A friend of mine in high school used to make sure he did no more than 30 minutes of homework a day. I always admired how disciplined and conscientious he was in abiding by that self-imposed rule. Regardless of what the teachers threw at us in the IB diploma program, he wouldn’t budge. If some things didn’t get done, so be it; he wasn’t going to let them cut into the time he set aside to relax.
While this isn’t an approach I would exactly recommend, I had to take some inspiration from it after my first semester at Tufts (Fall 2012). Soon after classes started, I fell into a pattern that took me a while to get out of. Ignoring the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” I would give myself inordinate amounts of time – sometimes full days – to do work that could probably have been done in just a couple of hours. Feeling like I was short on spare time during the week, I didn’t partake in many extracurriculars that I knew would be a heavy time commitment. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself, but I definitely didn’t leave myself open to all the opportunities I could have. When the semester ended and I had a solid month’s break to relax and think, I resolved to give myself less time to do work and more time to take part in Tufts beyond the academia. The work will get done, I realized, even if I force myself to balance it against other pursuits.
In the first few weeks back at school, when this new outlook was still fresh in my mind, such an opportunity fell right into my lap. Well-advertised around campus was the Writing Fellows program, which was just accepting applications for the 2013-14 term. The program is described best here, but in summary, it’s a writing tutor program in which the tutors discuss the ideas behind a student’s writing rather than simply proofreading their work and telling them how to change it. I like to write. I’ve enjoyed tutoring in the past. And I’m always more comfortable having an open discussion than I am telling someone what to do (I also didn’t mind the stipend). In short, this was exactly the sort of thing I came into the new semester looking for.
I saw that the time commitment was roughly 40 hours a semester. My initial reaction harkened back to my first semester mindset: no time. Gotta use that time to get my work done. But this was just a knee-jerk response, and immediately on its heels came the reminder that those 40 hours would probably be otherwise spent working on papers that could’ve been finished already. So I went ahead with the application process, and after a few months I got an email informing me that I would, in fact, be a Writing Fellow.
A year later, I’m again getting back into the rhythm of school after a long winter break, and again I’m seeing the Writing Fellow program advertised around campus in search of new applicants. But this time I’m one of the ones putting up the flyers and encouraging people to apply. Now I’m able to tell others who are interested that this program was one of the highlights of my last semester, and how I hope my career in the future is equally rewarding. By coming full circle, from applicant to encourager of applications, I'm able to say that it does demand a fair bit of time, but it's worth carving it out of your schedule if you think you'll like it as much as I do.
And the work will still get done.