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Time not wasted

Bridget Galassini | Monday, November 12, 2012

I have approximately twenty minutes until I need to leave for my next class, but these twenty minutes are not enough for me to actually get anything productive done.
 
I can’t take a nap because the optimal nap time is around 23 minutes, and that doesn’t even include the time it takes to fall asleep. So, by the time I actually fell asleep, those twenty minutes I had would already be over – wasted. I can’t start writing a paper because what if I get on a roll, just to be interrupted by my next class? I can’t start on another subject like chemistry because by the time I find my notebook and folder and print out whatever I need to print out, it will be time to leave. I can’t take a shower because there is no way I would be ready to go to class on time. I can’t clean my room because that would take hours. So I’m left doing nothing, nothing at all, except sitting on the computer and wasting time on Facebook or Pinterest.

That is what usually happens. But today I will try to be productive. I decided that I should attempt to finish my column in these twenty minutes. I doubt that this will actually work because I now have sixteen minutes left – not nearly enough time for 500 more words, but I can try.

If I do finish this column, these twenty minutes were not wasted. Even if I don’t finish this column, it’s good that I got a head start, so I did use these twenty minutes wisely. But it would irk me if I have to stop right in the middle of my column and come back to it later –  Writing it in one sitting is easier because my voice stays the same throughout. Sometimes I’ll start writing a paper for class and get interrupted, and when I come back to it later, I’m in such a different state of mind that the paper no longer flows well.

Nonetheless, I’ve heard that Ernest Hemingway always stopped in the middle of a really good sentence, so that when he started again he would start with those same creative juices flowing. There was never an opportunity for writer’s block, because he left himself a perfect place to start every time. He said, “The best way is always to stop [writing] when you are going good and when you know what will happen next … you will never be stuck.”

Maybe this works for Hemingway, but it doesn’t work for me. If I’m on a roll, I’d rather just finish that paragraph or section or column. I don’t want to stop mid-thought. I don’t want to have to put my pen down when twenty minutes are over.
Since I hate stopping in the middle of something, I know I have to finish this column within the next nine minutes. The extra motivation helps me write this column without distraction – no Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, no texting or calling. Perhaps having these little pieces of time is a good thing: It gives a concrete deadline.

I now have eight minutes of my twenty minutes left, and just over a hundred words to go. This is actually doable. So, these twenty minutes were put to good use, but there are so many other little chunks of time throughout the week that are not. If I added all of them up, I’d probably have at least four extra hours of time. And for college students like myself who never seem to have enough hours in a day, four hours would be splendid.

I guess utilizing these bits of time can be achieved through little things – writing a short paper, doing a math problem or reading a chapter of a book. The 20- or 30-minute deadline would be the motivation since it seems that almost everyone works best under pressure.

So maybe these awkward extra 20 or 30 minutes here or there are useful after all. Who knew? My column is finished with two minutes to spare. Granted, I’ll go back and revise, but that is usually done in two sittings anyway. Now, what to do with these extra two minutes? I wouldn’t want to waste them. Maybe I’ll just check Facebook.

Bridget Galassini is a freshman. She can be reached at bgalassi@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.