Episode 3: Life Design

Episode 3: Life Design
The Haverford Compass

00:00 / 19:03

This episode is about life design, or figuring out how to manage your time and day most effectively. We interview OAR intern Talia Scott about how she used the science of chronotypes to help her maximize her schedule. Then Charlie talks about time management with OAR Assistant Director Raquel Esteves-Joyce.


Alejandro: This podcast is a production of the Office of Academic Resources. For more information about the OAR, go to Haverford.edu/OAR.


PG: Welcome to the Compass. My name is Peter.


CB: And I’m Charlie. Peter, you know how we talked last time about the right way to practice?


PG: Right – we talked about how practice should be specific, immersive, informed, and challenging.


CB: Yes, and I’ve been applying those ideas to my guitar practice.


PG: Neat! How’s that going for you?


CB: It’s pretty good – I can really feel myself getting better. My only hangup is that, when I go to practice, I don’t feel particularly energized. After a couple songs my fingers start to feel heavy and my focus wanes.


PG: Do you not enjoy it?


CB: No, I do enjoy it. But I usually practice the guitar right after work, or right after my yoga class.


PG: Do you think that has an effect?


CB: Maybe. Last week I had time to practice the guitar in the morning, and it felt great. So I wonder if I could structure my day differently so that I could be practicing my guitar when I’m most energized for it.


PG: You know, one of our interns has been looking into the question of how best to structure her day. She wasn’t doing so with the intent of practicing the guitar, but with the intent of getting better sleep and being more alert in class. And what she found gets to the broader question of how best to structure daily life in college.


CB: Great! So that’s our topic today: what is the best way to design your daily schedule? We’ll talk to Talia Scott, Class of 2019 at Haverford. She’s a political science major, an OAR intern, and a budding expert on sleep science.


PG: Later in the episode, Charlie will talk with Raquel Esteves-Joyce, Assistant Director of the OAR. Raquel is one of the best around at helping students design their daily routines at Haverford.


CB: That’s right. First, we’re excited to welcome Talia Scott to the podcast to talk about how she made some big changes to her daily schedule. Welcome Talia!


TS: Thanks for having me here!


CB: Talia, could you share a bit about what your life was like before you adjusted your daily routine?


Talia 1: You can describe my life as pretty hectic, I get tired during the day, and by the time I get back to my dorm, I’m ready to crash. Some nights I stay up until 2 am, which was happening a lot, and for me it was just this endless cycle of endlessly catching up. And as a student here that also just wants to enjoy her life, I realized that wasn’t for me, that couldn’t be my continued path at Haverford. So I was first initially interested in doing research on exercise, and when looking at exercise, sleep always comes up, because the two go hand in hand, and so I came across a Dr. Oz video where Michael Breus was making an appearance and he was talking about the Power of When and sleep chronotypes.


Dr: Oz: What I did is I aggregated data from around the world, and it turns out that this is an area called chronobiology, and it’s been studied for 15, almost 20 years now. And so we’ve got a tremendous amount of data at our fingertips to be able to see ‘hey, what can we do, what can we do better, and at what time would it be better to do it?


Talia: and so I was so interested in sleep chronotypes, because I had never heard of sleep chronotypes before.


Charlie: Talia, what is a chronotype?


Talia: A chronotype is basically your sleep type, people talk about morning larks or night owls, but through his research, dr breus found out that there are not two but rather four different sleep chronotypes.


Charlie:   so the 4 different sleep chronotypes are basically 4 different kinds of people with 4 types of schedules, who get up at different times who go to bed at different times…and they are…


