Time management as a college student generally encompasses the execution of a delicate balancing act between a rigorous class schedule, a montage of extracurricular activities (fraternity, sports, clubs, etc), and whatever other personal endeavors one elects to pursue (start-up companies, regular exercise, freelance work, etc). We build schedules and planners with all these obligations and activities in mind, seeking out the most efficient way to allocate our most precious commodity: our time.
Of course, I never quite agreed with the supposedly sagacious quip to “expect the unexpected.” Logically, if one was expecting something, it would be an inherent misnomer. Nevertheless, the spirit of this quote, its connotation, bears some truth.
I can spend all semester adhering to this bruiser of a work schedule I have laid out for myself: workouts from 8-11 Monday-Friday; class 12-1:10 MWF; senior design 3pm MWF; GSoC all day T/Th and on weekends.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Inevitably, the proverbial wrench is thrown into the otherwise well-oiled and seamless machine.
It’s a fact of life. The battle plan never survives contact with the enemy. The unexpected always pops seemingly out of nowhere, and suddenly our best-laid plans have gone utterly awry. We’re forced to re-evaluate from scratch, often sacrificing a great deal of efficiency to adjust to the new circumstances.
Because I am a CS major, I have to mention this: there is a parallel here, applied specifically to software engineering. Building good, maintainable, extensible, robust code is so incredibly difficult for this very reason: it’s easy to create software whose requirements don’t change. But as is very evident in the computing field, things are shifting more rapidly than ever, and this trend will only continue and intensify. We largely cannot predict where things are headed, or how requirements will change on a daily basis. For this reason, software engineers make their development schedules as flexible as possible, allowing for plenty of time to test their applications at every stage of the development process, evaluating progress on the fly, and adhering to good design principles throughout.
Rigid, unbreakable schedules are anything but: they will inevitably snap. I have had doctor’s appointments to make room for, friends who needed an ear, and late last week my girlfriend had to suddenly pack up and leave on a family emergency.
It affects everyone. Our tenacity and prowess in our respective fields, then, aren’t necessarily measured by our talents; they’re measured by our abilities to wield those talents when real life insists on its own schedule for us at the last minute. Can we be flexible and roll with the punches? Can we expect the unexpected?
On that note, it’s time to get down to work. GSoC awaits.