How to Walk the Balance Beam of Work, School, and Life in College

We’ve all seen that daring juggler, tossing haphazard items — torches, knives, maybe even chainsaws — into the air, using his every muscle and ounce of coordination to maintain the rotating aerial show lest he err. Hopefully, someone’s around to call 911 if that happens. Especially in the case of the chainsaws.

Between studying, working shifts, relationships and extracurricular activities, the average college student may feel like a juggler. Although hands, fingers, and physical well-being aren’t at risk, neglecting responsibilities in any one of these areas can have serious consequences.

So how do you handle it all? Can you find balance, success, and maybe even some satisfaction? Some enjoyment?

Yes, you can; here’s some tips that will help you. 

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Arm yourself with a planner. Write down your work schedule, class schedule, and the time you spend on things like socializing or sports. Things don’t look so intimidating on paper.

Maybe you’re more shift-oriented and work well in predetermined time allotments. If so, try scheduling out your day by halves, quadrants or even by the hour.

Task oriented? Write down all the assignments you have coming up, and then a shortlist of others you’d like to get started on if you have extra time. If you knock out the main assignments, move onto the shortlist (you’ll be taking the load off your future self).

Overload = Bad

Avoiding overload is a simple, proactive step toward handling your responsibilities.

For example, if you’re going to join an organization or two — say, an acapella club and that intramural team you’ve been eyeing down for a semester — slow down; pick one and try it for a week, maybe two. If you feel you can juggle more, then start the other.

This “test drive” period lets you determine not only whether you want to join an organization or club, but also what you deem worth spending time on and to sift out what’s really important.

Don’t Be Overwhelmed

One of the worst things someone stranded and in need of rescue can do is worry about the future, about the coming days and weeks, even months, of difficulty. It’s overwhelming.

A lot of students undergo this same crisis on their first day of class; they look down the vast tract of the coming semester and the mountains of work, the syllabus, with impending assignments etched forth, and panic.

Granted, there are consequences every college student faces. It could be a bad grade resulting in a lost scholarship, missing a shift at work, or missing out on social time and opportunities to form meaningful relationships.

But don’t worry! Everyone faces these challenges. Besides, one mistake isn’t going to send your life plummeting out of control. Your professors and bosses aren’t perfect people, and they know you aren’t either. Remember, they were in your same position at some point in their lives. Some simple communication and honesty can go a long way.

Day to Day

Take your load one day at a time. When you can handle that then a week; then a month; then a year. Pretty soon, you could be setting your course towards career-oriented goals or post-graduate education. Just remember that you can do it.

And please do not juggle chainsaws or torches or knives at home. Unless you’ve put it down in your daily planner and if there’s someone with a cellphone standing by. Then, go for it.