A job, an internship, and a full course load — it’s easy to see how my schedule could get overwhelming. For me, balancing my commitment to furthering my career while also earning money and an education during college has quickly become an all-consuming factor of my life. Learning how to manage all of this wasn’t easy, but I did learn some key takeaways along the way, which I am excited to share with you:
- Planner, planner, planner
Just in case the three times I said it above wasn’t enough, it’s incredibly helpful to use your planner — or any system of organization that works for you and keeps you on track in your day-to-day life. For me, that is a planner, but for others, a simple to-do list or whiteboard hanging up somewhere in your space could be helpful as well. Beyond remembering deadlines, my planner allows me to feel more fulfilled when I complete a task. As many of my classes have been remote, the lack of having a physical space to associate with school has posed a challenge, but I have come to find that the act of crossing something off of my to-do list is a helpful substitute.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This was a lesson that took me too long to learn. For weeks, I felt overwhelmed and helpless as my workload continuously crashed down on me. It eventually reached a point where I couldn’t fulfill my commitments, but all the while I struggled with the thought of asking for help from a boss or a coworker. Eventually, I realized that the only way out was to ask for support from my supervisors and peers, and, to my surprise, everyone was incredibly understanding and helpful, which significantly lightened my load in my time of need.
Of course, it is important to recognize when too much is too much, and if you find yourself asking for help or a break very frequently, it could be a sign that you need to make a larger change in your schedule, or take something off your plate. Although symptoms of burnout vary from person to person, I have found that difficulty sleeping, general exhaustion, and lack of motivation are strong indicators for me. But in times of serious need, don’t be afraid to leverage your support systems.
- Align your commitments with your interests
Time is valuable, so choosing to spend my time in a way that’s fulfilling to me is incredibly important. For me, that is making sure that all of my commitments allow me to further my passions. Personally, the last thing I want to do after a long day of class and work is jump on a meeting that has little importance to me, but if that meeting appeals to my passions and interests, it’s very worthwhile. I’ll admit, it’s a privilege to spend your time in college pursuing the things you care about, but if you have the means to do what you love, keep in mind your goals and interests while deciding how to spend your time. And I’m not just talking about school or work; even prioritizing spending time with your friends or working out can make getting through the day just that much easier.
- Schedule time for self-reflection
An important part of getting through the day-to-day for me is being honest with myself about how I’m feeling and what I can really accomplish in a day. I have learned that finding some time at any point of the day to pause and reflect on these questions can be very grounding and alleviate some of the stress I’ve developed, especially if I have a particularly stressful day ahead of me. I have found that writing down my thoughts either in a journal, on a random piece of paper, or even in a virtual document is the most effective in calming my stress. However, if I’m short on time, even just sitting with myself for five minutes can be extremely helpful.
Balancing college life is hard, no matter how you choose to spend your time, but being conscious of the lessons you’ve learned along the way can make a big impact on your levels of stress and overall enjoyment of your time as a student — it certainly helped me.