Vending machine dinners, cold Thai takeout, gas station coffee… Oh what a start senior year has been off to.
Am I drowning in work or in coffee? I’m too tired to tell. But it’s somehow working. How? A lot of coffee (and a few other things).
First, some background on me: I’m a journalism student graduating in December. Besides taking classes, I am the editor-in-chief of my school’s student newspaper and an intern for a local news station. I also assist in a photojournalism class at school and work a part-time job. So, I’m a little bit busy
Through this past semester I’ve learned some things to help balance a hectic schedule (and keep me sane):
Get a routine going
Get yourself on a schedule, but don’t hate yourself if you end up slipping away from your agenda. Planning when to finish assignments, study or whatever else you may do is so beneficial, especially when your time is limited.
Treat it as a guide, though, not a commitment. It’s OK to tweak your schedule once in awhile to fit something else in. You’re not a robot, you don’t need to constantly follow a disciplined day.
Use a planner (like an actual paper planner)
OK, some may disagree with me on this one, as I know a lot of people that rely on their phones or Google Calendars to keep their lives in order, but without my planner book, my life would be a disaster. I think it’s probably the act of actually writing in the book that helps me; I can write things I need to do in there and remember without ever referring back to the book. If I don’t write it down though? It’s not getting done.
Find places to work (and relax)
When I need to get work done, it’s close to impossible to make it happen when I am at home. Instead, I go to the same coffee shop every weekend. I can focus better, my bed isn’t there so I can’t go to sleep and I’m surrounded by endless coffee. What could be better? Find a place that you can spread out all your books and be productive for hours. Maybe it’s somewhere at home, or a library, or coffee shop. Wherever it is, I’ve found that having a designated workplace has helped me stay on track this school year.
Likewise, find a place where you can relax and forget about how busy you are for a while (or at least attempt to). For me, I like to go to the gym. Being there, whether I’m working out or relaxing in the hot tub, sometimes is the difference between a particularly difficult week being terrible or decent.
Allow yourself to take a break from commitments
The ability to work from my phone has been a gift and a curse lately. It’s great to be able to return an email the second it comes in or get a breaking news article on the newspaper’s website even when I’m away from my computer, but the constant connection to work makes it difficult to take a break.
When I do put my phone away and come back to missed messages about something like the newspaper, it always makes me feel like I have been slacking. That’s not true, though, and there’s nothing wrong with taking an hour or two away from technology. I used to run at the gym while returning emails. That’s supposed to be my “me time” and that really doesn’t work out well. You’re allowed to take some time for yourself.
Make time for your friends and family
It’s OK to hide away and dedicate your time to working toward your future. There’s nothing wrong with shutting off your phone and spending your time working on your priorities. Make the people you love a priority too, though, and don’t let your busy schedule consume you so much that you forget about them.
Even just spending a bit of time between classes with my best friend has allowed me to relax and enjoy myself when everything else in my life is getting chaotic. Multitasking works too. My friends are busy people as well, so when we can’t find the time just to hangout, we go to a coffee shop together. We may not be speaking much, but being with them just makes me feel better.
Don’t neglect the things you care about
Like making time for people, make time for the things in your life that make you happy. Writing makes me happy, so I’m happy when I am working, but I’ve neglected some of my favorite hobbies. I love photography and when I pick up my camera, I feel like whatever is stressing me out doesn’t even matter.
However, I often push the things I enjoy to the side when I am busy. Don’t do that. Even if you spend only an hour of your week doing something you enjoy, it’s important to fit that into your schedule.