These past few months have been really trying for me in every sense of the word. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in a day so that I can accomplish more. Study matters, work matters, house matters, car matters, MUMSA, oh I have learnt so much. It may sound funny that there was a meaningful lesson behind every little thing I did, even something as trivial as paying the house rent on time, settling utility bills, doing laundry, shopping for groceries and cooking dinner for the flat. Throw in the mix of university life and RA work, then you have a recipe for disaster.
But I knew it didn’t have to be that way. I have learnt to value my time so much more now, and that every little bit counts. I have also learnt to manage my time more wisely, something I should have done a long time ago. I guess it takes experience to really value the meaning of the saying ‘Time and tide wait for no man’. Yes, deadlines for reports, projects and presentations always creep up on you. I used to look at the deadline of a task and if it was more than a few weeks away, I would leave it to the last few days.
There used to be no problem in that, because that’s usually the amount of time it would take me to complete such work, a few days worth. But I tended to forget that such tasks were not isolated from other events, and that there was other work I had yet to know of. I used to treat these tasks as if they were independent of each other, as if I could tell my landlord that I can’t do the house inspection because I had an assignment due that day. Or like I could tell the noisy plumber next door not to fix the toilet because I had to study for an exam. Not acceptable.
Now I know this is not the case. When I left my work to the last few days, which technically is sufficient time, I usually ended up stressed out due to other things which had come up from nowhere. Ultimately, the time that was supposed to be sufficient, ended up being insufficient due to external factors. Factors that I had no control over, nor the ability to foresee. So how do I keep up? Well, I applied something I learnt in PED not so long ago, which was ‘buffer time’. Say if it takes me 12 hours to work on something, I allow 24 hours of time for it, about 100% of buffer time if anything goes wrong. That implied that I had to start work on something twice as early as I had initially planned.
I also use the online calendar function ever so dearly now, which I sync with my phone. I dare say it’s as essential as my email, if not more. I now plan my day ahead before going to sleep, I pack my bag accordingly the night before, and know exactly what I’m going to do the next day. I try to kill two birds with one stone where possible. I even take shorter routes around campus. Having staff access to buildings (RA) also means that I can walk through buildings now, and not around them. Haha, every little bit counts!
That’s not to say that I don’t have downtime or breaks, because I do. There is nothing wrong in relaxing and having time out. It just means that I have to allocate times for those too. I am in a transition period, and I know there will be times when my plans will fail. But I suppose the important thing is that I learn from it when it does fail, and strive to improve, inshaAllah.
Like me, this lesson in time management was most likely learnt the hard way for many students. I know for a fact that some of my classmates had caught up with it long before I did, so there’s nothing new there. That was not my intention of sharing this information anyway, because like I said, it’s not new. I just hope that somebody out there would also benefit from me discovering this little bit of knowledge, and that he or she would not have to learn it the way I did, and avoid frustrations and disappointments.
At the end of it all, everybody has 86,400 seconds in a day. And as the famous Arab proverb says, “Time is like a sword, if you do not cut with it, then it will cut you.”