Achieving balance between social life and academic life in college is challenging. Let’s face it; you are surrounded by endless opportunities to get involved, both academically and socially. This balance may be particularly challenging to achieve for first-year students who are transitioning from a highly structured high school environment to a less structured college environment. No matter what class year you are, achieving balance is a hard skill to master. There is no quick trick, no “do this one thing” and you will never have to worry about balance again. In this post, I will discuss one strategy that has proven essential to achieving balance in college: time management. Quick Tip: “Self Control” is an app you can download to your computer or phone that allows you to block certain websites for a set period of time. For example, you can block Facebook for three hours, but still have access to Webwork so you can complete your homework distraction free.
Manage Your Time Effectively!
This may sound obvious; however, thinking about time management and actually planning an effective schedule are two different things. You may want to begin by keeping track of your time for a week. I know this sounds tedious, but you would be surprised how much you can learn. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we “have no time,” and keeping track of it can highlight time-wasting activities. Additionally, you can identify times of the day when you are most productive and times when your energy level is low.
Five general principles of time management include: planning ahead, prioritizing, establishing realistic goals, setting boundaries, and using time efficiently. Easier said than done, but I suggest you start off small to build your willpower. Try making a to-do list first, then work your way up to breaking down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks, soon you will be assigning each sub-task specific days/times to be completed.
Quick Tip: Research suggests that students are most efficient when they study in small segments of time, anywhere from 45-65 minutes! It is during this time that our concentration and focus are at their peak. After that period, you should take a 10-minute break to re-charge, take a walk, change locations, or grab a snack.
Changing habits can be difficult; so don’t get discouraged if it does not happen overnight. It took a lifetime’s worth of schooling to develop your current habits, so it will take some time to learn new techniques. Remember to utilize all of the resources that you have at your disposal. The Center for Excellence for Teaching and Learning (CETL) offers one-on-one study skills counseling free of charge. The University Counseling Center (UCC) has a number of services available; group counseling, individual counseling, meditation groups, light therapy that can offer new strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety. No one gets through college or life without a little help and the more support you receive, the more successful you will be.
Quick Tip: Learn to say NO! Classes, labs, student organizations, work, sports, the list is seemingly endless. It is easy to feel or be overcommitted, so it is important that you learn to prioritize and say no to things your schedule does not permit.