Before going off to college, we are often forewarned of the many tasks and responsibilities we will have to juggle in what is, for most of us, our introduction to true independence. College is certainly more than academics; it’s an opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life, step outside of your comfort zone, and simply embrace the experience of becoming an adult. College demands us to take on multiple different roles: student, classmate, friend, roommate, co-worker, etc. It can certainly be an adjustment to manage all of these roles, but it doesn’t have to be as worrisome as it may seem. The following tips will help you create a healthy, happy school-life balance.
1. Stay Ahead of the Game
One of the most valuable skills we can learn as individuals is the ability to manage our time and stay on track in order to meet deadlines. We all know that one person who is always late to everything, and, hey, maybe you're that person. Sometimes, people who are accustomed to running late will set the clock in their car forward to push themselves to move quicker and show up on time; we can do the same thing to our internal clock. Get in the habit of telling yourself that an assignment is due sooner than it actually is. If you have an essay that is due a week from now, move the due date up a couple of days to ensure that you get a good start on the assignment and allow yourself a grace period to ensure that your work is the best that it can be. If you get in the habit of starting early and completing assignments before the deadline, you will surprise yourself on how quickly this will become second-nature. Save yourself the restless nights spent racing the clock to meet a deadline.
2. Create Weekly To-Do Lists
Much like the one you're reading right now, lists can help us organize the many tasks we want to accomplish on a daily basis. There's nothing more satisfying than checking off a box on a list; each box checked off is one less thing you have to do! Even if it's a task as simple as doing your laundry or making your bed, accomplishing any kind of responsibility can do a lot for one's motivation. Making a to-do list each week consisting of assignments, events, and minor, everyday tasks allows you to take a step back and decide which tasks you want to put before others and how you will go about completing these tasks.
Upon creating some kind of to-do list, one can view a layout of their weekly plans and decide which tasks are the most important; in other words, it's necessary to prioritize your to-do's. Sure, buying a present for your friend's upcoming birthday is important, but is it as crucial as studying for your exam in a couple of days? Completing the tasks that you label as most important saves more time for the smaller tasks, as well as any kind of leisure activities and free-time throughout your week. If it feels like school is taking up too much of your time relative to your social life (or vice versa), it might be time to reevaluate your priorities and figure out the best ways for you to return to a balanced state between school and life.
4. Make Time for Fun
It sounds obvious, but sometimes people forget to designate time in their week to enjoyment activities. Academics are very important and school work might be amidst some of your top priorities, but the items not on your list matter, too. Hobbies, exercise, and time with friends and family are all ways for you to put your focus into things that bring you joy; making time for these kinds of activities is essential for your productivity, as well. A Forbes article highlights the value of happiness when it comes to success, emphasizing the idea that "happiness fuels success, not the other way around." That being said, doing the things that make you happy is an essential part of being successful in college.
5. Make a Schedule
A schedule is, perhaps, one of the most useful tools someone can use to succeed in college and beyond. There comes a time where we all have to accept that we are only human; it can be nearly impossible to organize every single detail of our life in our heads (especially when those to-do lists start to grow a little too long). A schedule allows you to plan out your life visually. By marking down important dates in a calendar to remind yourself of deadlines, significant events, appointments, shifts at work, and any other plans you may have, you're giving your brain a much needed rest; why try to memorize every single detail of your life when you can just mark it down in your calendar?
6. Know When Enough is Enough
College is a time for you to explore all of the opportunities your school and its campus have to offer; there is something of interest for everyone on a college campus, whether that be a sorority or fraternity, a specific club, job opportunities, or sports. With all these opportunities to get involved, it's necessary to set a boundary of how much you are willing to take on. If your schedule is already full with classes and school-work, it might be a good idea to only join one or two extra-curricular organizations or activities, depending on how demanding those organizations are. The same goes for the demands of your social life; spending time out with your friends is an experience in college that nobody wants to miss out on, but it's crucial to not let FOMO (fear of missing out) control your daily decisions. If you have a big exam tomorrow, it might be a better idea to stay home and study instead of going out with friends. All of this circles back to your prioritization, but learning to say "no" is extremely helpful in the process of managing your time effectively. Remember: one night of going out can be easily replaced by another, but that exam grade will stick around for the rest of the semester and potentially impact your overall grade in the class.
7. Reward Yourself
When all is said and done, college is, for many people, the first experience of living an independent life and juggling multiple tasks all on your own. If you know you are putting in the work to succeed in school and are seeing the benefits of this hard work, don't be afraid to reward your own efforts. Be confident in your ability to improve throughout the year and don't be discouraged by a single failure; we all have that one test that doesn't go as well as we had hoped it would, but this one test grade does not determine your overall intelligence or worth. What might be a small achievement for someone who has had years of experience with living their own independent life could feel like a huge achievement for you in your time in college, and that's okay! Remember that feeling of accomplishment when you cross off something on your to-do list and run with it. The more motivated you are to get things done, the more you'll see how deserving you are of some kind of reward when you are done.
Madi Reade is currently a student in her junior year at the University of Missouri studying Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communications. She lives an active lifestyle and maintains an organized weekly routine to ensure academic success. Throughout her academic career, she has remained committed to bettering her writing and editing abilities with a plan to pursue a career after university that will allow her to employ these skills effectively.