Post 5: How ‘Gilmore Girls’ and Cal Newport Improved My Time Management Skills

With upcoming mid-terms and looming assignment deadlines rapidly approaching, I wanted to take time this week to reflect on the progress I have (or have not) made in the last six weeks (what am I doing well and what habits should I quit?). Upon reflection, I am proud of my improvement in one area in particular: my time management skills. For context, time management has been my poorest skill since kindergarten. I am the type of procrastinator that waits until the last minute to do homework, says they’re not going to procrastinate on the next assignment, but inevitably does nothing different. Last semester, when I started college, I told myself I was going to stop procrastinating, study every day, and always be ahead of homework. In true procrastinator fashion, I set a goal but struggled to take the first steps. The task was daunting, so I never made the initial effort to change my habits, putting my mission off until “next semester.” In the end, my lack of time management skills (especially planning ahead) led to a stressful, barely rewarding semester. I hoped “next semester” was REALLY next semester, or college was going to be unnecessarily difficult for me.

I took our very long winter break to catch up on books, movies, and TV shows I had been putting off for a while. My passion is story-telling (through all mediums), so I specifically wait for lulls in my life to properly engage with these things. In an attempt to appreciate more, I give them my full attention. In turn, I learn a lot from films/books/shows and they have a strong influence on me as a person. This winter, reading Cal Newport while simultaneously binging Gilmore Girls on Netflix was the perfect storm of what I needed to be a better student.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!

In the introduction of How to Win at College, Cal Newport implies the book is meant to be read before one actually gets to college — my late start only emphasizes my need for this book. Newport’s book is structured in a series of basic tips for a first-year college student. It breaks the overwhelming parts of college into digestible steps. As someone who struggles with taking first steps, the book was unknowingly a start to overcoming my bad habits. For example, I realized my goals were too broad. “Stop procrastinating” is daunting and confusing. Where do you go from there? However, “Don’t take breaks between classes” (Chapter 65) is more manageable. This goal has a start: find something productive to do for 1–2 hours. Among other things, Newport summarizes my learning in one quote:

“Start small and start immediately.”

At the same time, I started to realize what I needed to do, I found my new favorite show: Gilmore Girls. (NOTE: I am in the middle of Season 3, please no spoilers! I don’t think there are any spoilers below) As a woman, I look for strong female characters everywhere. It is an instinct to find people to look up to, and for me, Rory Gilmore is my newest source of inspiration. She is an unflinching student who has an ideal balance between her challenging private school, small-town activities, and her family life. And still, she manages to get to bed before 11 PM! In glimpses, the show shows Rory implementing some of Newport’s time-management tactics. Most notably, studying/reading whenever and wherever (much like “don’t take breaks between classes”). If Newport gave me the tools to break my habit, wanting to emulate Rory gave me the final push to use those tools. I have tried many of Newport’s suggestions and have found myself using my time more PRODUCTIVELY than ever before. I see the value of small pockets of time throughout the day and I have consistently filled those pockets with reading or rewriting notes. Getting menial tasks earlier in the day reduces the distractions I have for bigger projects. While I am far from being Rory Gilmore, I am overall happy I have taken several steps in the right direction.

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