So now that the semester has been done for quite a while, I’ve realized how much I got caught up in a kind of busy work and procrastination. And I’m trying to cut these activities out of my summer.
Daily work into Alignment
The reality of college life is that a lot of the work you do is still busy work. For example, in 3.022 we write lab reports in under a week on experiments that we complete in about 4 hours. Those experiments are obviously not ground breaking or unique. Rather, this work is a diminutive of the real work done in research. Purposefully, professors have designed a situation where we are under a feeling of pressure even though the material that we produce has no value or meaning. To be clear, once you realize the purpose of the experiments and write ups then the whole experience is useful.
- You can get a real sense of whether you enjoy or have a talent for lab work.
- You are exposed to many technical terms and equipments.
Some students have realized which fields are more exciting to them. But also to be clear, feeling inordinate pressure can lead students to hyper focus on details that don’t actually matter on a project that won’t matter past the experience. For example, my group members once spent about 20 minutes arguing about which font to use on a presentation. This presentation will never be viewed outside of the 50 people taking and grading the class. That is a detail, a type of busy work, that did not advance any of our goals, immediate or otherwise. Is the font choice on one powerpoint going to help you get a job at Lincoln labs? The point that I’m getting at is that I am at MIT with a particular value and goal:
I want to work as an art conservator at a museum, doing either conservation or research.
A lot of what we do for course work is not directly advancing that goal. Some of it I might not be able to see the value of yet, but I trust my advisors and professors to guide me. Some of it is tangential, brushing up against my goal. Some of it makes me a better person. Some of it is the chores and reality of adulthood. Some of it is just busy work. Spending 4 years at college, I have gotten caught up in the feeling of doing doing doing something all the time. Even if the work is busy work, I feel compelled to be doing something. Many other students at MIT have experienced this. They remark
Oh, i feel so bored and restless on spring break. Nothing to do!
Agh, I feel like I should be doing something right now.
Haha, I always have something running in the background. I can’t stand sitting doing nothing.
But how many of these activities that fill the restlessness are actually useful? How many of the advance the student’s goals? How many of them make my friends happily content rather than tired?
Values and Exercise
Let’s use an analogy.
There are the people who work out in a gym. They run on a treadmill in an air conditioned room. They lift weights, carefully, on machines that guide their movements. Certainly, they get the endorphins and benefits of a work out. Their lean bodies can manage a mile without worry. But every day, they must go out of their way to go to the gym, to set aside time to run in place.
There are other people who work out by biking to work. They swerve amongst traffic, quickening their reflexes and strengthening their legs. Maybe they pick up their groceries, hauling them from the store to their home to work out their arms. These people also get the benefits of a work out, but they also have accomplished a task that needed to be done. Their work out has been consolidated into their routine.
The first is a type of busy work, inefficient and not related to the overall goals that person has for their life. The second is the best kind of work, streamlined and integrated into their goals and routine. I’ve realized that I spend a lot of my time jogging in place or taking part in the same procrastinating activities as I did during term. Instead, I want to spend my running time actually moving forward towards the goals I have.
Beginning to align
I’ve already started on this in the past semester. I tried to incorporate my values into my work. I tried to tailor activities and assignments to advance my skills for conservation, whether incorporating knowledge of art or creating art myself. My home is now a safe comfortable place with nooks for me to work and paint. I also have my goals clearly displayed, constantly in sight, be it hanging my art or bulletin boards at my desk. That way I have always been reminded of what I’m aiming for.
Still i find myself on facebook, tumblr, watching hours of silly TV. I sometimes complete tasks mindlessly, just to finish them. But I really want to improve on this, to tailor all of my activities towards who I truly want to be. I hope to share with you how I manage to do this, how I rededicate myself to a life long quest.