Gain control of your time: You don’t have to do everything today, says communication studies professor

Tien Nguyen

Students feeling pressured by the clock don’t have to be, communication studies professor Dawna Ballard said.

It’s not the clock that’s causing the stress — it’s how you respond to it, Ballard said. Ballard’s research focuses on chronemics, which is the study of time as it is bound to human communication. Ballard will be offering an undergraduate course this fall titled “Time Matters” to teach the role of time in contemporary society.

“The course takes a dive into our relationship with time,” Ballard said. “It’s about gradually regaining, in your life, a sense that time really doesn’t control us — we cocreated time as a culture, and we can create a different time.”

Ballard said the idea students have to do everything by a certain age to be successful leads to overcommitment. 

“If you’re trying to get it all done by 20, the likelihood of burnout is much higher than if you see your life in a much longer trajectory,” Ballard said. “Recognize that you don’t have to do it all today. You have time to do it.”


Chemistry junior Sorin Srinivasa, who said they have taken on a heavy workload this semester, said it’s important to allocate some time every week to relax.

“I’ve been trying to work on being okay with not finishing everything immediately and leaving something unfinished so I can do something enjoyable and come back to it later,” Srinivasa said. “It’s been a challenge to achieve that balance, but I’ve been working on it, and I think it’s getting better.”

Students often compare themselves to their peers and will try to do more to stay up to speed with others’ paces, but this can be problematic, Ballard said.

“We’re all very different,” Ballard said. “Some people can be motivated by more, others are overwhelmed by more. It’s important to ask yourself: Are you listening to your gut about your ability to handle these things?”

In addition to overcommitting, some students think multitasking allows them to get more done, but they might just be taking longer to do things, Ballard said.

“None of our brains are designed to multitask,” Ballard said.  “When you’re doing your homework, are you just doing your homework or are you switching over to social media, are you texting friends? Ask yourself if you are constantly being interrupted while doing this one task that requires a lot of concentration.”

One way to gain control of your time is to gain control of your technology, Ballard said.

“Being accessible to everyone at all times is a big shift in our culture,” Ballard said. “When you’re constantly being pinged by social media, texts or emails, these incoming messages can make it so that you can’t pace yourself and others are pacing you.”

Neuroscience freshman Mariana Rios said she tries to minimize social media notifications during the day to stay focused.

“When I try to get work done, it helps to turn off my phone completely,” Rios said. “The phone is a distraction if I let it be. Keeping (my phone) away and honoring and respecting my time to do something is important.”