Talia a bear, a lion, a wolf, and a dolphin


Talia:  Once I finished reading the book, I adjusted my schedule to what a bear schedule would look like. And so for me, that means starting my mornings at 7am exactly. And the other constant thing was then I went to bed by 11pm. And that was important to me, because and as Dr. Michael Breus suggested, bears go to sleep at 11pm. Once I started doing that, I felt much better in the morning. I thought now I’m going to sleep at 11pm. Once I started doing that, I felt much better, and so, for me it was like ‘now, I’m going to sleep at 11pm, let me try exercising at 6pm,’ and that was great for me too, I had so much energy, I felt excited, I felt motivated to do my work later on at night. And so something that he also just suggested in the book as a strategy, before you go to bed, turn off all screens, maybe two or three hours before. So now, I’m just realizing the difference between having that screen on right before you go to bed or having that screen off an hour and a half before you go to bed – it just transforms how fast you go to sleep, and that process of going to sleep has become so much better. Before I tried out these strategies, I would lay awake in bed for probably 45 minutes to an hour, and it is torture, listening to my friends being awake while looking at the ceiling while I wait to go to sleep, and so now when I just go to bed at 11pm, say good night to my mom and friends, 10pm 10:30, I would go go to sleep in 5 minutes. And so I think that transition for me was easier, because then when I woke up, I didn’t feel frustrated any more, and then I felt happier overall too.


Charlie: Have you shared your findings with any of your friends? And have they seen the benefits of the Power of When?


Talia: So my roommates have definitely seen the power of when. And so at the beginning of last semester, I would usually stay up with them, doing homework, talking, we just love to hang out and so for those couple of weeks … or employing Dr. Breus’s strategies, I literally went into my room, and they were like ‘I’m going to my room, goodnight guys,’ they thought ‘omg you’re getting your work done’ I think for them it was like, ok how can we make sure we’re also maximizing our time so we’re not up late. I have a friend now who actually goes to the gym at the same time every day, and that’s just a part of her life balance now. And she has her schedule in terms of doing homework doing work. A part of that was when Raquel at the OAR. I knew I would get up at 7am and so I went to Raquel I said what do I do at 7 am when I get on campus how can i be productive. and so. we realized that ok, if you’re up at 7am, you’re here, maybe that’s the best time to study, review notes, do research if you can for those essays that are due in three weeks. and so I think for me in creating that balance, which Raquel helped me with extremely, I became more productive in terms of doing work.


Charlie: Talia if you were to walk the hallway of Stokes, and see a good friend of yours who has clearly not slept well, what would you tell them?


Talia First I would I tell them to go to sleep, then I would say the next day to come to the OAR and figure out your life design.


I think for me my success in terms of creating a life balance came from saying ‘yes, there are 24 hours a day,” but you don’t use all of those hours in terms of being productive, because sometime you miss out on so much free time as a student that in turn takes away from your sleep and so, if you revamp your schedule, revamp your life design a bit, you’ll probably be more successful


Charlie: Thank you Talia for sharing your experiences!


Talia: Thanks for having me!


PG: To recap, Talia just suggested several ways to improve quality of sleep and productivity. She suggested going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and reducing technology usage before bed.


CB: Talia also suggested having the same time of day for exercising and doing homework, and intentionally choosing the right times in the day to be doing these things.


PG: Right. We won’t get into it all here, but there’s a lot of scientific evidence showing that day-to-day consistency improves performance in the things you’re doing.


CB: Exactly. But maybe the most important thing that Talia demonstrated is simply having a well-thought-out approach to daily life in college. She developed an informed plan that she could refine and strengthen. Improved quality of sleep was perhaps the biggest benefit, but she found many more.


PG: That’s right. Now, she centered her schedule around her sleep, but there are other ways to organize life in college. Maybe a student wants their schedule to support their performance at soccer practice, or, maybe they want their schedule to ensure success in a challenging class. So, what’s the right way to design your day-to-day life to meet your particular goals and needs?


CB: With this question in mind, we now turn to Raquel Esteves-Joyce. My first question is how can students design their schedules more efficiently? Where do they start?


REJ: If students are signing up for an academic coaching session, one of the best places to start is with what they’re actually doing. So it’s a time for us to be able to figure out what is it that they’re currently doing and for them to be able to build off of that a personalized plan to make use of their time. Not everybody schedules their day and so they’re not aware of what it is that they’re spending their time on. So I’m asking things like “Are you a morning person? Are you an evening person? What are some of the weekly things that you do?” so for example if you have a weekly workout session, if you are part of a team, we can definitely take advantage of that in being able to find study time afterward.


