If you’re a college or university student who’s choking on all you’ve bitten off, take heart because there’s hope.
Juggling studies with work, volunteer and extracurricular commitments plus that all-important social life can be a maddening exercise in post-secondary school psychosis.
But reducing your frustration and stress levels has more to do with how you think than mastering the agenda on your BlackBerry, says Catherine Hawn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia.
Hawn says students often struggle with the notion that achieving balance means devoting equal time to each area in their lives. It doesn’t. In addition, students need to realize that their goals will conflict and they, unfortunately, can’t have it all.
“If your goal is to do a summer course and get a high mark, that will compete with a totally fun-loving summer,” she says, “so recognize that and be ready for goal conflict.”
Prioritizing your goals is critical to success, as is outlining the concrete steps that will help you achieve your goals. Have specific actions you can check off each week.
“It takes planning and it takes maturity, and not everyone can do that right away,” says Hawn, who teaches a course in academic success at UBC “If someone’s goal is to achieve an A in a course, then that requires a lot of planning and behaviours before that can happen.
If you’re feeling stuck or anxious, think about what Hawn calls the “big picture goal” or where you’re headed once you’ve obtained your degree or diploma. Spending time planning parties for your frat house, for example, might help you if you want to be an event planner, but probably not if you’re aiming for a career in accounting. If you’re committed, says Hawn, you might need to cut out activities you enjoy.
Students should be mindful to not overextend themselves, and if self control is in short supply, consider setting in stone a study schedule and doing your best not to deviate from it, advises Rawn.
Bear in mind that your struggles with time management may be temporarily outside of your control thanks to a simple matter of biology, says Hawn. Research suggests that the part of the brain from which self-control and planning emanate is not always fully developed in younger students. And that, says Hawn, poses an extra challenge.
“It’s likely some of our first and second year students still have (frontal lobe) brain development to go,” she says, “which may cause some issues for them in terms of planning and risk taking.”