Monday, 24 July 2017

Extracurricular Activities: Are They Wasting Your Precious Time?

30 certificates and 10 trophies later, 
what have I really achieved?

All of our lives, as children, teenagers, and young adults we have been taught how extracurricular activities are so important, and rightly so, but many times we forget (parents, teachers, and students) on where to draw the line on these extracurricular activities. It is very true that college admissions give a huge importance to extra-curricular and even provide scholarships to extremely talented students in their own fields but this is for entering into the undergrad level. Before, I go into the details of my own experience, achievements, and lessons I want to highlight a few key points.

Key Points While Considering Extra-curricular Activities

1.Time Management

I am just going to go ahead and say it. This is a real struggle. And not everyone is capable of learning at the same pace. I count myself in that category. Some people can pull all nighters or be super fast as grabbing new concepts, I am neither of those. How are all the students expected to participate equally in extracurricular activities if more than half of us are slow learners and need more time to focus on academic material, which after all is the primary reason for going to college. 

Lets me be real honest and tell you that any college needs committees and students to carry out activities, they also need an audience to see these activities and participate in the contests organized so you will be told it is 'important' for you to participate and attend these events but at the end of the day, you have to decide if it is something you really need to do and if it will bring you closer to your ultimate goal, whatever it may be.

2. Pick your strengths. Be specific. 

I have struggled with this. There are people who are truly what people call  'all rounders'.Most of us are, however, not all rounders. Pick your favorite thing that not only relaxes you but where you feel you can truly stay committed. Whatever it is, make sure you stick to it and continue it forward. When it comes to extracurricular, like anything else, practice makes perfect and you need to be the best in your game.  college.
Trying to be an all rounder is not happening and I learned this a little late in life. Jumping from debate competitions to essay writing to the joint editor of the college magazine, juggling amateur photography, anchoring college events, organizing a bunch of unrelated college events are a lot of activities that I had on my plate during my first two and half years of college life with no common goal.

3.Learn to say No.

Whether you are forced by your parents or your peers if you think an activity is not right for you do not do it. You will waste your time and energy and neither will you benefit from the activity nor will you excel in your academics. Set aside your weekly time dedicated towards your activity. It can be hard to not think about it throughout the week especially when you need to pre-plan meetings etc but learning to say no is crucial in group events. Don't take me in the wrong way. Team work is important but what is the point in grinding yourself if it is not worth your time.

The Secret To Pick, Excel, and Benefit 
At Extra-Curriculars:

First of all, you need to think and plan, on what you are trying to achieve. Is your goal to pursue an MBA after your undergraduate degree or are you going to go for core Research or something totally different like take up teaching or pursue a career in sports? Once you have decided that all you extracurriculars should automatically align with that. Now, wait for a second, of course, your interest matters. If you enjoy singing or playing a musical instrument while doing research in Biotechnology that is totally your choice, the point I am trying to make here is don't let someone else (parents and teachers included) tell you to do something totally unrelated and uninteresting to you. 

If you are planning to go for administrative or managerial positions, yes, your communication, leadership skills, team work, problem-solving skills will immensely develop through coordinated group activities at college level. Definitely, try for leadership posts! But if a lot of your future and interest works through individual-based work like creative or content writing, photography or something along those lines or you just enjoy swimming for example then there is no need to collaborate and break your head doing it.

Yes, group work teaches you a lot. I cannot even begin to explain that in this blog post. But the truth is group work is time to consume unless the leader is near perfect but the ideal situation is quite the contrary in most cases. Only a few people work and the rest enjoy the benefits of praise. Unnecessary meetings to plan events that could easily be coordinated with simple phone messages are scheduled, but wait the leaders are not crazy! No one replies to phone messages anymore. Wouldn't the world be simpler if we could effectively communicate and finish all the task without face-to-face club meetings that take up an entire evening? So basically, everyone is at fault. That's ok. But, in all of this, if you find that you are the hard working person whose efforts are going in vain then stop wasting your time and find a better outlet and a brilliant alternative for yourself. Trust me there are many!Do not nod your head next time someone tries to throw a group task your way. Politely refuse it altogether. 

It is not your job to fill the seats in the audience and increase the number of participants in a competition for God's sake. 
I realized this later. But better late than never. 

Why don't you invest time in yourself instead? Take up a sport, exercise, cook and eat healthy food, read your favorite book, sleep! Because at the end of the day when you have that endless list of college events, one after the other and numerous extracurriculars lined up on your schedule you will be drained out and before you know it your focus will shift from the task at hand, academics! 

Try Out These Student Planners And See The Difference!

This blog post is written from my point of view with the target audience of college students but if you are a parent or a high school kid, you can apply this too. High school is the time to experiment and try what you like. I was too shy back then hence the over compensation on my part for extracurriculars in college! If you are a parent, help your kid pick what they like. Do not pressurize them with a crazy schedule that steals their childhood away and leaves them unhappy trying to go to football practice when they clearly have a musical heart.

To sum up this rant of a blog post, I will tell you to honestly reconsider the time invested in extracurriculars and be very stingy with it. There should be only two reasons for an extracurricular activity: true joy or long term benefit. The ideal situation would be where you can find something that can do both. Cheers!

This blog post is not meant to offend any college, institution, clubs or leadership positions. It is a student lifestyle hack to teach students to be smart and wise with their time. 

Think I am nuts? Here are some interesting articles I came across discussing the same topic. Check them out ;)

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

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