How doing less allowed me to achieve more

Illustration of a person frolicking into the sunset, leaving behind a desk covered in schoolwork
Aishwarya Jayadeep/File

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In an environment such as UC Berkeley, students are in constant competition with one another to do as much as possible in a short amount of time. This competition stems from the need to acquire prestigious internships for the sake of getting into highly selective consulting clubs or building resumes for top graduate schools. I found myself in a similar category, overloading my schedule with extracurriculars so that my LinkedIn profile would “pop off.”

Overworking to the point of poor mental health, I had to drastically shift my mindset in order to enjoy my college life more. Although I still struggle with balancing a heavy workload, I’ve worked toward doing less so that I can achieve more.

I’ve become more confident saying “no” to taking on certain roles I know would only stress me out. As tempting as it is to add another leadership role, I’m aware that it would only take away time and energy from the activities that are of higher importance. By restricting the amount of work I allow myself to do, I have more energy to fulfill my commitments with better quality and presence. I’ve become more excited to engage with people within my organizations and can devote more time to different roles I already have. In doing so, I’ve found that I’m more thorough and detailed when performing tasks. 

Throughout my journey of finding balance, I’ve found various ways to boost my productivity through organized work and break hours. When I restrict myself from working at certain times, I’m unintentionally setting deadlines for myself. This prevents procrastination and encourages me to get my work done faster. Moreover, by balancing my daily work and leisure activities, I have the energy to get back into work with a recharged battery.

Part of productivity includes working smarter, not harder. Rather than doing everything single-handedly and spending hours trying to figure everything out on my own, I’ve gotten better at asking professors and classmates for help. Not only does this cultivate stronger relationships with them, but it also saves time and frustration when solving difficult problems. 

More time away from mindless busy work means more time for creativity and innovation. Allowing time for my mind to rest and wander has allowed me to come up with new ideas that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to think of. For example, on random walks across campus or long bubble baths, I’m able to come up with my most creative recipe ideas or even new ways to solve mechanistic chemistry problems. 

Today, my schedule still remains very busy from school to clubs and societies. However, I’m very intentional about what I commit myself to and can easily say no to activities that will not add value to my life. Doing less does not mean dropping every single extracurricular and replacing it with hangouts and leisure. Doing less means refocusing my energy on activities that bring me joy and fulfillment so that I can maximize my potential in the long run.

Contact Geraldine Yue at [email protected].