How to Kill Time (and What to Avoid to Save It)

by Ellen Granoff

Cady: I like math.
Damian: Ew, why?
Cady: Because it’s the same in every country.
Damian: That’s beautiful. This girl is deep.

And so goes one of my favorite Mean Girls quotes. You might be wondering why I like that particular quote so much when there are plenty of funnier (albeit less politically correct) ones. You see, I too have a gift that knows no bounds: my ability to fill random chunks of time. Not all hobbies and talents have this same transcendental quality. Some girls who aced AP Lit in high school find themselves in over their heads in First-Year English while others who always got picked first in P.E. find themselves struggling in Body Sculpt. Fortunately for me, filling random blocks of time is one of those specialties that I’ve never needed to re-master or work on since coming to college.

So, whether you have an hour or two between classes, a few minutes in line for lunch at Hewitt or an undetermined amount of free time while waiting for a friend to sign onto Skype, here are some of my favorite ways to kill time. Alternatively, if you find yourself wondering where those hours of time you meant to devote to studying went… check yourself. You won’t be able to bring back the time you deliberately (or not) put towards these noble tasks.

Social Media
This one is pretty obvious, especially for those of us who tinker around nonstop with our iPhones. If you have a smartphone or laptop or iPad anywhere near you when you are waiting around, you have the capability to Instagram a photo, read a few funny tweets on Twitter, check your ‘noties’ on Facebook, pin to a new board on Pinterest or text/email someone. Even if you just checked Facebook, there is always a new album to scroll through, a news update to read, or a new relationship status to ogle… the possibilities are endless. You can play a game where you click through friends of friends of friends and see how far you can get through people’s mutual friends before hitting a dead end. Or you can just do some good old-fashioned stalking; it is really up to you.


People-watching: The real reason
sunglasses never go out of style in NYC

I like to think that if I am in a totally clean and organized space, I will be able to work more productively or at least find some motivation to do an assignment or two. Therefore, I tend to spend a decent amount of time straightening my room and using my mini-vacuum to get the dust bunnies from the corners behind my bed. Similarly, I sometimes organize papers into folders, clean bits of trash out of my backpack and sharpen all of my pencils to make sure that, should the urge to work suddenly hit me, I will be ready. In general, cleaning feels like a productive way to kill time because you don’t feel like you lost a few hours to an unknown vortex such as your Facebook Newsfeed. Other types of cleaning include doing laundry, making your bed, alphabetizing your books, Febreezing your room, the list goes on…

I can personally invest anywhere between ten minutes and a few hours when it comes to hunting down a good sandwich or finding a scoop of chocolate gelato. And thanks to apps like Hopstop, most of the time I can look up a new place to eat and get there via subway within a half hour. The benefits of this type of killing-time range from expanding your palette to getting a little bit of fresh air. I especially like doing this when I am by myself so that I can stop at as many places as I wish: a turkey club at one diner, a smoothie from a street vendor, some macaroons from Lauduree… you get the gist of it.

I spend about as much time maintaining my schedule as I do completing the tasks that are on it. Keeping a super-detailed daily planner or using iCal on your phone or laptop can help you keep organized lists of homework you need to do, lectures you need to attend, and the office hours of each of your professors. While planning out your day may seem useless, you might find that you get a certain spring in your step from knowing exactly where you need to be at any given moment, if only so that you can schedule the blocks of free time between each of them with something fun off this list.

When you factor in a warm up, an actual exercise session and showering off and getting dressed afterwards, exercise can actually be pretty time-consuming. When I have a big block of time, I go to a yoga class in Midtown or walk down to Riverside Park for a jog. Sometimes, when I have more of a time-crunch, I settle for doing a couple of sit-ups in my room and watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix. Either way, no matter how much time you have, you usually have enough time to do a little bit of exercise.

Watch how other people appear to be using up their time. Count how many times the person sitting next to you in Butler checks Facebook or read along as the person standing in front of you in line at the mailroom reads through old texts. Copying is the most sincere form of flattery, so don’t be shy about pulling out your Econ book for a little light reading because it’s what the people around you are doing. You might end up learning a new technique for killing time!

While I am particularly adept at killing time, I doubt that you really need my help. If you have made it through this article, then you have probably filled a few minutes, so you are well on your way! Just keep in mind that no matter what you like to do, be it spending a few minutes on Facebook or passing an hour with your nose buried in Twilight, if you love how you spend your time it isn’t time wasted at all.

Ellen Granoff is a sophomore at Barnard and a staff-writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of Career Capitalist and The Medestrian.


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