How to Juggle Everything and Come Out Alive…and Well
Sometimes, juggling everything in your life can feel like an impossible circus act.
Especially at this time of year, when there’s seemingly so much to do and so little time, it is often difficult to find the perfect balance between school, internals, exams, extra-curricular activities and everything else. Before you know it, you have an infinite pile of responsibilities and you may even notice that certain things, such as your social life, have been neglected in favour of others.
Students in particular have a misguided tendency to prioritise their academics at the expense of personal factors, including important relationships, a healthy sleep schedule and exercise.
When this occurs and certain commitments come into direct conflict with one another, it creates an imbalance, which has the potential to cause a decline in your general health and well-being, and subsequently, your academic performance. This means finding the right school-life balance is crucial for maximising your academic functioning and limiting value to only one aspect of your life is likely to leave you vulnerable in one way or another.
So we now know that balance is important, but how can we find it and make it manageable for our personal circumstances?
Determine Your Priorities
Prioritisation is a method related to time-management, which requires you to consider which of your responsibilities is most important at that specific moment and helps distinguish between what you wantto do and what you need to do.
Your workload may feel unbearable, but not every task is equally important.
You could begin the process of prioritisation by physically listing all of your tasks for a specific time; for example, everything that must be completed in the next upcoming school week. Ensure that you do not limit this list only to schoolwork, it should also include tasks relevant to your personal life, if any.
Upon creating a clear visualisation of this, each task may initially appear hugely important and send you into a spiral of panic. This is when it is vital to remember that everything has varying levels of importance.
In order to determine which particular tasks should be your first priority, try asking yourself:
- Which of these tasks are the most urgent?
- Which of these tasks are likely to take me the longest?
- Which of these tasks are the least important?
These questions will allow you to form a ‘to-do list’ according to which of your tasks are the most necessary to complete, which serves as a reminder that certain tasks are not urgent and do not require your immediate attention.
Set a Schedule
Without a predetermined schedule, you may not dedicate appropriate amounts of time to each of your personal responsibilities.
Whilst you may feel less inclined to use this technique, especially if you’ve been told to schedule your time on multiple occasions, it is a beneficial way to ensure attention is being paid to each of your tasks.Scheduling allows you to keep track of your time, and observe whether your division of it is supporting your school-life balance.
The best way to create a schedule that works for you is to begin by noting down all of your non-negotiable responsibilities, including your classes and extracurricular activities, because when these occur and the time they take are explicitly set, and not subject to change.
Once you’ve done so, you are able to see the time remaining for external tasks, such as assignments. Using the prioritisation list, or the ‘to-do list’ from the previous step, you can then separate this remaining time across each aspect of your life, according to the most important tasks. Just don’t forget to leave some room for yourself! For example:
“On Monday, I will study from 5pm to 7pm, then spend an hour at the gym.”
The trick with scheduling is to consider the time you set for studying, exercise, sleep and socialising to be as equally non-negotiable as your class time.
This doesn’t mean that the schedule you create should be completely inflexible, however, if you dedicate ten hours per week for study and two for exercise, these should be fulfilled regularly. If you use some of this scheduled time for a spontaneous catch-up with friends, do your best to compensate by studying or exercising at another time.
This way, you will maintain a proactive attitude, as opposed to a reactive one, in which you will consistently find yourself ‘catching-up’.
Maximise Your Time, Minimise Stress
The secret to time-management is to know what you want to do and when, which, if you follow the previous two suggestions, you will have an understanding of.
It’s important, however, to distinguish the difference between maximising your time, and simply managing it. The maximisation of time goes beyond time-management, because it involves using the time that you have spared for a particular task in the best possible form.
If you’ve prioritised your tasks, formed a ‘to-do list’ and created a schedule which encompasses multiple aspects of your lifestyle, you’re exhibiting time-management. If you’ve completed everything you set in your schedule with an hour to spare and used this remaining hour to complete a productive and beneficial task, you’re exhibiting time maximisation.
Time-maximisation does not mean you must spend every waking moment productively, but it does mean that the time you have reserved for productivity should be used to it’s complete potential.
For example, if you have dedicated an hour to go to the gym, which is productive in itself, you may wish to further this by reading over exam notes, or listening to an NCEA-related podcast whilst you workout. (On that note, check out the latest episode of The Wholesome Half Hour here). This constitutes as time-maximisation.
Now you’re juggling it!
Ultimately, the ideal school-life balance is different for everyone, and it’s important to consider what would work best for you as an individual.It’s important to note that ‘balance’ does not necessarily mean paying exactly equal attention to each portion of your life, but instead, it’s about feeling satisfied with the amount of time and energy taken to fulfill them to your desired extent.