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Doing It All: Tips on Balancing Your Life During the Semester

We all want to have a perfectly well-balanced life: good grades, an active social life, part-time job, regular exercise, time to relax, being involved on campus, and a glorious eight hour night’s sleep to top it all off. At the beginning of the semester, we tell ourselves that this time will be different and that we’ll improve upon our old bad habits. But by the time midterms roll around, it’s 11 am, you haven’t washed your hair in days and you’re already on your third cup of coffee praying you’ll at least pass your exam, it’s safe to say all of those aspirations have gone out the window.

Now being in my second year at McGill, I can’t say that I have found the way to be perfectly well-rounded and “do it all”, but I have learned from some of my past experiences. Last year, I felt my life had become consumed with studying because I was determined to achieve high grades. As a consequence, I hardly saw my friends who were not in my classes, didn’t get involved on campus and I was always stressed. I was overwhelmed by the course loads, and had no clue how to properly balance all the various aspects of my life. Here are some tips that helped me since then, and hopefully can help you too.


Know your limits

Something that I have learned is that you cannot try to do more than you know you most likely can. If you come into your first semester, perhaps only just getting to know the city, take a full course load, sign up for multiple clubs and commit to going to the gym four times per week, it is going to be very difficult to handle everything. By committing to too many things from the get go, you run the risk of feeling overwhelmed and slacking in some areas, because there is just too much to do. It is important to ease yourself into college life, as it does take some time to get used to. Decreasing your load can be through things like taking one less class or only signing up for clubs after your first semester, once you’re settled in, for example.


Take it one step at a time

It’s important to know that you won’t always be able to do everything. The truth is, some weeks you won’t be able to go out with your friends and you will lose sleep because you have an exam or a paper to do. But once it’s done, give yourself a small break, go for lunch with your friends and take a much deserved nap before getting back into it. I have personally found it much easier to cope with everything I need to do, by taking it one week at a time. Before the week begins, set your top priorities and focus on those at the moment. Vary it depending on your schedule for that week and insert things for yourself in between, like going to a social event or exercising. By focusing on small amounts of things at a time, it will become a lot less stressful, and sometimes that can make all the difference.


Don’t pay attention to what others are doing

I feel like it is so easy to start comparing yourself to others, wondering why they appear to be so well-rounded and why you’re just, well… a mess. This mentality is unhealthy and can be very detrimental towards your self-esteem and stress levels. You start to put too much pressure on yourself, which may even lead you to try taking on more things than you can handle, or simply lose motivation due to being so overwhelmed. Instead of thinking someone else is superior, focus on yourself and reach towards your own personal goals that you know will make you feel proud and accomplished.


Manage your time

While it is important to set goals, take things slow and go at your own pace, nothing will be achieved without some good ol’ time management. In fact, this is probably the most important tip. If I plan on studying all day, I personally find I am most efficient when I wake up early, study intensely in small blocks with short breaks in between, and finish early in the evening to give myself time to relax and prepare for the next day. I also have a monthly planner where I can visualize all my due dates and events to figure out my priorities. This helps me be the most efficient at managing and carrying out all my tasks. It is important to note though, that time management techniques work differently for everyone; something that may work for one person may not work for someone else. It’s important to find what works for you through trial and error, until you find a method and schedule that works and allows you to achieve everything (or at least almost everything) on your list.

Of course, all of this is way easier said than done, but with time and effort, it is possible to find ways to have a more well balanced life, even during the most trying times of the semester.


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Kelsey is in her last year at McGill majoring in Physiology, and enjoys reading, hiking and watching Netflix.
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