3 Things that Got Me in Trouble in College and Still Do

Photo by belgapixel from flickr

Photo by belgapixel from flickr

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?

It's About Time: What are You Doing with the Time You Have (Left)?

Tree Climbing by eszter on flickr

Tree Climbing by eszter on flickr

You’ve heard speakers, authors and coaches remind us that we all have exactly the same amount of time–24 hours a day.

I’ve said it myself many times, but an email from a friend gave me another perspective.

Last June my friend traveled from the Netherlands to attend a party held in Seattle, WA. That may seem to be a long trip, but my friend was propelled by an undeniable urgency.

She had been diagnosed with a debilitating cancer and was advised by her doctor that she only had a few months to live.

She decided not to waste any of her remaining time, but to have fun and be with friends wherever they were. Along with my friend who travelled all the way from the Netherlands, 30 of us showed up from many other places around the USA.

The first night we enjoyed a pajama party complete with movie, delicious food and popcorn. The next day we met for a Chinese brunch, and then on to visit an island the next. We shopped, ate, drank, laughed and enjoyed each other the whole weekend.

Nine months have passed since my friend returned home, uncertain of her future.

I recently received an email from her updating all of us that the treatments she has been receiving have given her and her doctors hope for a bit longer life. Even though she still faces more radiation and more surgery, we are all happy with this good news.

That’s when it hit me that while we all have 24 hours a day, we don’t know how many days we have. None of us know that.

Those who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses and told by their doctors to get their affairs in order often do just that: get their affairs in order and seek to enjoy activities and goals they may have long neglected.

But what about the rest of us. Why do we need the push of a doctor’s prognosis? Wouldn’t it be great if we all pursued our goals with a sense of urgency?

After all, if we think about it for a minute, we are all terminal. One thing we can absolutely expect from life on this Earth is that it will end. None of us know when.

So, if we acted with urgency, we would get busy moving toward our neglected goal today. We would be less fearful of failure or more concerned about leaving our dream lives unlived.

We would say “I love you” to those who need to long to hear those words.

We would say “thank you” to those we have made a difference in our lives but haven’t been informed by us.

And most of all, we wouldn’t hesitate to take off our shoes and skip through wet grass, climb a tree or pause to watch a lizard doing his pushups on the ground.

How about you? What are you waiting for? What are you doing with the wonderfully delicious and precious time you have left?

Give Me Some Seamless Days


My friend, Linda, says that I invented the term, “seamless days.” I’m not sure about that but I do know that somewhere along the way I discovered that I needed them in order to get big projects done.

A lot of people praise multitasking, while some time management practitioners say it’s not humanly possible to do more than one thing at a time. Regardless of who is right, I seem to get major projects done best when I can work continuously without outside interruptions and the tyranny of the clock. I call these my seamless days, and they are the times when I believe I can accomplish my best writing, thinking, and planning.

Seamless days are a series of two to three days when I don’t have appointments and can stay home working on important projects. I don’t work nonstop, of course. My seamless days are punctuated with snack breaks, sometimes even a short walk out of doors. What is most distinctive about them, however, is that I don’t have outside appointments, guests or disruptive thoughts. I screen my phone calls and don’t turn on the TV. Without the distraction of the media, telephone and other time thieves, I can get absorbed so deeply in a project that hours literally go by before I realize. The result is that I get big chunks of work done.

Occasionally during a break from work during my seamless days I’ll daydream. I’ll just lean back in my easy chair and begin to think about whatever. Scenes from my childhood or episodes of raising my children flash by. Sometimes I recall how a specific moment felt, like waking up to the sunrise over Puget Sound in Bainbridge Island where the large bedroom windows gave me a full view.

Other times I imagine what it’ll be like to hold my next grandchild, whenever one of my children decides to take this step. Once in a while I’ll get spot a bird perched on a tree branch outside my window or a lizard doing pushups on my patio.

When I was still teaching full time, running a side business and managing my family I would long for seamless days. When the need became urgent, I would pull out my month at a glance calendar, check for three consecutive days without appointments and make a plan to stay put for that time frame. Sometimes I would have to reschedule an appointment to make this happen, so I would.

I urge you to occasionally make space in your life for some seamless days. You can use them for major projects or to get away from your normal activities.

You’ll return to your routine rejuvenated, able to stave off stress and more likely to keep a positive mood.

Open your calendar now and schedule your seamless days. You’ll be glad you did.