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The power of a minute

Joanne, Class of 2021, Biology

“Oh, you want to hang out next Wednesday? Let me just check my schedule!”

*has two midterms, two assignments, and a group project meeting*

“Umm, I can either do 6:00am or 11:30pm, unless of course you want to power walk with me from my lab in BioSci to West Campus at 2:30pm— that’s about 15 solid bonding minutes?”

It’s that time of year again! It’s week 7, when every student in a 10 kilometre radius has a cold, and you have a pile of work due in just three days, even though you are in only four classes. Ever feel like you are spreading yourself thin from the never-ending grind of classes, group meetings and assignments, and all you really want to do is to pause the clock so you can take a break without ‘wasting time’? If you answered yes, I just want to say—me too!

I also know what most of you are thinking: “sure, a break sounds great but seriously, I do not have time for that!” And trust me, I’ve been there—but then I learned that all that is needed is to take a minute. And once you understand what you can accomplish, you really do realize the power of a single minute.

Here are some ways that I’ve learned to use 60 seconds of my life that I probably would have wasted on my phone anyway, in a way that has turned around my experience as a student and helped me seriously enjoy life more:

  1. The to-do list minute

Do you ever have five minutes before class, and you know that it isn’t enough time to start an assignment or do anything “really” productive, so you just sit on your phone? Then, the next time you sit down for a study session you still have to organize what you need to accomplish, and you end up wasting 20 minutes? I’ve been there. But here is what I learned! If you use those five minutes before you rush out the door to make a simple, well-organized to-do list of what you need to work on the next time you have a study session, you can sit down and start getting effective work done within minutes of getting to your favourite study location. Don’t believe me? Try it out! After struggling the first few times, I can now make my to-do list of what tasks I need to do next in about one minute. It’s best if you prioritize tasks based on the ABC Method: A is for assignments that are due very soon; B is for larger tasks that need a few sittings to complete; C is for things that you should devote time to that will help you accomplish goals outside of the academic realm. For some helpful tips on to-do lists and prioritizing, click here. 

  1. The not-right-now minute

Now, these minutes used to be really hard for me to devote time to. This is a minute where I turn my phone off or on Do Not Disturb and I don’t answer anyone. So, what does this single minute do? Allow yourself to take a break from immediately responding to a conversation or text, or from worrying that you are an experience with your friends. It is a whole minute where you can evaluate how much of an influence your instant response would have in any conversation. Often, I’ve learned that by taking a minute, I can respond to messages with more accuracy of how I truly feel and can even give better advice to friends. I’ve taken this approach so far as to not respond for hours, or sometimes days, to devote real time, effort and problem-solving skills to the person I am responding to.

  1. The don’t-give-up minute

This style of minute is really all about self-discipline. Any non-math lovers out there? You likely should try this one out. Sometimes when I’ve been faced with a difficult question or task that I couldn’t immediately figure out, my initial response has been to just give up. Why? Because it is easier, and I can be lazy. But I’ve learned that if I give myself 60 seconds of complete focus to understand the concept, without checking my phone, without seeing what time it is, without thinking about what I’m making for, without seeing how much the question is worth, but with complete focus, I can get some real insight. Maybe I don’t totally solve the question, but understanding what is being asked is already one step closer than I was before. It’s really easy to get distracted, but dedicating one minute to understand something a little more before giving up will make a world of difference. And once you accomplish one solid minute of focus it is very achievable to focus for 5 more minutes, and then 5 more. SASS calls this strategy the 5 More Rule; it helps students with procrastination and motivation!

  1. The mindfulness minute

This is my favourite type of minute! Have you been reading this far and been thinking to yourself, “all this sounds great, but a minute isn’t really a long enough time to accomplish all of this”? I understand where you are coming from, but I want you to think about how long a minute feels. So, I challenge you. Start a timer on your phone and then without looking at it or counting in your head, just simply sit there, feel out a minute. When you think you’ve reached a minute, look at how much time has actually passed. Now let me guess, about 30-45 seconds? Or maybe you waited 1.5 minutes because you thought I wouldn’t be asking you to do this if it didn’t feel long. Either way I am guessing you were wrong, and I was too. My first time, I got to 25 seconds when I thought my minute was up, and realized if I had the right mindset, I could accomplish a lot in a minute. Some of the best uses for the mindfulness minute is when you’re surrounded by the busy world of school. Give yourself one minute each day; that means stopping for 60 seconds to just do nothing. No thinking, no scrolling, no conversation, nothing. Stop stretching your brain so thin that you think you don’t have time for anything in life. Try this grounding exercise that will help you give yourself a break for a minute and to regain focus.

Maybe none of these uses of a minute appeal to you, and that is okay. I just want you to realize that even when life gets crazy and everything seems to happen really fast, you should take a minute to prioritize yourself. Give yourself time to truly exist in this world, because if you can’t take a minute for yourself, why are you giving all your minutes?