8 Lessons In 8 Semesters: Lesson 7

8 Lessons In 8 Semesters

Diarmuid Brady


February 26, 2024

Fill your spare time with fun, social activities that benefit your future self.

💡  What hobbies do you enjoy?
       How do your hobbies impact the other areas of your life?
       Are there ways to make your hobbies more sociable?

During the summer before my final year, I assessed where I was at and how I would approach the subsequent year. I contemplated two distinct approaches: aim for grades or aim for fun. Honestly, grades no longer motivated me, I had already beaten that horse to death. Although, I still held some guilt over not placing grades as my top priority. Fortunately, I experienced an epiphanic mindset shift after reading the introduction of “10 Steps To Awesome Grades (While Studying Less)” by popular productivity YouTuber, Thomas Frank.

For most students, my opinion on grades is that they do not need to be perfect. After you define your goals, you’ll find that your coursework is not a magical Hogwarts train that will take you to them. It’ll help, but alone it’s inadequate. Focus on getting good grades while also gaining skills outside of class, building things, doing extracurriculars, making connections and - yes - making time to have fun.

I immediately set a new goal: minimise study time and maximise getting the “full college experience” that I had chased back in Semester 3. Armed with previous learnings, I knew what I did and didn’t like. My only requirement was to ensure that the graduation cert I received the following October contained the three characters “1.1”, apart from that, the world was my oyster.

In my final year, Dublin City University offered 134 clubs and societies. After examining the list one by one, I carefully chose fifteen clubs to join: Book, Boxing, Camping, Circus Arts, Dance, Debate, Enactus, Fotosoc, French, Gymnastics & Trampolining, Hockey, Mental Health, Mixed Martial Arts, Speakeasy, and Yoga. Despite my intentions, I never attended six and only went to four of them once or twice but I religiously attended boxing, debate, Enactus, gym & tramp, and yoga weekly.

My weekly calendar was jam-packed with yoga, boxing, and gym & tramp on Mondays; Enactus and debate on Tuesdays; boxing and gym & tramp on Wednesdays; yoga, debate, and sometimes Enactus on Thursdays; upper body gym on Fridays, and lower body gym on Saturdays, accumulating up to 20 hours outside of college work on extracurricular activities.

What caught me off guard most was the sharp focus I possessed during lectures. I spent only one hour reviewing notes which was half the usual time for a set of weekly slides, absorbing most information during lectures.

I maintained a packed schedule of fun, invigorating rather than draining, social activities. I developed my public speaking skills during debate, and leadership and entrepreneurship during Enactus. It felt like having my cake and eating it. I realised the importance of hobbies that complemented my studies instead of counteracting them. While it’s commonly believed that dedicating more time to work produces better results, the law of diminishing returns says after a certain point, working becomes futile. While greater input resulting greater output can apply to manual, repetitive tasks. In my experience, prioritising leisure activities outside work significantly boosted my study efficiency. During this semester, I found that the heavy lifting for work demanding creativity, ideation and problem-solving, was performed subconsciously during downtime. When I began to tackle my work, often, my brain had already formed a partial solution, and now I just had to flesh it out.

The revelation that hobbies affect work productivity didn’t fully sink in until this semester. Productivity is affected by not only what you do while working but also how you spend your time outside of work. To improve productivity, it’s worth addressing both aspects. I recommend filling your spare time with fun, social activities that benefit your future self. That way, you can enjoy your life now and make progress later. You can have your cake and eat it. This lesson can seem incredibly obvious but it’s easily forgotten and hard to put into practice.

As the semester concluded, I thought I had peaked in happiness. Little did I know what was in store for me in my final semester at Dublin City University. To find out how the story ends, come back next week, for the finale.