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Do the best you can with the time you've got.

I have been listening to podcasts today. Two of my favorites are: Before Breakfast (Laura Vanderkam) and The Effort Report (Elizabeth Matsui and Roger Peng).


In the episode “Be kind to your future self” Laura encourages us to ask: “is this a better use of my time than the other things I could be doing?” Elizabeth and Roger said almost the exact same thing on the episode I listened to this morning. They took it a step further, though, encouraging us to compare new opportunities to specific, concrete examples of other things we could be doing. In other words, learning to ask:

“is this a better use of my time than X?”

They went on to half-jokingly give examples like “sleeping” for X.


Both of these questions remind me of a nugget of wisdom my dad shared with me while I was freaking out about failing chemistry as a college freshman. He told me

“do the best you can with the time you’ve got.”

I have friends, colleagues, and students who would define “the time you’ve got” as the 24 hours in a day. Thankfully, being a college athlete, I had a single, concrete priority around which to make other decisions. Though I didn’t appreciate it in my youth, this clarity was tremendously freeing. The time I had for chemistry was the time that was left after practice, eating, sleeping, etc. – notably NOT all 24 hours in a day. Staying up until 3 a.m. to perfect a chem lab was simply not an option because I had to jump in a pool the next day with my wits about me.


Are you making trade-offs that conflict with your priority? Just something to think about.


P.S. I passed chemistry. Probably in part because Dr. Mary Peek focused on students achieving mastery by the end of the course and set an example I will emulate in my own teaching. But that is another topic for another post.

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