College is an exciting experience that can uplift or undo you. There were three things that got me in trouble in college and still do.
1. Becoming intoxicated with freedom.
I was so eager to start college that I went to summer school immediately after high school graduation and took a speed reading class just to get onto a university campus as soon as possible.
After the restrictions of high school, I was ready to breathe free and run my own life. No one looking over my shoulder, no hall passes, or bells to signal the end of class.
The first full year of college I took a full load and pledged a sorority. I didn’t know this was a bad idea until I was drowning in homework while trying to carry out the dictates of my “big sisters.”
I flunked Zoology.
My mother was surprisingly understanding, especially after she found out that I could retake it in summer school and the new grade would replace the F.
My inability to handle freedom well resurfaced when I retired from teaching. I had long wanted to be able to travel without trying to coordinate with the academic calendar, so I took off the week after I retired.
First, to China with a tour and later in September went to a retreat in Italy. When I returned from Italy I took two more trips here in the US.
It wasn’t until the end of that year after I had drunk deeply of freedom that I began to think about the projects I had planned for retirement. (Of course I can argue that my play time was deserved and necessary.)
2. Underestimating the time it takes to complete projects.
Occasionally one of my college professors would cancel a class so we could work on a major paper. When the due date was weeks away, like my fellow classmates I would sometimes procrastinate and use this time to socialize instead, thinking I had plenty time to work on the paper later.
I was always sorry when “later” came.
Although I’ve improved in this area over the years, there are occasions when I still wait until the night before to tweak and update a project thinking it will only take an hour or so. This happens especially when the project is already done and I just plan to update and make minor revisions.
I get lulled into too much confidence. It seems that the less time I give myself to finish, the more things pop up to threaten me reaching my deadline on time.
3. Making unreasonable demands on modern technology.
Personal computers were not available when I was in college (I know I just dated myself), but electric typewriters were. I typed my papers, often finishing just an hour or two before class. Because carbon copies were so ugly I would stop by a copy shop on my way to class , especially when I was in classes where I had to do a presentation.
Terror would strike in my heart when I arrived at the copy shop only to discover that a line of students had the same idea. I would sweat bullets hoping I’d get my copies in time to dash into class on time.
If you’ve ever seen a procrastinator kick and scream at a copy machine or printer that’s moving slower than they wish, you know what I mean.
I find that the day I’ve waited until the hour before a meeting to run copies is the day the copier is down for repairs.
Recently I was printing the program and other materials for our family reunion. My wireless printer decided it didn’t want to talk to my computer any more.
At times like this I can practically see the anxiety trying to rise in my body. (Fortunately I’ve gotten better at dealing with this too.)
Check the troubleshooter. Shut everything down. Start over.
Time-saving devices can save time, but they won’t manufacture time, nor make up for waiting until the last minute.
How about you? Do you have some old habits that die hard?