When I say the world balance, you likely imagine those golden scales held by chains that teeter back and forth, set off by a slightly misplaced hair. We think of balance as a 50/50 ratio, giving equal parts of ourselves to everything we are involved with. This is not always the case, nor does it need to be. The idea of balance that is much more manageable is one based on priorities. If you were to list the things in your life that were the most important to you right now, what would be at the top? What would be last? Now compare that to the way you are living your life right now. Are you dedicating most of your time to the thing at the top of your list? What about the bottom? If you aren’t dedicating your time to your priorities, then I can probably bet that you’re not happy right now. College is supposed to be the best four years of our lives–if that’s not the case for you, here’s what needs to change:
1. Redefine balance
To build off of my idea that balance is not 50/50, allow me to tell you what I believe it should be. Balance has a lot more to do with what matters to you and how much time you need to dedicate to those things. For example, if schooling is your number one priority, give 40 perfect to that but leave the rest to be divided, with 25 percent going to your social life, another 20 percent to extra-curricular activities, and 15 percent to your part-time job. Alright, this isn’t math class, why did I just throw all of those numbers at you? Not so that you will literally create a pie chart and start dividing your time, but so that you will start figuring out what is important to you and balancing your schedule from that. Applying those meaningless percentages to your life would mean leaving studying for the week, attending club meetings a couple times during the week, and leaving weekends to be dedicated to your social life. From there, if you are working, you would throw in those 20 hours a week throughout your week, as it is your least important priority. Forget all of the numbers, balancing your life is about what’s important to you as an individual, don’t explain yourself to anyone, not even me. Figure out what’s important to you and dedicate your time to it, as much of it as you want.
2. Picking your priorities
Now that we have our definition of what balancing means to us, we have to pick what’s important. I’m not here to tell you what is or isn’t, I am also not here to judge what you choose. I am simply here to encourage you to be honest with yourself. Do you want a high GPA? Then that means more time left for school. Do you want to go out on the weekend and live like you’ll die tomorrow? Leave your weekends open. Do you want to lead three on-campus organizations? More time toward extra-curricular activities then. There’s no perfect answer, only the answer you want to give.
3. Setting aside time
Even if schooling is a priority, you have to set aside time for a social life. Rest. Decompress. If you have been studying all week, writing essay after essay, and haven’t gone out and enjoyed yourself, I admire your work ethic, but please take a break. I know I told you to prioritize and if you choose to focus on school, I am proud of you, but you are going to go crazy if you do not give yourself rest. This is about balancing your social life with school, as in your social life has to take up at least one percent of that priority list, and you need to use it.
4. Stay on track or get ahead
You may be thinking about what I’m saying so far and thinking, how in the world do you dedicate the weekend to your social life and not spend it catching up on homework. My reply: That’s what the week is for, use your time wisely during the week; if you have a second to do a reading for a class then do it. An essay isn’t due until next Tuesday but there’s a music festival on Saturday you want to go to? Start that essay now. Part of keeping this balance is using the time you are dedicating wisely. The same goes for your weekend. If you are out having fun, I better not catch you refreshing Canvas to see how you did on the midterm this past Thursday–be fully present.
5. Don’t overload your schedule
You know yourself better than anyone and you know what you can handle–that being said, do not attempt to push these limits. If you have deadlines approaching and you’re telling your friends you can go out every night this week, something is going to give. Be mindful of what you’re filling your schedule with–make sure that you actually do have time for it because when the time comes and you have to pick one thing to turn down, it’s going to be even harder than if you had never made the plans at all. You want to set goals and make plans that are achievable.
6. Don’t say “yes” every time
We are not yes (wo)men, we do not have to say yes to everything out of fear that we will be letting someone or something down. You will not have time for everything you want to say yes to and you have to decide what takes priority over others. Balancing school and your private life require choices. For example, I keep a full schedule and I was asked to be the captain of a team for an organization I am a part of. It hurt me to say no because I am a determined person, I love challenges and leadership, and I keep myself busy. In the end, I said I couldn’t do it. It’s difficult but it’s necessary.
7. Stop making excuses
Maybe you’re like me, maybe you’re not the person who goes out every weekend, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is turning down the things you want to do because you think, “well, I do have this assignment I could do” or “maybe I should stay home instead because I do have this test I could study for.” Stop saying no because you’re so comfortable in your bubble at home. Yes, study, do your homework–draw the line when it begins to become an excuse not to go out and have fun. Stop saying no because you’re afraid you won’t have fun or you won’t be liked at the party. Like me, you are on the opposite end of the spectrum, you leave one percent of your life to social life and you are losing precious time that you will not get back. Maybe you want a social life but you are nervous–you’re so comfortable in your bubble. I am handing you the needle, pop it. We are living for this moment, the studying will wait one more night.
8. Leave time for you
Often times, in order to please our friends, or do what we think will make other people happy, we break a promise to ourselves and go against what we need to do for ourselves. When we think about balancing, we often don’t include ourselves. If you had plans for self-care Sunday then don’t abandon it because you got invited to do last-minute tutoring. If you had plans to go workout and your job is calling you in on the way to the gym, tell them to hold on or that you can’t come in. Part of balancing your life involves keeping an internal balance. I know it sounds crazy but since when did prioritizing your own mental and physical health become less important. In the midst of all of this balance, please, leave one percent for you.