from one another is by the way they handle their own 24 hours. We can never know exactly how many years we have in front of us, which is precisely why people say to “take one day at a time”. However, on a day to day basis we all have access to the 1440 minutes that make a day. These hours can be divided up however one sees fit. In this way, we all begin each day with a degree of equality. We then define ourselves from others by the way we use those hours each day. So what do you do with your hours? Do they feel like a gift? A burden? An opportunity? A curse? While time is finite, your imagination has infinite ideas and feelings about what can be done with it, and is subject to your emotions and perceptions.

No time banks to make deposits and withdrawals: Wouldn’t it be great if there was a bank to store extra and otherwise unused time for future consumption? Unfortunately that is impossible. The tricky part about time is that once it is gone, it’s gone forever, so no one can go back and create time after it is lost. When one recognizes that time is a finite resource, they tend to appreciate it much more. Time is actually more valuable than money, because if money is lost it can be made again, and if you have extra money you can put it in a bank for holding until you need it at a later date. Time is never as flexible as money.

Most people have difficulty appreciating time: Today, the first experience many people have with time management is working out the minutes on a cell phone plan. And for all the wonderful things that can be learned in college, one area that is given minimal academic review is time management. Time management is one of those skills that is learned while performing the tasks and requirements of school-work, but it is not implicitly taught by anyone. People that master time management learn it along the way because they quickly recognize the value of it before their peers. People that do not learn it find themselves lost in a wash of difficulties because they can’t seem to stay on schedule for anything. If you are in college now, it’s time to start reading between the lines to see the true value of time management and how it can positively impact your life.

The division of hours: When one begins to split the hours of their day, they begin to schedule themselves. When considering one has access to only a limited amount of time, this division of time shapes into priorities. Generally, a productive person’s day is made up of the following; A certain amount of sleep hours, a certain amount of labor hours and a certain amount of personal time. Putting too much time into one area means that time must be reduced from another area. The greatest challenge people have is finding balance amongst all of these categories.

Ways that time is expended: There are essentially three purposes for the time one has; Time can be spent, wasted or invested. While very subjective, there are some familiar patterns.

Spending time: Spending time is the most common usage of most people’s hours. These are the hours spent on transportation to and from locations, working at jobs for a salary or hourly wage, waiting in line at a DMV, and other mundane tasks that occupy most of our lives. Spending time entails a trade-off, where time is expended to get something done or achieve a requirement. An example “I spent time looking at used furniture on Craig’s list, you know there are some good deals there!” or “I spent time waiting tables while going to school in Boston, I needed some extra cash.” There is a viable exchange going on when one spends time. Money can also be used to change the way we spend time. When we pay for services like in restaurants, laundry, cleaning, lawn care etc., we trade our money to have someone spend time working on something we want done. With one less chore to worry about, we have access to more time to do something else. While in college be careful to spend time wisely, while recognizing that this is an opportune time  to invest your time in things that can grow.

Wasting time: Wasting time is another popular option. Generally watching TV, playing video games, celebrity-gossip websites and other avenues offer tons of time-wasting opportunities. Wasting time should be avoided, except that it can be really fun to waste some time, making it hard to resist. It’s all about perception. What may be perceived as wasted time by some is actually time well spent by others. For example, going to a Jets game; I mean really what are there super bowl chances this year? What a waste of time. Well it’s no waste of time for a Jets fan, they love it! The test used to determine if time is wasted really comes down to what is lost and what is gained. If a large amount of money is expended while wasting time, the only thing left is the experience; Does that experience leave you feeling good and a bit wiser for the wear, or does it leave you with less dollars and lost time. Remember it’s your time and your choice as to how to use it. Most college students end up wasting a lot of time along the way to their degree, but are able to do so because they have access to so much of it.

Investing time: When one invests time, they engage in development and training that can improve the value of future time and productivity. This is the essence of human capital development, and a cornerstone to education. We invest time during learning experiences, job training, exercise, even when we eat healthy food. Allocating time towards building a business, or an idea that is beneficial to others can also be a form of investing time. Again, it’s all about your perception. If you believe that what you are doing is leading towards something bigger and better with benefits, you ARE investing your time. Invested time is purposeful, well managed and usually planned in advance. However, it can also be spontaneous and fun depending on your own personality. It’s the art of improving your own life circumstances. Best of all, time that is successfully invested manifests itself though life outcomes, like a fulfilling career and happy relationships. As a college student, the majority of your time needs to be of the investing category.

No one learns time management over-night: It takes time to learn time management. It’s most challenging to manage time in early years because young people simply have a lack of experience in dealing with time. For youth, time can feel like long, drawn out periods between exciting circumstances that are few and far between. It becomes a nuisance to the untrained mind, where people find themselves counting the minutes instead of making the minutes count in a day. The wonderful thing about college is that there is time for exploration. This is a combination of wasted, spent and invested time that when taken into sum total creates the gains of a lifetime.

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