With the school year back in full swing and assignments starting to slowly pile on top of one another, things may feel overwhelming. This is especially true for anyone who has to manage extracurriculars, work, sports, and even just a social life along with performing well in school. Often, this can lead to demotivation for getting things done and will leave us so tired that the quality of work and time spent on fun things will decrease. To prevent this, and to help balance out busy days, I’ve listed some important things to think about that will help you stay on top of work while also making time for the things you love.
Make a to-do list of everything you have to do
The best way to start finding a balance between school and life is to list every single activity or assignment you can think of that you want to do or accomplish. Separate long-term and short-term goals. In addition, write down all of your school homework for the coming week and any other notable things such as parties, extracurriculars, events, etc. For this, I recommend google calendar or a physical planner, since it is easier to have everything in one place. If there is something you know needs to be prioritized and finished as soon as possible, put a star next to it. It is also important to make sure you will follow through with your list, and one way that I do this is by adding certain times and dates for short-term goals, homework, or anything immediate. Also, adding small breaks for things like meals, workouts, and a self-care routine are very important parts of finding an overall balance.
Spending weekends the right way
Often, you might not feel like doing anything on the weekend and you might just want to go out the whole time, hibernate, or not touch school work until your next class. While this can work sometimes and is reliable if you plan your routine around it, it may not be the best decision if you have work to be completed or other things to do. For example, if I have an assignment due Monday afternoon but have a party on Sunday night, I will probably either skip the party or only stay for a short period to ensure that I am getting my work done. Weekends can also be used as a time to catch up on work and even get ahead. The biggest recommendation I would make is to spend one day of the weekend being productive, and the other doing whatever you can to relax and unwind. Some weekends will be lighter than others, so take advantage of that time to rest or to put a foot forward in the right direction for the coming week.
While seeming relatively simple, a lot of people struggle with meeting deadlines. One of the biggest reasons is procrastination. We all do it at some point in our educational careers, but the problem is when putting off work is consistent. Cutting it close to deadlines isn’t the most ideal thing, especially if you have events to attend throughout the week and extracurricular activities to keep up with. Besides making a schedule and listing priorities as mentioned above, a great way to meet deadlines is to ask questions about assignments, earlier on, if you have them. It not only gives you enough time to complete the rest of your work, but it also allows the teacher to know you are actively engaging with course material and seeking out help to learn and improve. To maintain a balance between meeting deadlines and everything else, the most effective strategy is to plan everything out beforehand.
Try out a lot of things in the beginning, but narrow it down to things that you enjoy doing and think you can be good at. In addition, make sure that your schedule allows for these activities in a way that you can do them without being too overwhelmed with work. Some extracurriculars may be flexible with their times (ex. Piano lessons) so make sure to stay in contact with someone from your extracurricular to let them know if you need a break day or have a different priority. No matter how much you plan, sometimes it can still get hectic with extracurricular activities and school work, so try to establish times during the week when you will focus on one over the other and vice versa.
Know when your brain needs a break from all the chaos going on in your life. Smaller, more frequent breaks are easier to work around when you have a big task to work on while bigger breaks can be utilized for eating meals, or after your day’s work is completed. Breaks don’t just have to be in between working periods, they can also be whole days at a time, like over the weekends. The time can be taken to do some self-care, catch up with friends, or even just catch up on sleep. You can also establish a small rewards system within your mind. For example, if you are able to complete an extra paragraph than anticipated for an essay you are writing than you anticipated for the day, treat yourself to some ice cream or extra time on your phone. Doing this will allow you to look forward to something after your tasks, and will increase your motivation to finish them.
Mental Health POV
Mental health is very overlooked in terms of the number of things people have to juggle. It isn’t easy, and if not taken care of, can lead to a toll with a big price to pay. Do mental check-ins with yourself daily. A good way to do this is by journaling as it helps to keep your thoughts on paper. Something to also think about is keeping up with everything going on in your life. If staying on top of an activity seems like too much, maybe consider dropping it for a little bit until you can handle it again. Don’t pressure yourself too much, and remember that there is always a struggle behind success. Do your best to focus on the positive aspects of your life, and think of small steps you can take to overcome the negative ones.
It is really important to form good habits to maintain your physical health. Make sure to eat 3 meals a day, and if you don’t have time to accommodate, make sure to be snacking in between classes and extracurriculars. A healthy diet would ideally incorporate lots of healthy fats and proteins, but it’s always okay to treat yourself to some unhealthy food now and then. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a day, or take small naps throughout the day to regain your energy. If you are not a morning person, it is vital that you get a sufficient amount of sleep. Not doing so can affect your well-being and ability to function.
Going on your phone
Your phone can sometimes be the biggest distraction to overcome. It is the easiest way to access things like social media, games, movies, and anything that can be done for fun. While putting your phone away can force you to focus more on your work, it might be a good idea for it to be in close proximity for call notifications, easy email access, and alarms. Utilize the “do not disturb” feature at school or work. If you have difficulty getting off of your phone once you get on it, use the limited screen time feature until you get your work done. Unless urgent, don’t respond to any messages or check any social networking apps. If it helps you focus or takes your mind off of things, use your phone to listen to music. Even during breaks, do things that will help you for the rest of the day. Instead of going on your phone and looking at a screen longer, maybe take a power nap or read.
Finding your best study method
Everyone learns differently. Some might prefer a classroom setting with a lecture and note-taking, while others want hands-on activities to better understand the concepts. However, it is also important to continue assessing your best way of learning after class. It may be helpful to complete your homework for a subject the same day you had your lecture or went to a class. This way, the concepts will stick better in your brain and will be fresh for you to start applying them in problem sets. A great introductory study method would be the Pomodoro method, which involves studying for 25-minute periods and taking short 5-minute breaks in between. Regardless of what you do, using a study method can help you get the job done efficiently.
Quality over quantity
In terms of things you are doing besides academics, make sure you enjoy them. Less is more if you are putting in a better effort and see a value in it that extends beyond just doing it for the sake of doing it. For example, if you are in a club that you attend meetings for but don’t interact with, consider dropping it for a different activity or utilize the extra time for your more favored extracurricular activities. In terms of things getting done in a day, try not to aim to get every single thing for a week done in a day. Sometimes, we are tempted to pull all-nighters to get over with all of our weekly work. This, however, will result in the failure of your brain to process what you are learning. Instead, spend some time making sure each assignment was done well and that you understood it by working on it in smaller chunks of time within the deadline. An added benefit of doing this is having more time every day to unwind.
Making plans, going out, socializing
Make smart decisions according to the remainder of your week. For example, if you have an event you want to go to and can’t miss, complete your activities for that day earlier on so that you are ahead. Putting it off until after will likely result in you either not being able to complete it on time, or well. To maintain a good social life, meet and be friendly with new people in school, extracurriculars, and work. Having someone you know in a class or at a party is always helpful in the future. However, it is important to identify the right kind of people for you to be around. Don’t spend time with people who won’t value your commitments, rather, surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable and who you can have a good time with without sacrificing anything.