I feel like I might have said this before, somewhere, but it’s the kind of thing that needs to be nudged once in awhile, so here I am again.
A couple of weeks ago, Roz and I put out an open call for an Ask Me Anything episode we were doing for Hype Hunt (upcoming, stay tuned!). It was pretty interesting to see how the type of questions we got differed between us, but one of the overwhelmingly recurring questions I got was that on time management. It seems there are a lot of you struggling with work/school, having a social life, getting enough sleep, pursuing your life passions and hobbies… and I can understand how you would relate to me, as I do to you, a person struggling to keep afloat with all that has been going on especially in the final leg of my Masters programme.
A very flippant reply I give most people when they ask how I manage to balance everything is that I have no social life. This is true to some extent – I have significantly cut down on all my social activity, and at the start of this year, I sent out a round message to my different groups of friends telling them that I would be a sort of hermit in the coming semester due to #thesis, not to take it personally, and that I would be back again properly after August, which is when my submissions are. I do miss making plans to go out with my girlfriends after a long day of work, I miss being able to freely commit to a painting class date two weeks in advance, things like that. But something’s gotta give. You can’t have everything. And in any case, it wasn’t going to be a permanent thing – and everyone thankfully was very understanding and supportive and also, they all had their own lives to lead so I flatter myself by thinking that they might miss me too much anyway.
I’m thankful that my work in filming and hosting forces me outdoors and to participate in activities outside the academic, and I’m surprised and grateful that I still find time for spontaneous dinners when my friends are in my office area. So in some sense, I still have that semblance of balance in my life. I think if I didn’t, I would go crazy. All in all – it’s been a stressful year or so, and it’s been tiring. This is not a complaint – I think that life becomes meaningful when you have challenges and from this you grow – but I’m just saying, yes, it’s been tiring. But when I compare working patterns between myself and my two younger sisters, both of which are also still in various stages of school, I can’t believe how recklessly gung-ho I was in my younger days in prioritising what to give up in favour of my schoolwork.
It seems that a lot of kids these days are still championing the you can sleep when you’re dead motto when it comes to their studies. I sure did. In fact, I think it was my MSN byline for the longest time – I’LL SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD, GPA IS FOREVER. Jeez. MSN. I feel old. That doesn’t even exist anymore. But ok, that’s besides the point. The point is, the idea of giving up sleep and pulling all nighters is part necessity and part romanticised, and I have to tell you in retrospect, it’s bullshit.
I’m perpetually trying to force my sisters to go to sleep. My youngest in particular gets very frustrated when I do this, because she says that jie if i sleep i literally cannot finish my work. It’s her A level year, tension is running high. And I get it. I do. This is a problem, that we are loading kids with so much work that they are literally hunching over under the weight of the sheer volume of content they need to memorise and regurgitate at will. And it creates panic, and this mill horse kind of mentality that no matter what, you just have to keep going. I pulled countless all nighters in my secondary school, JC, and uni undergrad days. And I regret them.
Yes, there are friendships forged from the occasional comradeship that a room full of desperate undergraduates studying for finals form, and they do occupy quite a significant space in my nostalgic memory of schooldays. But seriously, if you’re just looking purely at productivity and effectiveness of study, a lack of sleep does you way more harm than good.
One of the most important things someone ever said to me was, just because you’re not sleepy doesn’t mean your body isn’t tired.
I cannot emphasise enough how important and true this is. When your body is tired, it suffers. And it tries to warn you that it’s suffering, so to signal this to you, your mind slows down, you become sluggish and moody, and heck, it’s bad for health, body, and fitness. It messes with your eyesight, it makes you less effective and productive as a worker, and it makes you more prone to depression. On the other hand, sleep regenerates you, refreshes you, and i mean, come on buddy. I don’t have to tell you why sleep is great. Everyone loves sleep. I actually get emotional about getting into bed because it feels so good I could cry.
Perhaps you can trick your body into not feeling sleepy, but this changes nothing about the fact that you’re probably still tired as heck. I think the problem is partly our culture, that we are such a generation of overachievers that we feel like if we can keep going, we should. But no. Im here to tell you that this is terrible for you in the long run. It’s ok to tell yourself that tonight, this is as much as you will do, and you can continue tomorrow. Allow yourself to sleep. Forgive your body it’s failings. JUST GIVE YOURSELF A DAMNED BREAK.
This is the reason why today, I can compromise everything – social life, watching TV, taking a break from my hobbies for awhile, not meeting my boyfriend as often… but I will not compromise sleep. I have experienced first hand how shit it is to be tired all the time. And yeah, sure. Maybe you can give up everything and have enough sleep and still not have enough time to finish your work. Fine. But at least you’ll be a happier person, and more productive, and, you’ll actually get to do the best thing ever, which is sleep.
Keep hanging in there, guys. x