CB: That sounds really great. So you talked a bit about writing down “I have this commitment of being on this sports team every week.”  How can students evaluate the effectiveness of their schedules, bearing all these commitments in mind?


REJ: One of the things that I recommend to students if they’re not already using Google Calendar is to begin to use that, at least while we’re really getting a sense of where their time is going. GC has a way of being able to see these pockets of time and also how they’re utilizing that time, what activities are in the transition periods between one to another – So thinking about this in layers, that first layer is all those things they’re doing on a weekly basis for them to begin to populate their calendar with those things. So it could be that you have a weekly meeting, different clubs that you’re a part of, if you have a job where you’re working twelve hours a week, being able to populate those things on the calendar so that we’re able to see “This is where your time is presently going.” Being able to figure out what works for students and how to be able to have a better manage on, for example, their study time and being able to keep up with weekly assignments, that’s where we go to GC. Then – one of the things I do is for us to be able to talk to students about ‘For this particular class that you have, how much time on a weekly basis do you need to dedicate to that class to be able to get the weekly assignments done?” So at this point we’re not talking about anything long term, we’re just talking about the readings and any other weekly assignments that are needed for this class – and then we start populating the calendar with those things. And then I start asking questions like “Focus – and how long are you able to study at any given time and really be able to focus on what it is?” Because we may have two hours set aside for study time but it doesn’t mean that it’s uninterrupted and that we may be thinking about other things. And so I’m asking students, besides what’s the best time and the best place to study, is also how long can you sustain that? And it may be that maybe they’re looking at – that they’re working in 20 minute intervals, and 15 minute intervals and giving themselves a 5 minute break, and using the pomodoro method for example. I always suggest to students “Use this schedule for one week.” And it’s really important that in this week – life happens, sometimes you may not be able to keep an exact time that you have for study time – but I highly suggest to them: don’t delete it off your calendar – move that. Sort of like reschedule with yourself. Because that calendar is only going to be as good as you using that. And after a week of using it then we can get back together and we can talk about what worked. And if certain things worked then how can we build off of those successes? And for things that didn’t work, how can we figure out why it didn’t work? Is it that maybe there’s too many things that are happening concurrently and we need some space in between, some down time before hand? Is it that there’s too much happening Monday to Friday and we need to stretch out that workweek to be seven days so that there’s not so much pressure during the week? So this time of being able to reflect on the schedule and ask some questions about it is really helpful to then see how can we go from here and how can we make this work for the student?


CB: These are all really great tips. And I imagine that people who come to the academic coaching sessions are getting a ton out of it. But what tips would you provide students who don’t come to these coaching sessions? How do you do this on your own?


REJ: Yes. So if you’re unable to come into one of the coaching sessions, I would suggest that the first place would be to go to our website, and under “Resource” you’ll find something called the weekly calendar or the weekly planner. And so on there there is one part where you can actually schedule your time, but the other part that is really helpful – it asks questions that helps you reflect on regarding your schedule. First example: what are some of the goals that you have for this week, being realistic, so that you can actually write down those goals, you’re more likely to be able to meet those goals. Because you’re thinking about this beforehand. That you’re thinking about, at the end of the week, what went well during this week? You’re also thinking about what didn’t go well and what changes you want to implement for the next week. So I  found that that tool is very helpful for students who may be working on their own in being able to think about how they’re utilizing their time and how they’re being able to improve upon that.


CB: That’s a really great resource. What are some other tips for student self-accountability?


