One indisputable fact about modern life is how busy everyone seems to be. Across the world, survey respondents regularly tell researchers that the time they spend at work drastically limits their time with family and friends. The result, inevitably, is a feeling of being overwhelmed. There is a kind of mathematical impossibility inherent in our lives: we are all finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount of ‘stuff’. We feel a social pressure to do it all, at work as at home, and when we find we can’t manage it, things start to fall apart.

Busyness brings time pressures that cause us to live with one eye on the clock. But psychological research demonstrates that enhanced time-awareness actually leads to worse performance, not to mention reduced levels of compassion. So the ironic consequence of the busy feeling is that we handle our to-do lists less well than if we weren’t so rushed.

Columbia University and Yale psychologists produced a study looking into the effects of high-volume extracurricular activity on children and adolescents. The study observed over 2000 five to eighteen year olds and looked at who was involved in extracurricular activities each week. Popular belief would say that if the children were over-scheduled, over-stressed and over-busy, this would lead to higher anxiety and ultimately unhappiness. On analysing the results, however, the researchers concluded that “we found nothing negative at all” and that “busy can be good”. Overall, the more time that the participating children spent in organised activities, the better their grades, the higher their self-esteem and the richer their relationships with parents.

This is why we encourage students, staff and parents alike to get involved in all the opportunities we offer at Taunton School. Just this week we have been very fortunate to hear publicly from a number of our fantastic young people about their experiences both in school and externally. Daisy Daniel addressed Head’s Assembly on Monday and Tuesday, talking about her work experience in the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Bangladesh over the summer. Then, at the IB Information Evening on Wednesday, some current Year 13 students spoke about the highs and lows of their Diploma Programme so far. It was an eye-opener to hear them recount to potential IB students and parents the many skills they have developed, and the enjoyment and camaraderie which have come from the time they have spent together on the core elements of the course (Creativity, Activity and Service, Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay). Finally, I have seen so many students recently show incredible commitment to their preparation for Les Misérables, the Senior House Debating competition and the various cup and tournament matches in sport which will soon be upon us.

I think, therefore, that taking opportunities, getting involved and being busy can give you:

1. A feeling of accomplishment
It gives you a dose of adrenaline and a feeling of purpose. When you’re involved in activity, your mind is switched on and you are constantly thinking, making your brain work that little bit harder than it normally does and getting used to operating outside your comfort zone.

2. Enhanced learning and development
The fact that you’re regularly doing different things means you are developing yourself as a person. Learning a new skill, whether individually or as part of a group or team, means that you are continually challenging yourself, pushing your boundaries, learning more about yourself, your skills and abilities, and what you could achieve in the future.

3. Confidence
The fact that you are accomplishing a lot in your life and continually learning and developing in the process can lead to a higher level of confidence. You will have experienced more facets of life, which can help you to relate to other people on a more personal level as you have had experiences similar to theirs.

So please, I must encourage everyone, young and old, to follow their passion, to try something new, to engage, to get involved. This week, as ever, I have been inspired by students who have done exactly that, and they should be proud of what they have achieved. Here’s looking forward to a great second half of term from the co-curricular perspective: a busy school in all the right ways.

Hayley Mortimer
Director of Co-Curricular and Sport