Blum: Busy Kids

Staying busy might actually be a good thing.

by Maxwell Blum | 2/20/20 2:19am

 Imagine it’s 1:55 p.m. on a Wednesday; you just finished your 12 and you have exactly one hour and 50 minutes before your 3:45 p.m. practice. Considering how you always get to practice 15 minutes early to warm up and it always takes 13 minutes to walk from the green to your practice, that healthy amount of time is now running a little thin. 

Your journey from class leads you to the Green, and you have an important decision to make. Choose one: eat, nap or study. Eat? Eat. 

“Good choice, but it’ll have to cost you!” the voice in your head cries out. Your mind instantly races to the chemistry problem set you have yet to tackle, the first draft you have to pump out, the new season of Bojack Horseman you’ve been meaning to watch and oh, the job interview you have tomorrow. Your mind wanders thinking of all the work you have ahead of you tonight, but then, it’s gone. Time to decide what you want on your sandwich.

You see, these snap life decisions are made by Dartmouth students every day. We’re human, we procrastinate and we try to make the best of what little flexible time we have in a schedule packed with fixed commitments. But is this human tendency a necessarily bad thing? Not quite.

One study carried out by Columbia University psychology researchers found that “individuals can benefit in both their personal and work lives from being busy ... as being busy helps them increase their productivity.” And although this study can only speak in the “in the all-too-common context of missed deadlines,” from personal and relational experience, I firmly believe that it represents a much grander idea — that being busy should actually be a sought-after experience. 

When we live life with limited amounts of time to complete tasks, we harness a new perseverance, a new passion and a new grit. In a game-changing TED talk, University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth notes how “grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

So when I think about where my peers and I source our motivation to succeed, I believe it’s from a unique direct correlation between our busyness and our grit. As a determined “less is more” advocate, I find that my favorite axiom can speak volumes about how college students, particularly Dartmouth students, choose to manage this quest for grit: Less time leads to more grit, since we don’t have time to cower away from challenges. And while I can’t speak for much considering it’s my freshman winter and I still have much to learn, I do feel as though having less time on my hands has led to more productivity and less stress in my academic life. Here’s how I see it — want to succeed at Dartmouth? Get busy.

Of course, there’s a fine line between the gritty, awesome, productive type of busyness and the unsustainable, unhappy, unhealthy type — oftentimes college students run into issues with overcommitment. A healthy load of good busyness can quickly turn sour with the addition of just a few too many commitments. Throw a brick in a washing machine and start a spin cycle — initially, it spins just fine (and pretty powerfully, too!), but slowly over time, it reaches a point where it can’t handle the weight of the load and the machine tumbles out of control. It’s the classic dichotomy of work and leisure. 

Balancing those two is one of the greatest, most demanding challenges about attending a school like Dartmouth — finding a unique stride that provides a balance between busyness, grittiness and doing-nothingness. Everyone has one, and it’s only a matter of time until they find it. 

So, when that “eat, nap, or study” fork in the road next appears, embrace it; it’s a testament to busyness, and an even greater testament to grit. No matter the decision, choose it with ferocity — keep working hard, and remember to stay busy.