Welcome to the rest of your life: finding balance. I’d be lying to you if I said I had mastered this in college, or even that I’m a master of balance now. Business Insider recently posted an article about 9 things everyone should be able to do by age 30. (Personally, I think you should be able to accomplish the first 7 by the time you’re 25, if not before then.) But #9 was work/life balance. The article claimed that the key to finding balance is less about work-life balance than work-life purpose (prioritizing what’s important to you and fitting it into a composite of who you are).
Recently, I read Bittersweet by Shauna Neiquist. If you’re looking for something new to read, I highly recommend it. Every chapter has a nugget of truth I’ve clung to, but one chapter in particular has really affected me.
I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, especially those who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs.
One of my core fears is that someone would think I can’t handle as much as the next person.
I don’t know about you, but that really resonates with me. I want to do it ALL. And be seen like I can do it all. I want people to think I’m Super Woman. And that’s probably my biggest challenge in finding balance. I say that I want it, but deep down, I’m not willing to admit I can’t do it all and, therefore, create the balance I desperately need.
In Bittersweet, Shauna claims that it’s not hard deciding what you want your life to be about, but it is hard figuring out what you’re willing to give up to do the things you really care about.
That kind of makes me break out in hives. How about you? With all that in mind, here are a few things to consider when it comes to finding balance.
- What are your weekly priorities? You’ve said you need help balancing social life, grades, and sleep. From that, I can gather your priorities are time with friends, school work, and rest. But surely there are more. What are the things you need to accomplish or experience every week to be doing what you want your life to be about.
- What can you cut? I find this is much harder for college students to answer than graduates and young adults. There are a lot of things you have to do in school (go to class, read, write papers, intern) that you simply can’t cut. I get that. But surely there’s something you can cut that isn’t contributing to your top priorities.
- When making decisions in the moment – Do you stay in and write this paper, or do you go to the party with all your friends? What’s the immediate priority? If the paper is due tomorrow, that’s the immediate priority. If it’s not due for a few days, and you know if you don’t start on it now, you won’t get an A, the question becomes, “Do you care more about an A or hanging out with friends tonight?” Your parents will hate me for saying this, but choosing the A doesn’t have to be your decision. It usually was for me. But for a lot of my friends, they would rather relax and spend time with friends and take the B. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if I should’ve cut myself some more slack.
- Watch how you’re spending your time. Often, we waste hours in the day without realizing it. My favorite time management activity came from an R.A. training class. I did this every year (even through grad school). Make a weekly schedule and then track your week in 30-minute increments. Don’t try to alter your schedule because you’re tracking your time. Just live life like you normally would and record it. Then after a week, go back and see where you wasted time or if there were things you can cut in the future.
- It’s OK to watch TV. Or read a non-school book. Or play your guitar. Or take a nap. Don’t get overly obsessed with time management and balance that you don’t allow yourself to relax, blow off steam, or just hang out. That stuff is important too. It keeps us sane.
How about you? What do you do to maintain healthy balance or manage your busy schedule? Comment below.
Hanna Easley graduated from James Madison University (B.A.) and the University of South Carolina with a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs. She now serves as Coordinator for Student Enrichment at Belmont University. Hanna blogs regularly at dearhanna.com.