How To Balance Studying Hard And Enjoying Your Student Life
The slogan “work hard, play hard” sounds almost impossible for students, and it always seems like if you get one, you can’t get any or much of the other. For the academics-oriented, they prioritise academics for current grades and future employment opportunities. Yet, in today’s society, we are increasingly aware of the positive impact that socialising, downtime, and having fun has on our mental health – all of these tend to decrease our stress levels. To have a healthy student lifestyle, a balance of both is needed. Here are some suggestions on how to achieve this:
1. Surround yourself with positive energy in your student life
Let’s face it: living up to society’s expectations is a taxing feat, especially from an academic viewpoint. The aspiration to succeed academically can often feel like a burden, as it likely takes away your freedom to focus on other aspects of your life. However, you could try to make your student experience a little better by ‘tricking’ your brain into being intellectually curious. Think of any time you have been intrigued to learn something: celebrity gossip or the release date of a singer’s new album – you were interested in learning something new! Even on days that you are not, pretend that you are genuinely interested in the subject and curious to know more. I know this sounds weird, but you are bound to start believing it if you keep telling yourself something. This suggestion is based on the idea that if you enjoy something, it will feel less painful.
If this tip does not work for you, then motivate yourself by reminding yourself of the real reason why you are studying. Is it for yourself? For your future? Making an external factor a motivator can be effective, but if the external factor vanishes out of the blue, you would be left grasping at air. While an external factor such as another person or an employment opportunity may be what you cling onto to propel yourself forward, I would suggest finding something that intrinsically motivates you to get through your academic life. Create goals to look forward to when struggling. Acknowledge and celebrate any milestones that you reach.
2. Combine your social and academic life
I’ve thought about ‘the power of “and”’ a lot. Who is to say that you cannot combine your social and academic life to get the most out of your student experience? I recommend befriending people who study the same classes as you or ‘specialise’ in a subject you struggle with. That way, you could have a go-to group of friends to attend both academic-related activities and non-academic activities. Friends can help motivate and hold each other accountable. For example, they can check in on each other to ensure that they are on track with work. As mentioned before, ensuring that you have a healthy social life significantly impacts your mental health. According to studies, loneliness harms academic performance – so, it really is true that you require both.
However, make no mistake. Having a social life does not necessarily entail having a large friend group (although if you can find one, good for you!). If you prefer to keep your circles small, just seek out at least one or two people you can rely on. This is because no matter which side of the introvert/extrovert spectrum you lie on, humans are social animals. Being reserved and independent is only good if it makes you feel content. So, don’t be afraid to seek out some company, even if it’s only a little bit. Especially if this will be beneficial for your academic life in the long run!
3. Keep a schedule and try to stick to it
Scheduling and time management is a crucial yet often overlooked element of a student’s life. However, I have been planning and keeping a schedule for the past few years. This has benefited me immensely in terms of productivity and quality of life. When creating a schedule, whether for daily tasks, classes, or revision, make sure that you are honest and sensible when allocating time towards tasks. If you know that you typically require two hours to complete your Mathematics homework and that you work best at night, make sure that you allocate that amount of time to your schedule to get it done, not any less. Therefore, you can plan your other tasks surrounding the remaining time available in your day.
For more practical daily purposes, creating a digital or physical to-do list that can be edited throughout the day or as tasks are received is very helpful. It helps you to keep tabs on your commitments and prevents you from biting off more than you can chew. Those who prefer having a physical list can bring it around, using a bullet journal or book. Personally, I use Taskade, an online Google Chrome extension, to manage my homework and personal tasks. Every time I open a new Chrome tab, the list would be visible. You could also try checking out other alternative apps, such as Todoist, which functions similarly. Moreover, when you are scheduling tasks for yourself, be specific with what you want to achieve. For instance, instead of ‘revise mathematics’, try aiming for ‘revise pythagoras theorem’. The more specific you are, the better.
4. Leave gaps for free time into your schedule
Although I hate to admit it, I do overwork myself at times. The constant long hours of work lead to a sharp drop in energy and motivation for myself. Hard-workers may be tempted to continue working once they have entered the ‘flow state’ of working. However, giving yourself no time to rest is equally or more detrimental than not working at all, as this may cause a buildup of stress and cognitive overload. This is unhealthy and may reduce your productivity in the long run. Hence, this is why keeping a schedule that you can follow helps you to resist the temptation of working overtime.
While it is essential to plan out the tasks you need to do during the day, it is also important to schedule specific durations of free time into your day. Allow yourself to leave some ‘gaps’ within your day where you could go out with friends, catch up with family, binge Netflix – do anything you please! This also enables you to swap tasks with the ‘gaps’ in the instance where something comes up. For example, if a friend asks if you would like to tag along for brunch, but you have something scheduled, you could swap the scheduled task with a gap within the day. All in all, just make sure you get the job done and be responsible with your time management. This means allocating an appropriate amount of free time for yourself (not 24/7)!
To conclude, responsibility and discipline are key attributes to own as a student navigating their student experience. Everybody manages their time differently and have different preferences for how they manage their student-life balance. However, the most vital point is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Try your best to enjoy your student life despite any challenges that come your way. Keep yourself motivated! As they say, “if there is a will, there will be a way”.