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Why You Should Ditch Your (Overly) Rigid Schedule

In classical music, we have a stylistic technique called rubato.

Loosely translated from the Italian, rubato means “robbed time.” You take time from one section – by speeding up – to give it to another, where you slow down. You’ll maintain the same general tempo throughout, but it can fluctuate from phrase to phrase, from bar to bar. For my Science majors, consider it a kind of “dynamic equilibrium.”

Rubato is a quality of expressiveness, generally. You can accelerate to convey a delicious sense of anticipation, an urgency building up in a phrase…then linger on the sweet climax, savouring the release of tension like a deep, indulgent exhale. Because of its expressive, melodic quality, rubato is often popularly associated with lyrical and emotional pieces, like the capital-R Romantic Period composers I favour. Chopin, anyone?

I’m as emotional as the pieces I play most often, and overly rigid routines have always brought me more panic than peace. While I appreciate the structure, too much of it can leave me feeling pressured, anxious, and claustrophobic. As a result, I’ve worked to develop a schedule that provides a helpful, organizing structure while still giving me the grace for off days.

It’s a work-in-progress but here’s what I’ve started. Instead of quantifying my schedules through fixed blocks of time, like 30 minutes or 1 hour, I divide my time through tasks that need to be completed. I have a general idea of how long each task will take – writing an article for Her Campus might take an hour or two, preparing a slide deck for my fourth-year Medieval Literature seminar might require a whole afternoon – and I also prioritize tasks based on how soon they need to be completed and how important they are. If I have two deadlines on the same day, I’m probably going to focus more on the 15%-weighted midterm than the 2.5%-weighted discussion post.

Instead of insisting that I need to adhere to the same routine every day or that I have to repeat the same routine every week, I vibe with the idea that not every day has to be the “same.” Not every day will have the same level of productivity, focus, or accomplishment. That’s okay. I relax and trust myself, knowing that I can let my body rest when it needs it and that I’ll make up the balance when I feel energized and refreshed. I give and take time. I’ve always been a fan of rubato applied (tastefully) to my music, and now I’m incorporating it into my life too and building a dynamic, flexible schedule that breathes with me.

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Mariel Matsuda

Queen's U '22

I switched my major from Psychology to English Lit after three years because I realized I was better at reading books than I was at reading people. Big fan of literary theory, good-quality olive oil, and studying to movie soundtracks.
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