When I think of the different tasks my brain carries out each day, I think of little mice running around inside there to get everything done as quickly as possible. Key word: running. They run all day without pause, with distracted focus and shortness of breath. They stumble; they careen into corners; they fall flat on their faces. They are impatient and rude. They snap at the mice in other peoples’ brains. They are quick to judge and in too big a rush to empathize or understand. And for all their hurry, they are still inefficient.
Maybe mice aren’t your thing – pick whatever metaphor you like. My point is that rushing slows me down. Yet I can’t resist the temptation to go faster, faster, faster. Everywhere I turn there is a signpost shouting “Hurry up!” “Multitask!” “Get ahead!” The climate at Stanford positively reinforces impatience by promising rewards to those who follow the signposts. And while the signposts seem like they should direct you straight to the Gumdrop Mountains, you inevitably end up mired in the Molasses Swamp (Candyland, anyone?). Turn around, reset and roll the dice again. This time more slowly.
A psychology-major friend of mine explained to me how when you rush, the little mice running frantically around your brain stimulate your body to run at a higher rev. You trick your body into thinking it needs to move faster than it actually does in a vicious positive-feedback loop. The result? When you make it to class on time, you end up a whole lot more exhausted than getting to class on time warrants. This is bad news.
Even when I do slow down, the mice in my brain keep running. They preemptively rush. They make superfluous to-do lists. They schedule out the rest of the day with time blocked out for showering, eating, exercising, breathing. They run around to fit everything into a manic schedule so that even just sitting on my butt thinking about what I have to do next, I exhaust myself. The irony is that by trying to schedule each minute to be the most efficient machine I can be, I cripple myself with exhaustion and turn inefficient. I end up distracted in class or asleep halfway through my reading. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, most schedules here require that students rush to fit all activities into a day and still get a decent amount of sleep at night. I wish I could tell you to stop rushing entirely, but that would be unrealistic. The only advice I can offer regards the signposts. Rush as much as you like on your own terms but let the signposts go. Give yourself the space to ignore the pressure to hurry up, multitask and get ahead. When you have some free time, give yourself the gift of spacing out, or taking a yoga class, or calling your sister. Let your mice hunker down in a hammock, and don’t allow yourself an ounce of guilt for putting on hold the thoughts about the next hour or this summer or next year. You might find your focus refreshed. You might even be able to make it through your reading afterward.
The mice in your head want to talk to Renee. Tell them they can email here at firstname.lastname@example.org.