Being an "Object in Motion": How I (try to) Prioritize

Being an "Object in Motion": How I (try to) Prioritize

This blog is a prime example of how I tend to put too many obligations on my plate at once. I literally have a weekly calendar reminder to “Put that pen to paper!” and a list of post ideas in my bullet journal, but setting aside the time to sit down and write is hard. I tend to be the human embodiment of Newton’s first law: “an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Let’s unpack that a little bit, shall we?

  • The object in question: ya girl Caitlin (@codercaitlin, if you will)

  • Being at rest: not a state of total relaxation and lack of to-do items, but instead a constant buzz of problem sets, upcoming prelims, Chapter meetings, sorority action items, WICC delegation sessions, and org event attendance

  • Being in motion: I’m someone who’s constantly on the move or planning to be on the move—take today for example: I’ve scheduled a blogging session in the morning, RSVPd to a brunch conversation, am holding a team meeting in the early afternoon, have to run into lab to quickly checkoff an assignment, scheduled yet *another* meeting (but this time for sorority committee work), and will be on a call, and that’s all before 4pm. That’s why I don’t define “being in motion” as being busy or not having a ton of free time; instead, I define it as having some sort of flexibility to dedicate time to myself, both in the self-care sense and also with the focus of working on my hobbies/outside interests, from blogging regularly to automating my room with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi.

  • An unbalanced force: as cheesy as it sounds, pure human will, because if I want to dedicate time to something with no definite deadline or specific goal in mind, it’s hard for me to quantify how much work I need to put towards it and therefore how much time I’ll spend on it

So why am I so terrible at time management? In all honesty, I’m not. If anything, I *over*plan my days.

Take my Google calendar for instance:

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It’s organized by color based on the type of event it is (personal event? orange, AΩE event? dark blue, WICC meeting? purple). I even put separate each obligation into its own calendar: Academics, Deadlines and Work Blocks, WICC, Alpha Omega Epsilon.

Staying on the digital side of my organizational habits, I also use an app called Franz that allows me to easily switch between my calendar, emails, Facebook messenger, LinkedIn, and, most importantly, Todoist.

The simple act of crossing something off a list is *so* satisfying to me. The thing is I have quite a few lists, each with their own subdirectories of meetings, assignments, and long-range projects.

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That’s why I appreciate Todoist’s project feature, where I can section off action items into their specific categories.

It can sometimes feel a bit much when I look at my sidebar and see 49 items due, but I primarily shift my focus to the upcoming week’s worth of action items (“Next 7 days” on the app).

I actually enjoy sitting down and adding a bunch of tasks. It seems a little masochistic to feel satisfied about adding to your own workload, but it truly makes me feel more comfortable when I’m fully aware of everything I have to do, even if that includes reading quizzes that are due in April and scholarship applications that won’t open until next semester.

On the other hand, I also like to keep a paper copy of everything. I visited the Cornell University Archives last week and they mentioned that alumni sometimes submit their old notebooks to be preserved for future generations, and even encouraged us to do so as ourselves just in case any of us end of being well-known.

Even before that tour of the Archives, I thought it would be useful to preserve my day-to-day life. It’s slightly based on my narcissism of wanting to be featured in a museum someday, but it’s a habit that’s been mainly fueled by my love of documentaries and history books. Learning about how previous generations and civilizations lived (or at least hearing our interpretation of how they may have lived) always makes me think about how our modern-day, 21st century lifestyles will be seen by our future generations. I personally would like to play a role in ensuring that they see most accurate portrayal of our day-to-day lives, from the activities we do for fun to the rise of millennial burnout.

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This is a Passion Planner, something I call a “pre-made bullet journal”. If you haven’t hopped on or heard of the bullet journal trend already, it’s an incredibly aesthetically-pleasing way of recording schedules, to-do lists, habits, and any other random, fun aspect of your life you want to write down. To shout out one of my littles, check out this Instagram account to see what I’m talking about!

