Many of the happy and successful students we’ve worked with at Collegewise were more focused than they were busy. Rather than being distracted by too many activities, meetings, and other obligations, they focused their time and attention on the things that were most important to them. It’s those students, not the over-scheduled kids trying to do everything they can think of to give themselves a college admissions edge, that really make an impact while they’re in high school. They’re not busy being busy. Instead, they’re focused on getting things done.
Study skills author Cal Newport is also a relentless advocate for focus, going so far as to say that you can be busy or remarkable, but not both. His latest post shares Warren Buffett’s take on focus. Not surprisingly, Buffett, who I’m guessing has a schedule that’s about as full as a schedule can be, is disciplined about putting his time and energy into those things that are most important to him.
For high school students, here’s the takeaway. The real measure of success and impact is not the sheer number of things that you do or the hours that you spend doing them—it’s what you actually get done. Not everything you do needs to help you get into college (sleeping, spending time with friends and family, and good old teenage goofing off are important for your happiness and sanity, too).
But you shouldn’t fill your days with obligations in which you just go through the motions so you can list them on your résumé. That’s a sure path toward over-scheduling and under-impacting.