November 24, 2017

Overcommitment – Gordon’s Cultural Conundrum

Busy student's planner. Photo by Katie Simpson.

By Katie Simpson ’20
Editor-in-chief

I think we’ve all had a conversation that goes something like this:

Person 1: How are you?

Person 2: I’m good really busy. Probably not going to sleep tonight. I have class until 3:00, meetings until 8:30, and a group project and a paper due tomorrow.

Person 1: Same, I only slept for three hours last night because I had to finish a presentation and study for a test.

Person 2: College, right?

I, however, would beg to differ. Sleeping only three hours each night is not just “a part of college”; it’s the side effect of an ailment sweeping our campus, called overcommitment.

Overcommitment is not exclusive to Gordon; in fact, when I googled around on the topic, many of the articles I found were from other student publications, not unlike the Tartan. Still, it is a prominent feature of Gordon’s culture. Here, students are expected, and even encouraged, to balance a part time job and numerous extra curricular commitments, like clubs and sports, on top of a full academic schedule, a social life, and healthy sleep habits.

Overcommitment is a trap that even the most disciplined among us fall into easily, as it is not only difficult to predict how busy we will be in the future, but also expected of Gordon students. However, there are a number of reasons I think it is worth considering, and reconsidering, one’s schedule to avoid overcommitment.

Overcommitment wears you out and decreases your quality of work. When you’ve dedicated all of the free hours of your day to clubs and organizations, you don’t have the time to produce quality work, much less sleep. This relies on simple logic: given that time is a limited resource, the more commitments you have, the less time you have to thoroughly complete each task. The less time given to each task, the less thorough its execution will be. This isn’t to say that some commitments require more time than others, but it’s easy to get sucked into more commitments than you have time to fulfill. Call me crazy, but I think that getting rest is critical for success. It’s even a biblical concept; anyone who has gone to Sunday school knows that on the seventh day God rested.

Overcommitment doesn’t just affect you. When you overcommit, it affects all of the people around you. Being late to meetings and unable to complete assignments or projects because you are “busy” is, frankly, disrespectful. Overcommitment can often become too much causing you not to follow through on your commitments. The burden of your missed tasks often falls on the other, less-committed members of the teams you are on. Not to mention, all of the people you lash out against in your sleep-deprived grumpiness. (While we are on this topic I would like to apologize to all of the people I’ve yelled at while sleep deprived. I’m sorry.)

Overcommitment doesn’t achieve the goal it is meant to achieve. I think many students take multiple jobs and club leadership positions because they feel the need to pad their resume; however, I think that investing in a few key opportunities for personal and professional development is far more useful. By specializing you make yourself distinctive and build layers and depth of experience. Additionally, specialization give you confidence, and even authority, in your field which will be useful upon entering the workforce.

Personally, I chose to only commit to The Tartan (and my classes of course)  this year. I don’t mean to brag or to be preachy, but it has honestly been one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve learned both how to fully invest in one task as well as learning to enjoy participating in groups/events/clubs without any formal commitment or leadership position.

As you prepare your schedule for next semester, I would encourage each of you to think about each of your classes and commitments and consider whether they are truly helping you to grow or if they are just another item on an exhausting to-do list.

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