How to maximise your extracurriculars and time

Everyone likes extracurricular activities.  They are a big part of college life, and help to properly round out your education.  However, they are often large time commitments.  Having been part of way too many programs at one time myself, I thought I might offer some of the strategies I used in order to pull it all off.  But first, a brief glimpse into my life spring quarter, 2013.

4:37 am – Wake up, get dressed, jump on my bike and head over to the Recreation Center for practice.

5:15 am – Meet up with my teammates and get into a van for the ride up to Lake Cachuma, about a 30 minute drive up into the Santa Ynez mountains.

6:20 am – Out on the water for another gruelling practice; today is 5000m of the great Cachuma pairs race

9:00 am – Finally back on campus, with just enough time to run to quantum mechanics before the lecture starts.

10:00 am – Back to the erg (indoor rowing machine) room for second practice.

12:00 pm – Home; time for lunch, a quick shower, and then it’s off to class / teaching lab / research lab

6:00 pm – Finish up the last few experiments for the day, and bike back home again, getting started on dinner and homework as soon as I get back.

7:00 pm – The resident I work with at the hospital lets me know that tonight is going to be a great shadowing night, so I head over to the local hospital to meet up with him.

8:00 pm – Cases start rolling in and I follow my resident around the hospital, trying to take note of the procedures he is carrying out, all whilst listening to an impromptu lecture by an x-ray tech on the correct way to read an x-ray scan.  As the night continues on, my resident and I go from room to room, constantly checking up on patients and occasionally heading over to the OR to observe a procedure.

1:00 am – The hospital is starting to quiet down a little.  I look at my watch and realise that it’s already 1am, and after quickly thanking the resident for an extremely informative evening, I head back home.

1:30 am – and back to bed.


So, with days  stretching into the 20+ hour mark, how is it possible to actually remain functional?  Well for one, you don’t have to sleep 8 hours every night.  After getting used to it, it is very possible to get by on around 5 hours a night, just take lots of naps!  A short, 20 minute nap every time you find yourself getting too tried to focus is enough to get through the next 90 minutes of work or study.

Another key to maximising your schedule is getting things done earlier in the day, rather than later.  By starting at 4:30 in the morning, I was able to squeeze a large chunk of my day into the hours before 9am, when class typically starts.  Because of this, I can fill the hours 9-5 with class, work, and research, while only have to fit  another 2 hours of practice in wherever I have time.

This idea builds into another important component of maximising your time: scheduling.  If you want to do more than you ever though possible in a day, you really have to schedule your time well.  Sit down and write out a loose schedule for the week on sundays, then as the week goes on adjust and update that schedule with more concrete details, to make sure that you don’t fall behind and use all the time that you have effectively.  But make sure to allow for some room for error, and be realistic with what you think you REALLY can do in an allotted time slot.  Start small, and just build up as you get more comfortable with an intense daily routine.  Soon enough you will know the limits of what is possible to pull off in a single quarter, and hopefully be better able to exceed them in the next quarter.

So if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I wish I had time to do ____”, you definitely can!  With enough planning and commitment, it is possible to do just about everything that you would want to in college.  And when going to a school like UCSB, there is so much to do here that it would be a shame not to take advantage of some of the really fun opportunities UCSB offers outside of the classroom.