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Posted by on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 in Blog.

Get in touch with your inner tortoise.

If you still have finals, this may be hard to hear, but slowing down for a minute can do you more good than whatever work you think you could have achieved in that minute. In fact, if you have 20 minutes to slow down, go watch this TED talk in praise of slowness.

If you don’t have 20 minutes, just take the next 5 and read the rest of this post. Breathe deeply, while you’re at it. The TED speaker of his slow habits:

“I no longer overload myself gratuitously. My default mode is no longer to be a rush-a-holic… And the upshot of all of that is that I actually feel a lot happier, healthier, more productive than I ever have. I feel like I am actually living my life rather than rushing through it.”

As a grad student, it is easy to think that this concept doesn’t apply while I am in school. Once I have a job, then I’ll slow down, right? I am sure most of the professionals I know would laugh at that thought. We will always be able to justify rushing around, balancing seventeen “critically important things”—like volunteering, work, student organization membership, daily runs, and dance performances—but we should stop justifying our rushed schedules. Especially while we are students.

Harvard University sent this letter to all of its first year students in 2005. Some of the language is specific to the Harvard experience, but here is what the letter boils down to:

You may succeed more fully at the things that are most important to you if you consider the possibilities available, but gradually spend more of your time on fewer things you truly love.

You may balance your life better if you participate in some activities purely for fun, rather than to achieve a leadership role, or to add it as a credential on your resume.

The most important thing to master is the capacity to make choices that are appropriate to you, recognizing that flexibility in your schedule and evenings with friends are in a large sense essential for your education.

And finally – a direct quote from the letter –

Don’t try to do two major extracurricular activities simultaneously. Taking this advice requires classifying extracurricular commitments into “major,” of which you should probably have at most one, and “minor,” which might involve a meeting a week…

I’m not telling you to go quit all of your major extracurriculars, or telling you to do anything at all. But I hope that I can encourage you to consider your choices, and be sure they are the right ones for you. Whether you are first- or fourth-year student, just allow yourself to slow down and enjoy whatever you love.

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