Probably the most useful thing I’ve learned in my college life is how to stay afloat while balancing school, work, personal and social life. It’s not a lesson that comes easily learned; it takes more of a trial and error approach. But if you can learn to juggle many commitments at once, you know you’ll be able to succeed in any line of work!
Where to begin?
If you’re going to become a Jack (or Jane) or all trades, you’re going to need to become organized! Being able to juggle your many different activities is stressful enough, but the quicker you can find an organizational/time management system that works for you, the quicker you’ll be able to conquer the world!
Martha Stewart recently launched a line of office products that not only brighten up the home office space but also help make even the most unorganized person seem put together. Straight from Martha herself in her January 26, 2012, blog post titled “Get Organized With Martha Stewart Home Office Supplies!” she features some of her new products such as chalkboard labels for file folders and jars, journals, sticky notes and accessories. In the clip from the Today Show, Stewart suggests utilizing wall space by your desk to keep organized. Hang a magnetized board to hold important notes and to-do lists.
They’ve got an app for that
If you’re not into the Martha Stewart style, of course you could visit Staples or an IKEA in your area and check out their home office and school supplies to get started. Making lists and keeping track of due dates in a planner is a great first step. If going digital is more your style, there are several Smartphone apps to help. Check out these to get started:
- Evernote: Saves notes, documents, pictures and collection of research
- Pageonce: An app to keep track of monthly bill payment due dates, credit card purchases and bank deposit information
- iStudiez Pro: Homework and assignment tracker, grade tracker and detailed week schedule
Advice from the pros
In his post titled “How to Balance School and a Full Time Job,” for MonsterCollege, Steve Berman suggests:
- Setting your expectations: Know what you want to get out of school and work.
- Knowing your goals: Having a clear plan on how your college education will help you in the future is a good motivator for staying on track.
- Treating school like it’s your job: If you’re planning on taking online courses, make sure you have a designated study spot at home (see above); and if you’re taking classes on campus, “don’t be tempted to skip because of an unforeseen distraction.”
- Don’t go it alone: Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family members for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Getting your priorities straight and using what time you do have wisely is an important step in the balancing act. If you work hard all week, then you won’t feel bad about heading out on a Saturday night. Mayo Clinic advises in their “Time management: Tips to reduce stress and improve productivity” post:
- Say no to nonessential tasks: Sure, that trip to Target with your roomie would be fun but unless you actually need something, keep chugging along on your paper.
- Do quality work: Take the time you do have to do quality work the first time.
- Evaluate how you spend the time you have: Keep a spreadsheet or Google Drive doc for an average week. Are you spending three hours reading a 20-page chapter for your history class because you keep getting distracted?
- Eat, sleep and exercise regularly: You’ll be able to really focus on work when it’s time.
And when all is said and done…. Enjoy yourself!
Don’t forget that, although stressful, college life is meant to be enjoyed. You really shouldn’t take it too seriously; otherwise, as the very wise life-long college student Van Wilder points out, “you’ll never get out alive.”
Just like the teeter-totter on the playground you once conquered, you will learn to find your balance by shifting back and forth a few times. It may take a few semesters to really get into the flow of things, but once you find a system that works, stick with it!