Investing Time in College

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I think one path to productivity is maximizing how, when, and where you allocate your time. I have by no means mastered efficiency, nor pretend to be an expert. But I do have this rather unique strategy that I have applied to my own workflow over the years. I am not sure if it is truly “re-produceable,” nor am I saying it is a a recipe you can follow to get a certain type of guaranteed result.

In this essay, I hope to share the framework I have used over the past few years of school to balance various responsibilities and choices. Once again, for the sake of emphasis, this is just hindsight bias and experience speaking – nothing absolutely factual.

Nonetheless, and for better or worse, I have spent the past few years “diversifying my days” across school and other activities. 

My freshman year, I explored lots of different school clubs, classes, and on-campus opportunities. I joined a consulting club. A business fraternity. Social groups. Charity groups. Lots of different things. 

This was not unique – lots of people tell you to spread yourself out there and try things. What they do not tell you, though, is to question “what is the point?” 

You are a sheep as a freshman. You do what looks fun. What is popular. What everyone tells you to be doing. Specifically, the seniors – who you respect, look up to, and want to be like.

So you stay in your lane and follow the rules. You involve yourself in things everyone is doing. You become a board member in clubs. You think you have your purpose.

Until you don’t. Until you ask why.  Until you question the output of all the time you are donating.

What is the output of participating in all of these “not-so-unique” activities? It depends on the person. But for me, and my observations, I found that participating in most “normal things” leaves normal results.

It leaves normal amounts of fun. Normal amounts of learning. Normal amounts of difficulty. And, perhaps interestingly, normal amounts of competition. I don’t want to compete! 

So I switched my model. I diversified. And I took my time investments off campus. I started investing in myself. In projects. In people I found around the world who shared a passion for similar things as me. 

Do not get me wrong – classes, clubs, etc. – they serve a great purpose. But the truth is they often serve a macro-purpose. They do not expose you to the real world. They are fairy land, with fairy land returns. 

Believe it or not, this is a contrarian view point. Thousands of kids dedicated tens of thousands of hours to their on-campus involvements. For what? I am not a pessimist, I am an optimist here – things can get better!

What if everyone built projects…read books…ran events…started companies…began writing…CREATED THINGS!

Diversification of your time comes at a trade-off. School is a very safe bet (if you are studying something with strong ROI). 

So why not take extreme bets elsewhere? Differentiate in your spare time – not with clubs, but with unique things. 

Here is my framework:

  • Invest one hour a day in things no one else on campus is doing. 
  • Invest the minimum necessary to get by (while feeling good) things I do not like doing. 
  • Invest the maximum possible in awesome things – having a TON OF FUN, learning a TON, making A TON OF MONEY, ETC.

Having a ton of fun is super important to me and, I’ll state clearly, the single most important part about school (to me). 

Do not settle for mediocre returns. Aim high. Fail. Aim higher. 

I want to conclude by emphasizing – some people love clubs. Sure. You probably will too. 

But ask yourself why?

Is it purpose? Is it convenient purpose that these clubs provide? Could you reach higher? Are you being lazy? Are you settling?

Or are you confident? If you are, then stay that way. If you are not…maybe do something about it. 

Also published on Medium.