Box out & Make Space for One Task at a Time

How a radio, the Super Bowl and college memories reminded me to practice what I counsel.

“Knuckles in the grass, waiting for the snap…” I listened to 97.1 The Ticket on the radio as it broadcasted Westwood One’s play by play of the Super Bowl.  My WiFi was down. Only texts without images really got through—even those were delayed.  Many skip the Super Bowl.  They aren’t football fans, are protesting the NFL, have to work etc, but I do love to hunker down and watch.  This year I listened and experienced it in a whole new way–and am grateful that I did.

The noisy feed took me back thirty years to when I was a student athlete at the College of Wooster.  Radio was my connection back home to Detroit.  I could catch up with the NBA Champion Bad Boys (who covered my dorm room door to taunt my Cavs loving friends.) And Ernie Harwell called the Tiger’s games on WJR 760 which reached down to our rural Ohio campus and found my eager ears craving Harwell’s familiar cadence.

I started thinking about podcasts, streaming, radio, texting, emailing, calling, snapping and DMing.  Just checking one’s college admission status has become a chore. As a counselor I now need to know if a college notifies via letter, email, text, portal, or even a phone call–those are usually wait list offers. Remember when the only way you could get in touch was on the phone, by snail mail or just showing up? Did I just type that?  Am I officially old?

At Woo, corded phones were positioned next to radios playing 104.5 WQKT  so that fans could catch the College of Wooster basketball game if they were out of the Canton, Ohio based listening area.  One  player’s dad called in “long distance” to every game he could not make, and the phone receiver was set up on the announcer’s table.  At the time I thought that was so much money!  There I go sounding old again.  *Below is a picture of my teammates and friends being lauded at half time of a men’s (ranked 9th in the nation that year!) basketball game as proof that we were indeed once young and fun ;). Photo Credit: The Voice

Perhaps we were more independent back then because of the effort it took to make contact with someone. In the time we walked to a phone, dialed, listened to it ring, and waited for someone to answer—we were able to think before we spoke–a great habit many of us have lost in this reactive swipe, click and tap world.

Throughout the Super Bowl, I was getting so much done.  At the same time I was stressed out about the online work I was not completing. It reminded me of a favorite blog post by the founder of Collegewise, Kevin McMullen about compartmentalizing.

“Multi-tasking” has long enjoyed a positive connotation, as if someone who chooses to do multiple things at once is somehow smarter, harder working, more effective, etc.  

But the truth is that you produce much better work—and more of it—when you focus intensely on the job at hand and do so without distractions.” —Kevin McMullin

 I could not go back to the post (you should!) as my phone was taking forever to load anything, but I remembered the line above and thought, “This being without screens on Super Bowl Sunday evening is a good thing.” 

Guiltily, I was elated to have time without interruption.  The same technology that has allowed me to build my career has also tripped up my personal cadence. 

Time to rethink how I box my life.  That sounds dramatic, but I was reminded that it is important to box out. One must create space to complete independent tasks efficiently.

I advise students to chose a task and then:

*Leave phone in another room or a car.

* Turn off notifications on computer.

*Turn off WiFi if they can.

*Go to the library or go to a room in the house without any access to distraction.

And also to:

*Schedule study time.

*Schedule fun time.

*Schedule eight hours of sleep (in a row.)

*Schedule an exercise routine.

*Schedule eating and monitor water intake.

I need to take my own advice.

My name, instacollegecounselor, contradicts what I suggest. Or does it? I can still get information to my families in a timely manner to reduce stress, add opportunities and support goals…it simply does not have to be 24/7.

In fact, if I answer that late evening text immediately, I am actually feeding the culture that all situations need to be handled at once, yet they do not.

I am available for true 911 college applications moments. Are there actually such situations?  I will discuss in a future post.

Today I pledge to reset (Elbows out!) how I box out and compartmentalize my use of time. It will make me a more efficient and happy college counselor, parent, daughter, sister, friend and human. Most of all it will make me a better example for my son and students.

©Eva McGregor Dodds

Published by instacollegecounselor

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