How Does One Working Student Juggle Everything While Rejecting Hustle Culture?

By: Neda Ahmed

At some point, we feel like time management is really not our thing, and that we’ll just nail it – as always. However, more often than not, we get proven wrong in the least nice way. In other words, we face the music of the harmony that sings, ‘I am struggling to manage my time.’ This is hard, and I understand. Even those who are top-notch planners struggle at times, and that’s normal. Fuck hustle culture; fuck the culture that leads you to believe that we have no downs and that we are functioning at a constant rate of productivity.

I’m a full-time student, writer, account manager, teaching assistant, a friend, a sister and a daughter. I’m doing a tonne of subjects this year while being chased by the infamous education anxiety. And no, that’s not breaking down because of a test – this is a whole different story (or article). I struggle to find time for myself to relax and recharge; hell – I struggle to find time to execute my tasks and be productive. I think a lot of us came to the realisation that twenty four hours aren’t enough to do everything. Additionally, a lot of us have been victims of spontaneous naps, which we take out of exhaustion, that are 5-hours long. Then, we’d wake up feeling like failures, like we’re unworthy of the opportunities presented to us, like we are incapable of anything, that we have no control over ourselves and nap some more.

These feelings are valid… so are the worrying sessions at 11 am and 1 am, so are the times when you feel like you can’t do anything and feel like you should be doing everything. The people who seem most productive experience such periods; you can go ahead and ask these people. We’re at no place to accuse people of lying, but if this person says that they don’t experience such periods, they’re straight up lying to your face. Whatever plan you lay out for yourself, stick to it the best you can. Sticking to it ‘the best you can’ does not mean that there will not be occurrences of deviation and times when you feel like you’ve had enough of the world. You’ll experience this sometimes, and this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, or that you suck, or that you don’t deserve good things.

Your worth is never to be defined by your productivity – ever.

That was quite an intro, yes? For your rescue, as always, let me guide you a bit and tell you how I manage my time, emphasis on ‘I’. This is how I do it, and my methods, by no means, have to apply to your lifestyle, activities and load.

The load I’ve taken up is huge, and thus I have to really stick to my schedule to not mess up, which I end up doing quite frequently. Google Calendar is an absolute savior: I use it to schedule my classes, meetings and outings so that they can never slip my mind. The way I arrange my tasks I think is the most important. If I’m working on something I’m enjoying, writing for instance, I make sure to place it at the end of the chronological list of tasks, as hobbies don’t really take up much energy, do they? The most demanding tasks on the other hand, i.e. maths assignments, are ones I finish off early in the morning or whenever I feel most charged and energized. The main rule here is to finish off the ‘hard’ tasks first before getting started with the ‘easy’ ones. I have a class of tasks called Break To-Dos which are mundane tasks that require no energy at all. For me, this might be making marking schemes for my students, correcting homework, or exam papers. I embed these tasks between the hard ones, allowing myself a breather.

What’s also of utmost importance if you have a lot on your plate is dividing up your week into different classes of tasks. To elaborate, I have History classes Sunday and Tuesday; thus, I have to study History every Saturday and Monday. In summary, dedicate a day or days on a weekly basis to tasks of a specific type, whether that’s a subject, a job or a hobby. This helps establish consistency and routine.

It’s easy to get sucked in the blackhole of academia and professional life, barely allowing your social life and familial life a chance to stand. What helped me is that I always set a day in which I would do absolutely nothing but socialise and relax (Thursday), and I would set a time everyday at which I’ll drop whatever tasks I’m doing to attend to my needs. This may be 9 pm, 10 pm, 5 pm – literally whenever it suits you. Most of us tend to ignore and marginalize our demands and needs for love and care, giving this much-needed attention to areas that are already well-taken care off. Making yourself feel good and happy is productive.

In sociological theory, when you get to relax on a regular basis, you’re guaranteed a better ‘productivity rate’ in the following days. If taking this break or taking this walk is possible, do it. If it’ll make you happy, do it.

As much as it doesn’t sit well with me, your happiness should not always influence these decisions (of taking breaks etc), though. Immediate and delayed gratification are factors that greatly affect the rate at which we get things done, with immediate gratification being favoured by the most of us, we find that it’s often harder to get out of bed and put this pen to paper. For God’s sake, we can be seated at our desks with our books begging us to study; we won’t budge. While I understand that it must be more joyous to take care of yourself and not tend to your tasks, future you will not be so happy with that and you’re more likely to be a victim of the regret cycle. Therefore, developing self-discipline is of essence.

There’s this hilarious myth about self-discipline that’s greatly perpetuated by bloggers (who need to get off social media ASAP), and it hints that self-discipline is an act of self-torture, and that work getting done is in the hands of present motivation. In fact, self-discipline is self-care: it’s a kind of training that allows you to work even when you don’t feel like it, escaping guilt and blame, and saving yourself the hours you spend willing yourself to get to your study space and get it going. Watch this video by the absolute king, Thomas Frank, for an in-detail guide that’ll help you develop your self-discipline. Accountability, self-discipline, self-care and productivity all go hand-in-hand. They’re all interconnected, and heavily depend on each other. 

There’s no shame in having a lazy couch day or feeling like you’ve just had enough of work, school, family, or friends. Shit happens, all the time. Regardless, we’re proud of you, whether you’re studying, resting, sleeping, crying or eating. Your self-worth has nothing to do with how much you are getting done.

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