We all live busy, hectic lives and we’re constantly bombarded with opportunities to get distracted. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but as we all know from when we were kids, your work has to be done first. In fact, I have more fun knowing that all my homework is done and I can carry on, free of stress. So how do we find a balance? How do we succeed in school while still having fun outside the classroom?
First, most importantly, and what you’ve probably heard many times before, it is so important to prioritize. On a daily basis, there are assignments to get done, there is work to get started on, and offers to go out come up. Unfortunately, there is no way to do all of them – and do all of them well – so we prioritize.
To do this, you have to examine what is most important to you. For me, some friends are closer than others, as some classes are more important than others. So if many friends come to me with big plans to go do something, but a close friend wants to do something else, I choose the closer one.
And if one class is more pertinent to my major and another is not, I will work to get good grades in both, but I’ll focus more and get more involved in the one I find more valuable. When it comes to choosing between an unimportant class and a group of friends, I start to evaluate how much time I have in the day.
In the example I mentioned, I would examine how long I have been working on my homework, or how long I have been hanging out with friends already. If it’s been hours and I’m at a good stopping point, it’s time for a switch. If it’s been hours and I’m not making progress, I switch. If I have just started, I give some more time to my current activity, but keeping in mind that in about an hour I should switch.
The code is to maximize your efficiency by having fun or working for as long as you are productive, and when that stops, switch. A lot of places recommend writing out a timetable of what you plan to do in a day, then stick to it. If this works for you, by all means, do that.
The Power of Saying No
Another important technique to master is the power of saying no. This is essential not only in these spheres, but in most of life.
Someone once told me, “If you make yourself available, people will take up as much of you as they can.” Whether it is friends, or group projects, or work, if you cannot say no, these things can take up way more time than you have for them.
When your friends want to go to just one more place, but you already have plans, it’s time to say no and leave. If you feel like you’ve pulled your fair weight in a group project and someone asks you to take on another portion (and if someone else is not doing as much), say no and redirect or redistribute the work.
Make a Few Sacrifices
Sometimes you can try to distribute your time as best you can, but there are just some things you have to let go. This happens to everyone, and prioritizing comes into play again when you’re deciding what to give up.
Sometimes you give up something harmless, and other times you have to give up something very important. In those cases – say, if you let someone down because you had to drop plans with them – always get back to them with hopes to reschedule. This helps people get over the cancellation, and rekindles goodwill.
If the item you sacrificed, was school-related – say, an assignment – then it is always a good idea to see your professor about extra credit opportunities to make up for it.
It feels like we’re all struggling to find the balance, especially in the beginning of college. These four concepts are ones I practice on a daily basis to help me stay on top of things.
There’s no doubt it’s difficult to stick to these codes, but every time you do it’s a personal victory because you’ve kept yourself on the right track.
Angela Coquis is a junior at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is majoring in Management Information Systems and wants to live abroad and pursue a career in database management. She enjoys Virtual Campus and her dream job is owning a bakery.