It’s October, and by now we are all knee-deep in yet another semester at university. Some of us have been around the block a few times and have developed strategies of coping with the oppressive workloads we acceptingly swallow while others have yet to learn these kinds of critical life skills. The problem seems to be – if you are anything like me – that with all these safeguards in place, time seems to constantly elude us.
One of the default answers of this age when asked “how are you?” can often go something along the lines of “oh my God, I’m so busy.” This is followed by further conversation, which quickly, if not immediately, drifts to something else. Apparently, that we are bone-tired merits little attention, at least as something that we would attempt to discuss at length. The underlying meaning in all this is that our fatigue gets reduced to an anecdote, a commiserating joke, something we begrudgingly accept but never really question beyond its annoyance or even pain.
Chronic fatigue, however, is very serious and not something to make light of; it can even become dangerous. Although some people report feeling fine with only a few hours of sleep, many of us need at least seven, if not eight, to feel a sufficient level of vibrant alertness. Our society, though, doesn’t really take this into account, as fuzzy math tends to think that some things can be overlapped or reduced without consequence. In reality, a lack of sleep is one of the biggest health indicators over time. Restful sleep also requires a gradual winding down. Finishing an essay and then racing to bed right away isn’t a positive segue to optimal sleep. But few of us have the luxury of enough downtime to enjoy the ritual of preparing for bedtime, even on weekends.
So, if we are not sleeping for most of the 24 hours a day provides us, then what are we doing? Going full-force into templates of full-time course loads, part-time jobs, and a mix of volunteering, interning, clubs/sports and a myriad of other social activities. Not all of us are doing all of these things, but even a portion brings us into 16-hour days. We come to see that no matter how quickly we check things off on our to-do list, the problem becomes not time-management itself but simply having way too much to manage in the first place.
All of these endeavours, superimposed also onto a perennial process of new applications and constant upgrading, just so that we can prove to others that we can handle it, and in turn be rewarded with future positions that leave us even more haggard. That’s fine for those who are truly this ambitious, but not all of us can juggle 17 plates while balancing on a ball on ice with one foot. And even for people that can, sooner or later they burn out from the level of severe demands we have grown to accept.
A common regret for many as they grow old is that they got into the rat race and before they knew it they were middle-aged, seeing their best years pass them by. Not knowing how to shift into a transition, many continued down this path until it was too late and burning regrets took over the remainder of their life. What has evidently become the burning issue of the Gen-Y’s is that all this work and sacrifice may return dubious dividends in an economy that is not able to sustain the entire work force, and in return is burdening us to support the widespread scarcity.
Maybe I am idealistic, on top of being hyper-exhausted, but we should really be aware of these things and be sure to make time in our lives to walk in the sun with abandon. This doesn’t mean you are being frivolous or hedonistic, but that you take your health seriously and understand how different components can work together to either strengthen you or undermine your end goals. “Personal days,” as they have come to be known, are crucial to health and rejuvenation and actually staying off sickness, thereby increasing productivity.
Princeton grad Timothy Ferriss, wrote a best seller a few years back called. The 4-Hour Workweek in which he outlines principles of productivity and return on investment. Though most of us cannot become successful entrepreneurs, it is food-for-thought on ratios of time, money and energy expenditure. We have forgotten to be really aware that our lives are our own, and that when we put so much effort into spending those lives in efforts to influence what others think or whether they will hire you, we may be in for a very rude awakening.
Cultivating confidence, which often stems from doing what makes you happy, is a very powerful factor in achieving the gains we so often seek anyway. In order to do this, we have to create new realities for ourselves, as well as reclaim our lives. If this is too great a task right now, we can start by at least reclaiming our nights.