During the time I've been writing for CF, I've covered numerous topics relating to college life. Throughout these posts, I've done my best to give you tips on everything from saving money, to studying, to partying. But through it all, I've emphasized one overriding theme that is the key to success in college: balance.
Sure, it's nice to have lots of friends and make some great memories, but it's not worth it if it's at the expense of your studies. (You are paying to be there, after all.) Likewise, getting straight A's is always a great goal, but sacrificing everything else college has to offer to achieve them could leave you with regrets come graduation day.
Balance is a great idea, in theory, but just how exactly can you achieve and maintain balance as a busy college student? There's no one-size-fits-all answer, and it takes ongoing work, but here are three steps to get you started balancing your priorities in college:
1. Set Your Sights
The first step to balancing all your priorities is defining what, exactly, those priorities are. It sounds simple enough, but it could take some serious thought, and since your priorities will change over time, it helps to sit down once in a while and re-evaluate.
To start, make a list of everything that's important to you. This list can include school, spending time with friends, part-time jobs, family, fashion, whatever it is that you want to maintain as a priority in your life. Jot it all down, even if it's something you aren't good at balancing right now. For example, maybe working out and staying healthy is something that is important to you in theory, but you can never find the time to hit the gym or cook your own meals. Add it to your list, because that's the first step to making it a priority in your life.
Next, take your list, and organize each item from most important to least important, to really reveal what you value and want to make time for in your life.
2. Schedule It Out
Now that you have all your priorities laid out, it's time to figure out how to balance them all.
Part of this could include a schedule: Start by laying out all your time for the week, or even the month, and figuring out what needs to get done, when, and what you want to get done, and where you can find the extra time. For example, maybe instead of watching Gossip Girl Monday nights, you can hit the gym then, and catch the episode later online.
When creating your schedule, it helps to be creative and mix things up from your normal routine. Unless you're 100% satisfied and feel your life is perfectly balanced, moving things around and making some concessions won't hurt, and you can always go back to your old schedule if you find it worked better.
A schedule isn't the only strategy you can use to find balance, though. Talking to people about your new goals can help put them into action in more ways than one. First, doing so makes you more accountable so you'll really put forth the effort to achieve your goals. Second, your friends can help you with areas that may need more filling out. Spending every night in? Ask your party-animal girlfriend to take you to a party on the weekend. Spent too much time socializing? Get your super-smart roommate to help you study for midterms. Wherever you need help balancing, other people can be a great influence.
3. Take Action & Juggle Your Priorities
Now it's time to put your priorities into action. Take a look at that list you made and make a conscious effort every day to try to find a balance between all the parts of your life you find important.
While going through this process, it's important to tell yourself yes, instead of no, when faced with a new challenge. Take chances, risks, and make a few mistakes until you find the balance that works for you. Maybe you can't hit the gym five times a week and still do as well as you'd like in school, and that's okay, but going three times a week is better than not at all, and you would never discover that without pushing yourself to do more.
Sure, this process is a little intimidating, and as I said at the beginning of the post, your priorities are bound to change while you go through it: Maybe that boyfriend who was top priority freshman year will end up being the ex who's not even on your radar by senior year. Don't worry - the fact that you're reading this post, and thinking about how you'd like to achieve balance in your life is a step in the right direction, and all a part of the learning experience of college.
What Do You Think?
Do you have balance in your life, or do you need some help juggling it all? What areas do you think need more attention in your own life? Do you have any strategies for achieving balance? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts.