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As finals week has approached, I have been able to ‘look back’ at this past semester. I began to consider the areas I would consider improving within as well as the areas in which I believed that I have flourished within. One characteristic of mine that I have taken pride in would be my organizational skills. But don’t get me wrong – my clothes remain unfolded in my laundry basket and I still have bags of my college dorm supplies that have unfortunately gone untouched since I moved back home due to COVID-19. However, the type of organization I am referring to has to do with using daily planners.

For me, highlighting the activities, assignments, and obligations that I have completed gives me a sense of pride and completion. I have color-coded nearly everything down to the highlighter I use for my shifts at work, exams, homework assignments, meetings – you name it! Overall, planning makes me feel in-control of my life. Sometimes, when life feels overwhelming, I would actually plan down to the very last minute of each day. Wake up on the morning, get coffee, do “a b and c” for homework, make a study guide, take a break, etc. – you get the picture. 

Sure, at first glance, planning my day to completion may just seem like basic organization. Nothing too much, nothing too little. However, becoming such an avid planner has almost made me become less of an adventurous person, in some sort of way. I tend to dismiss spur of the moment opportunities and refuse to act on impulse. Of course, this is arguably a good thing to an extent. But there is a proper balance. I am an individual who lives by a schedule and never tends to live in the moment.

Yes, I really do excel with a busy schedule. Not only am I a full time student, but I have been working nearly forty-hour work weeks. Scheduling by the hour has allowed me to meet deadlines, but it has also forced me to live by demands that are simply uncalled-for.

Of course, being organized is not a negative thing. However, it’s the over-organization that can be negative. I tend to over-analyze my daily routines, get upset when something small is not accomplished in the strict window of time I have set aside for myself, and even typically lack patience for others not moving/performing at my preferred speed.

Due to COVID-19, my fellow students and I have been forced to move back home and off campus. Due to this unfortunate series of events, I have had an excess of time on my hands. In fact, I completed my assignments for the semester in March, well knowing the majority of my assignments were due in May. Some may be quick to label me as an over-achiever; but I almost was unsure of what to do with myself when I have no plans, obligations, and essentially what I would argue to be too much time on my hands. 

During this time, I have been forced to stop, take a moment, and enjoy the simple pleasures/small things in life. I have really been able to step-back and truly dwell in the moment. I have been able to reevaluate my priorities. I have been able to find greater meaning in my friendships and relationships. Of course, being forced to be apart from close friends and extended family has been difficult, but it has allowed me to really hope for more. That is, more time to spend time with loved ones and more time to actually enjoy the small moments.

So, my big take away from this semester is that maybe my vigorous planning and scheduling does not really have to be so extensive in the future. Of course, it is still important to meet my obligations in a timely fashion. However, I know that I need to continue make time for the other things that matter – like making memories and living in the moment. Assignments and obligations will always be present throughout the rest of my life. However, the people I care about the most will not always be. Cherish the small things and put down the planner. If anything, plan to live in the moment.

Kathleen is a dual major in Psychology and Justice Studies at the University of New Hampshire.
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