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Longevity versus Productivity: Duco Heijs

Longevity versus Productivity

By Duco Heijs


For many students, one of the inevitable effects of following this master’s program is spending a lot of time at the University Library. When even the equally strict and incomprehensible passport-control policy of the library security guards is relaxed somewhat because they recognize you, you know you are spending too much time on library premises.

Time spent does not equal time spent well though. Somewhere around the start of the second semester, I decided to log my hours in a document to keep track of the time I actually spent studying. I logged only my productive hours, and because I did this only out of my own curiosity, I was not tempted to work the numbers a bit.

The result after the first couple of weeks was quite disconcerting. Although the amount of hours I spent in or around the library was somewhere north of forty, the hours I actually spent studying hardly reached thirty. Coffee breaks, checking the news, messaging, inane procrastination, and more coffee breaks all together took up a considerable amount of time.

Of course, the fact that I am a seasoned procrastinator was not news to me in itself, but by quantifying it I got insight in the magnitude of wasted hours. The thing that surprised me most, however, was how much I got done in those hours of actually studying. I reached all my deadlines, was generally satisfied with my grades, and managed to keep some time for myself.

Logging my hours made me more fully comprehend that the link between the amount of time you spend studying and the amount of work you get done is linked less directly than you automatically assume. Moreover, I could identify what kind of day was my most productive one. Diverse days in which I had to go to both the Library, the archive, and had study-related and personal appointments felt the most productive and the most satisfying. Whereas days I spent working on a single course or paper were almost always disappointing in terms of the amount of work I got done.

I can recommend this self-confronting procedure to everyone. First of all because it is a sobering experience and makes you to boast a little less about how ridiculously busy you are (a popular activity during coffee breaks). But also because it helps you in finding out how you can put the flexibility granted to you in this program to your own best use.