Leaving the comfort of your home town and setting of on your own journey can be quite the daunting journey. But as cliché’ as it sounds, it truly is an adventure. There’s something special and awe-inspiring about university. I mean what isn’t great about arriving in a bright new city, surrounded by thousand of like-minded academics, where you have infinite freedom in a whimsical new world of clubs, parties and good times?
Understandably, it’s easy to get lost in it all. Especially holding the mentality that these are going to be the best 3 years of your life (they’re really not). Although, amongst all of the fun and novelty of living away from home, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. After all, as alluring as the booming dance floors of Britain may be, you’re at university to get an education. More specifically, you’re here to kick off your career path.
Now I may sound like a boring, jaded, middle-aged man, but I’m also in university. I’ve been through the hectic motions of ages 18 to 20, and like many have partied many exams and opportunities away. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having a good time. However, there is such a thing as having too much of a good time.
The problem is, part of the human experience is having fun. If you decide to focus purely on uni work and reject your social life then, trust me, you’ll just lose your mind (I’ve been there). However, if you focus too much on the social aspect of university, you’ll end up just partying your degree away and not even getting what you intended to come all the way here for (that’s a job by the way).
So. How do you find balance between university commitments, your career, and a social life? Well, luckily for you, I’d like to think I’m a student who’s mastered the art of university life, whilst still maintaining a solid professional life. In this three part series I’m going to share with you my tips for finding balance whilst at university; I truly wish someone told me these things when I started my degree.
Let’s start on the seemingly most boring (but most important) aspect of university. The actual course itself. Yes, it may sound crazy, but you’re here to do something other than drink and roll up to the occasional lecture.
It’s absolutely essential that you prioritise every task that needs completing. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting overwhelmed and not getting anything done. Rather than crying your hopes and dreams away over an extensive Netflix binge, make a solid plan of what needs to be done.
Don’t just think about it either – get it down on paper. Figure out what needs to be done that week and don’t do anything else until what needs to be done is done. What I found useful was buying an organiser were I could put a list of my ‘stuff that needs doing’ in each day. I personally recommend the Action Day planner, but anything will do. Yes, all this sounds very boring and organised, but you’ll thank me later on when your not cramming red-bull, text-books, and regret down your throat at 4am on a Monday morning.
Again, this is all very boring sounding. However, time is your friend, not an enemy. It’s where the work happens but it’s also where the good times happen. That is if you use it wisely. You know them little breaks you get between lectures? Yeah, the ones were you just lay in bed and contemplate life for a few hours? Use them! You’re already in the flow of the uni day so why not use that time to knock some of those priorities of your list? The more uni priorities you sort out earlier, the more time you have to do what you want later.
Every bit of time you get, use that to finish some university work. It doesn’t even have to all in one. Read a few pages while you’re at the bus stop, or write a few sentences whilst you’re waiting for a movie to download. A great book that helped me with this was The Slight Edge. To summarise, its not so much how much work you do at once, it’s more about consistently chipping away at your projects over time. Keep moving forward, even if it’s in little bits.
Ten pages of a textbook one day may seem insignificant, but ten pages everyday for two weeks, and you’ll find you’ll have a lot more free-time in the long-run.
Remove All Distractions
So we’ve got a solid plan to actually complete the work you need to do, and now you’re hopefully making better use of your time. However, it’s never as simple as making a plan: it all ultimately comes down to you actually doing it. I’ve been there many times in the past, where I know exactly what needs to be done but get stuck in a loop of making coffees and checking Facebook. Then, of coursee, you find yourself staring at a blank page at 3am, wondering where all your time went. “Where did it all go? It feels like I only just got back from my last lecture…”
Well, think back to what I talked about earlier, about chipping away at tasks bit by bit. This idea also works in reverse with negative actions. Every quick scroll of Facebook or unnecessary pot-noodle break accumulates wasted time. It may not seem like that when you’re doing it, but accumulated over the course of the day that’s a large portion of your time wasted.
I recommend Einstein’s theory of productivity. That is, to treat each task individually, and put all your time and energy into that specific task until you’ve completed it. So, figure out exactly what task needs to be completed next (e.g. read ten pages of a textbook). Then, don’t leave your seat until you’ve completed that task. After you’ve finished that task (and only after you’ve finished that task) you can go for a little break if needs be.
Also, while in the midst of a task, remove every form of stimulation from your environment that isn’t needed for the completion of the current task. If you just need to read a text book, turn your computer off – it’s not needed. No matter how hard you try, if there’s a distraction available you’ll always give in to it.
University is a breeze if you get your priories straight and get all the important stuff out of the way first. Yes, it may seem boring and overly-organised at first, but stick to these tips and you’ll find yourself with an unexpected amount of free time in the long-term. However, we’re now faced with another problem. How are you going to spend that time? That’s something I’m going to cover in the next article, so expect lots of booze, parties, and good times.
I’ll finish up here because you’re probably using this article as a distraction from that essay you’re meant to be writing.
Stop reading. Stop. You won’t find anything else interesting in this article…
Come on, you’re just procrastinating now. That essay isn’t going to write itself.
In the words of Shia LaBeouf… just do it!
By Thomas Anderson