REJ: Accountability is really important. There’s a couple of different ways to be able to have accountability work for you. When I’m thinking about accountability, it’s about the fact that you are sharing with someone else what your goals are, And that somebody you’re giving them permission to ask these personal questions. For example, if you know that you have an econ test coming up and that you want to be able to study an hour and a half every night for six nights, if you’re accountable to somebody – and that could be a friend on campus who could or could not be in the class, it could be someone at home. But you’re giving them permission to be able to ask you “Hey, were you able to meet your goal? Were you able to study for that hour and a half this week or for this day?” And if you weren’t then they’re asking you why not. How can we ensure that you will be doing that the next day? And that’s important because you already know someone’s going to be asking you about this. And so you can have an accountability partner in regard to a friend that you have who you’re giving permission to ask you those questions. It could be if you’re a part of a group or a team that you are doing this together. I know my colleague Peter did a workshop with first-year athletes and part of his workshop was based off of the fact that if they’re working together how they can support each other and use that kind of team mentality when they’re focusing on their academics. So it could be that everyone’s working on the pomodoro method together and they’re working in 25 minute intervals and during that time everybody’s diving into their work. And then they have a break and during the break they’re talking about “hey this worked for me, this didn’t, these are some questions that I have.” So you could be accountable one on one, you could be accountable in a group setting. Our academic coaching sessions are also a great way to be accountable to somebody that we can pick up from week to week in terms of “these were some goals you had for yourself – were you able to meet those goals? If not, let’s troubleshoot that a bit.” And so I feel that that’s really helpful. Another thing to think about with accountability is thinking about what are the different things that you want to be accountable for. Sometimes, primarily what we’re talking about is academics, but it could also be being accountable to somebody asking me “How many hours did I sleep?” Making sure that I’m meeting my goal. Making sure that I’m meeting my goal of balance in my life. So those are some other things also to consider.


CB: And those are wonderful things to consider. So I don’t have any more specific questions left. Is there any general advice or other things that you’d like to say about academic coaching or maximizing your schedule?


REJ: Yeah, so one more thing. When I was talking about those coaching sessions and working with the student and how there’s different layers, one of the other layers that I didn’t mention but I think it’s important – if you’re able to have an academic coaching session in the beginning of the semester, I think that’s great so that way you can build up that habit because you’re just starting classes fresh and you can figure out how long you need to work on these classes on a weekly basis to maintain that – to be able to make sure you are doing all the work that you do for that week. But another layer is to be able to look at your syllabus and see when are your midterms, when are your exams, when are your longer projects. And to be able to have a plan for that. Because the time invested in that is above and beyond your weekly maintenance plan. And so I think that’s important for students to be able to think about also. And you can do that in the beginning of the semester. I always tell students “Let’s work with your own rhythm, let’s figure out what that is.” For some people it may take them a little bit longer to write, and that’s okay as long as we figure out how long it is that it may take you. And we can start a little bit earlier. For some students, they don’t write an outline. For them, as they’re thinking – as they’re writing it’s a way of processing and thinking. And they need to allot more time for that in the beginning to be able to work out, flesh out those ideas because by the end they’ve figure out “This is exactly where I need to go” and for those people who procrastinate and leave it until the end, they may not have time to develop those ideas at that point because they didn’t give themselves enough time. But if they know that, then we can allot that from the beginning. I think that’s part of the benefit of doing this early on. So that way you’re not feeling the pressure and the stress of leaving things until the end, of sleeping less, and not doing the work that you know that you can do, that you know that you’re capable of. And I think it’s also a way that when you realize, when you give yourself that extra time, that maybe the process you’re using, maybe there’s nothing wrong with that – you just weren’t allowing yourself the latitude to be able to make that work for you. And so how can we do that? And that’s part of what I see can be done for our academic coaching sessions. So those can be made with myself or with any of my colleagues. We also have walk-in hours Monday to Friday from 1 to 2 for students that want to drop in. Or they can make appointments with us.


CB: Great, well Raquel, thank you so much for talking to me today. It’s been a real pleasure.


REJ: Thank you very much, have a good day.


CB: Thanks to Talia and Raquel for sharing their insights on life design and time management today. That’s all for this episode. Tune in for next week, when we meet with OAR intern Bess Cohen to talk about the importance of physical exercise. In producing this episode, we’d like to thank Raquel Esteves-Joyce and Talia Scott, the rest of the staff and interns at the OAR. For show notes and more information, go to our website, the HAverford compass dot com. For questions, email HC DASH OAR at HAVERFORD DOT EDU.

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