Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I have struggled with balancing my academic work and social life. I frequently think, “Did I study enough?” or “I wish I wasn’t studying and doing something fun.” I struggle with wanting to do everything and I hate missing out on an opportunity. I use to run and flip through notecards on the treadmill. I also tend to be working on my computer while in conversation with others. Over the years, I’ve learned a mental and physical balance. I think it is important to be fully engaged in the present, whether this is a social conversation or academic task. If I put 100% of my effort into either, I tend to enjoy it more and be more efficient.
First, I’ve learned that when I am working and I become frustrated, it is best for me to take a break rather than continue working. This break may consist of frozen yogurt with a couple of friends, going for a long run, or watching an episode of Law and Order SVU (three of my favorite past times). If I continue to work (past frustration), I am inefficient and just overall miserable. Also, after taking the break, I can return with a new perspective and the mind power to tackle the challenge.
Second, I’ve learned that in order to become motivated to complete a task, such as reading articles for a dissertation or studying for an exam, it is important for me to have something to look forward to. This can be something as simple as dinner with friends or something bigger, such as a weekend trip to St. Louis or Chicago. For example, I have found that blocking off an entire weekend to be productive leads me to be less productive during the week. Why? Because I know I have all weekend to complete the tasks. If I have fun activities planned, I work hard during the week in order to have the time to pursue those activities. I have something to look forward. I have a purpose for working on a Monday night at 7 pm rather than watching TV. After I have completed the tasks, I can be present and enjoy activities without worrying about everything else.
While I know these methods will not work for everyone, they’ve worked for me. I still struggle with getting to bed at a regular time (which many of my peers would agree with) and I am often exhausted after a long weekend of traveling. Overall, I am happy with having a large workload at school and an active social life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.