Take fewer classes.

by New Idiom


Tortoise_race

After writing this, I realized that it is a bit longer than most articles. It took Kayo three minutes to read it, and I hope you will take the time to finish it.

Every week, the New Yorker arrives in my mailbox. Folded in half, it fits neatly in my back pocket. I try to keep one on me wherever I go so I have something to read while I’??m on the bus or waiting for a friend. Or sitting on the toilet, my one real sanctuary time. Heaven forbid I waste a moment not learning something new. But the stupidest thing is that I try reading while walking home, in the dark, at 2am on most nights. I haven’t been hit by a car yet, but I’m working on it.

I’m not sure which is worse: that I always go home at 2am or that I need activities to fill every waking moment.

I’ve recently started reading The Atlantic, which, as of this month, has been exploring “The American Idea” for the past 150 years. In the anniversary issue, Walter Kirn laments the dysfunction we are imposing on ourselves as we constantly fill our already-too-full lives with multitasking. We’ve been deluded by the efficiency, convenience and mobility that liberating technologies have promised us. Not only do we think we can do anything, we also think we can do everything. But we can’t.

As I write this (at 2am, incidentally), I am also brushing my teeth, doing homework for New Product Definition, compiling the IDSAB nominations, and periodically checking my email (just in case). I am inundated with things that I “need” and “want” to do. So to keep up, I’m reduced to reading in the dark while walking home after a days jammed with meetings and homework and more meetings. Worse, I derive some perverse sense of pride from being such a busy guy that I don’t have time to notice that I am neglecting things like my health, my friends, and my sleep.

Patrick has expressed concern over our “insane” need to drown ourselves in classes, naïvely (and ironically) thinking that more classes means we are getting more out of our very expensive education. I’ve been no better than the next person, averaging 5-6 classes at any given time. But instead of delivering enlightenment, the frenzy we’ve worked ourselves into is delivering only fatigue. And, Kirn warns, we may be seriously damaging our ability to think as deeply as we could (and need to).

So as you consider what classes you want to take this coming Spring, I have one suggestion: slow down. Take it easy, sign up for fewer classes, and be deliberate about what you take. You’ll be glad you did.

As for me, I plan to take fewer classes and spend the time to get the most out of each one. And tomorrow, I will leave my New Yorker at my desk so I can quietly reflect as I walk home.