I tried bullet journaling back in sophomore year but I realized three things very quickly: 1) I have very limited artistic prowess when it comes to calligraphy and small doodles (and also in anything that isn’t sand art but that’s besides the point), 2) I don’t have enough time to truly dedicate myself to making a complicated bullet journal layout, and 3) even if my layout is simple, I’m too detail-oriented to let myself have a slightly imperfect layout. Those three factors made it almost impossible for me to come up with an efficient layout that housed all of the information I needed, looked good, and was easy to draw out every week.

That’s where my Passion Planner came in: it’s separated into monthly charts and weekly spreads, includes space to list tasks, aspirations, goals, and anything else that comes to mind, and even has a ton of blank pages in the back for my spur-of-the-moment single layout templates.

It’s by using a combination of these platforms that I stay afloat. I remember when assignments are due, when I scheduled a call with my parents, when I have to make slides for a meeting. At the end of the day, however, it’s not about how full my planner is—it’s about whether or not I have enough time to do it all. You can have meetings and agenda items planned for every second of the day but if without enough time or motivation, they’re useless and incomplete. That’s why I try my best to cherrypick what needs to be done now and what can be done later, what I want to spend time doing and what I’d rather leave by the wayside, what’s my number one priority now and what will be my number one priority later.

  1. Myself and my happiness come first. How else are you supposed to get everything else done if you physically, emotionally, or mentally aren’t ready? I’ve stayed up until 4am and gone to class at 9am enough times to realize that my body is severely *not* into that kind of lifestyle. I need to go to bed by 2am at the latest. I need to make sure I’ve eaten three meals (and that definitely includes breakfast). I’m an extrovert, but I need my own personal time, which may only be facilitated by me putting on my headphones and ignoring people, but at least I’m still getting that “me time”.

  2. Next is academics. I’ll be real with you: there are classes that I have to take (or even voluntarily choose to take) that suck…a lot. There are times when I think about the fact that there are vice presidents of engineering at companies who didn’t major in an engineering field, or that I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars every year for education when there are solid schools at home that would pay me to go. But I’d be truly ignorant if I didn’t appreciate the school I ended up in, the hardships I’ve faced, and the knowledge I’ve gained (both inside and outside of the classroom).

  3. My extracurriculars are next on the list. I hold leadership positions in my sorority and Women in Computing at Cornell, meaning that not only do I devote my time to helping these organizations run, but I also spend time making sure others run smoothly as well. Often this will overtake #2, especially when I have a problem set due the next day but it’s 1am and I’d really rather send out a Slack announcement than solve a double integral.

  4. Friends and family are last, but certainly not least. We all want to help each other succeed and feel happy, and I’m no exception to that. If I have disagreements with people, I try to schedule something with them immediately to at least begin to sort everything out. If a friend comes to me to ask for help on an assignment, I typically will put down what I’m doing to explain. If I notice someone struggling or feeling sad or just generally think they need a helping hand, I reach out and let them know that I’m not an expert in whatever they’re going through, but I’m here. However, there’s only so much you can do for others before doing first for yourself. I strongly believe that relationships work both ways—if you’re putting more support into a relationship than the other person, it’s something you may want to bring up to the other person (to try and mend things) but it also may be a connection that isn’t entirely worth the time and effort. At the end of the day, you have to feel safe, happy, and satisfied in your life, and if that can only be accomplished by ending a friendship or by making some alone time for yourself, then that’s perfectly fine (as long as everyone involved is treated respectfully).

You can’t put every aspect of your life into a list, and I’m certainly no exception. I can already think of five more bullet points to add, but they’re no longer major facets of my life and my identity. What I mean to say is that a list isn’t comprehensive and shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all to how you live your life, but it’s a start.

Prioritizing is such a buzz word, especially in a world of millennial burnout and and increasing want for productivity. Just like in a CPU, there are deadlines to meet and tasks to finish, but there’s also a need for a cool-down and idle time. If you take anything away from my endless lists and calendar items and color-coordinated boxes, it should be this: you run at your own pace and have your own lists to cross off, so work out what’s best for you. In the long run, you’re the one responsible for what you do and don’t do, so make the most of that balance and focus on what’s most important to you in the most personally effective way possible.

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