Opinion | Don’t be late for yourself


Mark Capapas

Students study in the Undergraduate Library on Dec. 10. Columnist Tara says setting time for yourself is essential to improving.

By Tara Pavithran, Columnist

Think about the last time you canceled plans on someone. It could have been on a friend, sibling or parent. Now, think about the last time you canceled on yourself. 

It’s a scenario I’ve been in too many times. I stay up late because I’m not done with everything I had to do that day. By the dimmest light setting of my Costco lamp, my pen scratches in my planner, writing out a detailed plan for the next day, only for it all to fall through when a friend proposes lunch or I run into someone on my floor and get sucked into a conversation. 

When these things happen, I tend to go with the flow and let plans unfold as we talk, throwing whatever structure I had for the day out the window. The next thing I know, hours of my time are gone. But why do I let myself do this? 

It all comes down to a lack of strictness. Imagine if you scheduled studying with a friend at 6 p.m. At around 5 p.m., you start planning what you need to do to get ready, what you’re going to bring and how long it will take to get there.

As the time to leave approaches, your only focus is making sure you get there so you don’t fall through on an agreement.

This same energy needs to be carried over to our self-agreements. It is essential to stop giving away our time, and to do this, we need to stop cancelling on ourselves.

When college began, I started feeling like my time wasn’t mine. Living around your friends means social events are frequent  occurrences, and your ability to say no is hindered when you’re still trying to find a rhythm. 

The catch is, the more we let other people dictate our rhythm, the less likely it is we will form our own. 

To make steps toward creating a flow, I’ve stopped making myself overly available to people around me. I plan out meals and studying with friends in advance and refrain from advertising every free second I have. This has done wonders for me.

I suddenly have so much more time to accomplish the things I intend to finish. I’ve made getting ahead a part of my routine — I won’t consider myself “free” until certain tasks are completed. 

Aside from improving productivity, it’s also important to schedule time for yourself socially. Dr. Lisa Firestone from Psychology Today points out that when we don’t give ourselves time to recharge, we cause stress to the people around us. 

It’s always obvious when you aren’t feeling it during social interactions. You might be more withdrawn or want to leave early. When this happens, it’s best to listen to your gut and take time off.

Regular and organized self-reflection time is crucial for growth and processing life events. Especially when schedules are packed with classes, work, extracurriculars and meetings with friends, stepping back and dissecting everything that’s happened is a good way to check in with yourself. 

Part of checking in is tracking habits. I made it a point to bring my journal to college and home with me every break or weekend away and hardly ever used it. Even over the holidays when I had a month away from the bustling, non-stop activities of school, I made maybe one entry. 

That one entry was a result of me realizing I hadn’t journaled in a really long time. And once I got back into it, I realized how much I needed to just let it out. 

Writing, and any form of reflection, allows you to make sense of what’s going on and put feelings into words. Outlets vary by person; you can work out, play music, make art or do something totally different. 

The important part is that you do something meaningful and treat time for yourself with as much value as you’d want others to.

Tara is a freshman in LAS.

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