By Amanda Harbrecht, Social Media Intern
“Grades, a social life, or sleep. Pick two because you can’t have all three.” I first heard this quip as a freshman entering high school, but I have also heard it many times since entering college. A balanced life is the Holy Grail for many ambitious students. We have this idea that balance means being able to do all the things we want while getting all the results we want. When considered from that perspective balance clearly seems unobtainable. Rather than giving up entirely on achieving balance though, I think we simply need to redefine what balance means.
Balance does not necessarily mean your time is divided equally among all aspects of your life. It is necessary to prioritize your interests and commitments. When you have a big test your studies might need more of your energy that night, but on the other hand if you have not gone to dinner with your friends all week then you should focus more energy on that. Similarly, you might find yourself participating in several extracurriculars, but if you do not have enough time to do each one well you will have to decide which are the most important to you and focus on those. Like baking a cake, having the right balance does not mean equal amounts of all parts; it is much more about the right ratio of ingredients. As long as you have a healthy balance, there is no reason to feel bad about prioritizing certain aspects of your life over others.
Whether you are someone who needs everything scheduled down the time you take to get dressed or you are someone who thrives in organized chaos, the most important thing is to have a system that works for you. In college especially, the amount of information sent your way can be overwhelming. I can check my email four times a day and have 15 new emails each time for anything from group projects, to campus speakers, to club meetings. In order to keep track of so many moving parts, organization is key. Calendars are can be a great tool. If you can connect you phone calendar to your computer, even better because you will always have access to it. Alarms to remind you before anything unusual such as a class location change or group meeting can be very helpful as well. Whether it is a notebook, sticky notes, or your phone, staying organized will make sure that you stay on track and can keep your priorities balanced.
The first thing you learn in economics is that people make decisions based on tradeoffs. It is inevitable that you will have to give something up in exchange for something else, and this is why making sacrifices is key to balance. There will always be another class, dance, test, party, guest lecture, or networking event. You have to strategically pick which priority to focus on for any given day because you cannot be in two places at once. The important thing to remember is that there will be other opportunities. It can feel like missing out on any opportunity will set you behind, but there will be other opportunities. What is more, sacrifices should be viewed as opportunities themselves. It is the chance to not just say what is important to you, but to act on that. “Nothing worth having comes easy” as the saying goes, and being willing to make sacrifices for your goals can focus and motivate you that much more.
The most important thing is that you have a healthy balance that works for you. Whether you need to add more activities, add different activities, drop some activities, or reevaluate which activities are worth the investment of your time, you can only get there by reflecting on what is truly important to you and what you enjoy doing.