Widgets Magazine


The art of doing nothing

It’s 1 a.m. and your problem set is due at 9 a.m. It’s not that you don’t know how to do the problems, or that you don’t have enough time to finish them. It’s just that this is the second week in a row you’ve had three problem sets assigned, not to mention the two midterms you just finished. Frankly, you’re brain-dead. When your day-to-day consists of going to class, doing homework, meeting your baseline nutritional needs and getting to and from class, there is no chance to take a moment to refresh your focus.

Besides wearing on your sanity, this kind of unyielding schedule will negatively impact your school work. You could be the most diligent, brilliant, well-prepared student on campus and still do poorly on a midterm because your brain is tired of focusing. The challenge is to meet all of your deadlines without holing up in your room for two weeks to study. A trusty Stanford student strategy I employ is to take a break from one assignment and procrastinate by working on a different, less important one. Kids, don’t try this at home. It’s counterproductive.

“But I just don’t have time.” Maybe you don’t have time to go to an hourlong yoga class, but my guess is you do have time for a 10-minute walk. The key is to do something that doesn’t emphasize results, an activity that doesn’t try to accomplish anything besides distracting you in a healthy way. The other day I did the unthinkable: I put down my PWR paper mid-sentence and played my guitar for the first time in a couple of weeks. Nothing drastic, just 20 minutes of noodling around. When I returned to write, the mostly empty page looked less pitiful. The blinking cursor no longer seemed to be mocking me. I felt like I could take on the world, or at least PWR class.

Amused? Confused? Outraged? Share your thoughts with Renée at rdonovan@stanford.edu.

About Renee Donovan

Renee was born and raised in San Francisco and has a serious love affair with the city. Last year she took a leave of absence to pursue a career in ballet and modern dance at Tisch School of the Arts in New York. She is glad to be back at Stanford, and especially glad to be back in California. She is an avid backpacker, Faulkner enthusiast, fair-to-middling guitarist, and wholehearted aviation nerd. She hopes to bring an amusing and provocative voice to the Daily in her opinion column, and urges the Stanford community to offer her their suggestions, questions, and criticism to keep the dialogue going on campus.