It’s that time in the semester when everyone seems to constantly be busy with ever-present exams and assignment deadlines looming. The fact that the weather won’t make up its mind yet isn’t helping. The beautiful warm days are almost a curse when followed by snow, or even worse, rain. It’s like Mother Nature’s teasing us, but right now it feels almost cruel.
I’ve been determined to make the most of this, despite the weather, by spending as much time outside as possible. I typically do this by not planning the day outside of classes, letting spontaneity dictate a schedule instead. I’m sure many of us can relate to this; as soon as I was able to choose my own schedule, I consciously avoided forcing myself into a routine as much as possible. It’s incredibly freeing to decide in the moment what I’ll accomplish for the day, but I also tend to overestimate the benefits of having nothing planned. Sometimes I do, in fact, go on cool adventures beyond anything I could’ve predicted. But more often than not, the sheer decision-making process itself leads to countless hours of Netflix.
This past week, as my friend was away for a conference, I was the babysitter for her dog. I’ve always loved being around animals, but I never would have predicted how perfect the timing of this occurrence would be. Dogs need to be walked, fed, given attention: they thrive on routine. To my surprise, people do too. Although the early wake-up was hard at times and the interruptions might’ve been annoying, having a dog around is like having a life companion. While I would do schoolwork, he would sleep. Going for walks is the perfect study break, but I never would have taken the time and energy to just go for a walk if not for the dog.
Taking care of a dog forced me into a schedule for several days, and I was more productive than ever. Despite exams, I found myself thriving and enjoying the workload. There’s something about having a schedule that streamlines the decision making process. Being forced into a routine helped me be more productive than ever, and despite lots of schoolwork, I found myself thriving.
This newfound energy is also a result of planning deliberate outings to exercise the dog. We visited Stewart Park and Taughannock, hiking for hours nearly every day. These are moments I really came to cherish, as I was literally forced to be outside and be present in that very moment. Again, this is something I don’t normally prioritize, but having the dog as an excuse to be outside let me explore in more ways than I ever thought possible; I learned so much about myself.
There’s a phrase I hear thrown around quite a bit: some people live for the weekend. They’re miserable during their day-to-day lives and expend the majority of their excitement and energy on the two-day break. This is certainly true for many college students, particularly when we’re busy.
I challenge you to find something to break up the week. Maybe it’s going to a local park or watching a movie with friends. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite podcast or reading a book — one that’s not actually a class requirement. Give yourself pockets of little joy, interspersed throughout your week so you’re not just living for the weekend, but rather for every day. I’ve been doing this ever since I babysat my friend’s dog, and it’s completely changed how I view Ithaca. I have a much better appreciation for the natural beauty and the more subtle adventures to be had here.
So if you’re struggling with time management or feel like you simply don’t have enough hours in the day, ask yourself this: how long do I spend making innocuous decisions? If so, perhaps a routine will give you those few extra precious minutes that can make all the difference. It certainly did for me.
Lorelei Meidenbauer ’22 (she/her) is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Hot-takes and Handshakes runs every other Tuesday this semester.