Grinding gears and shotgunning beers. College is all about burning the candle at both ends, right? RIGHT? Have I been doing this all wrong? Maybe I have, but I thought my time in college was supposed to be a chaotic whirlwind. All I want to do is hang out with my friends. However, I also have to get my four discussion posts, two essays, three worksheets and a speech done by next Monday. That sounds taxing, but simple enough — this is college after all.
The real problem is that the rest of life is still happening. I have to work to sustain myself, but they never pay enough so I persistently struggle financially. The pile of laundry on the floor and the stack of dirty dishes in the sink grows larger every day. I have to set aside time to cook healthy meals, otherwise my stomach will churn like butter. When I least expect it — an agonizing pain in my side lands me a two-day stay in the hospital. Oh, and my car needs a new battery. Life keeps throwing things at me, but I never learned how to play catch.
With all that going on, schoolwork seems daunting. Leaving things to the last minute got me by anyways, so what was the point in changing? I stayed carefree until something was due, then frantically crammed for it with a hand cramp from writing so fast and a headache because I only ingested coffee all day. I didn’t sleep enough and eating would take up too much time away from me reading the three chapters I should have read by last week.
Creating a good balance also creates FOMO, doesn’t it?! Who wants the fear of missing out on anything?! You go to sleep early for your 8 a.m. class so no more going out with your friends on a random weekday. You aren’t a morning person either, but you needed that class to graduate on time and the 1 p.m. section filled up before you could pay your tuition. College sucks in that sense.
With that kind of attitude, I never realized how valuable creating a schedule and actually sticking to it was. I thought a routine turned people into robots. It looked much harder than putting things off. Having a routine for myself actually led me to turning in assignments early and prevented burnout by midterms. I still got burnt out with a good weekly routine, it just happened way later in the semester than when I winged it all. It made things easier and I understood my course material more because I actually set aside time to study. I started sleeping better and my grades improved.
“Okay, Jessica, we get it, you are smart with glowing skin from all that beauty sleep and basically the best person ever! But how do we do it too?”
The answer depends on your own life. There is no clear-cut answer because everyone’s circumstances are different.
I started with adopting the “do it now” approach. Procrastination and I get along so very well, but she treats me horribly when the fun stops. So I dumped her because I deserve better! If I took off my dirty clothes, I placed them in the hamper right away. If I ate, I washed the dish afterwards. If I had an assignment, I started researching that night. It feels like climbing a mountain at first, but when you get used to it, it comes to you naturally. Start this approach with small things for a couple weeks and gradually build up to bigger tasks.
Forming a proper schedule sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do you fill it up with all the things you need to do and forget about what you want to do? Or maybe the rigidness of precise timing overwhelms you so you stop doing it. This was why I thought routines weren’t for me. What I needed was a flexible schedule and this is how I built it every week.
Evaluate what you have to get done. Jot down the days of the week and write down what you have to do every day that occurs at a set time. Things like going to class, due dates, going to work, picking up your little brother from basketball practice. This is your baseline.
Next, carve out blocks of time to do household chores, cook, study or anything you have to do that can be done on your own terms. This was a game changer when I started doing this. At first, I thought just writing down only due dates or taking note of needing to sweep led to it getting done. It actually leads to my dear old friend, Procrastination.
Lastly, ask yourself “what feeds my soul?” These things keep you from burning out or experiencing FOMO. They are equally important as homework. Things like exercising, art, quality alone time, and seeing friends and family. I don’t exactly schedule all of these for specific times, but if that is necessary for you, do it. Rather than having exact times for these things, I keep a small checklist of them. When I have free time, I do them and shoot for a goal of doing at least half.
School is hard, but it doesn’t have to be harder than it needs to be. Start the semester off right with a spring cleaning of bad habits. Good luck, Vikings!