Avoiding overcommitment

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You have a deadline next week. And, oh yeah, it’s your friend’s birthday tomorrow, and then the society meeting later tonight. You’ve got a blog post that is already late and then, oh no, that article for SCAN, and didn’t you say you were going to ring your mum, too?

Something has got to give. Being a student at Lancaster is a wonderful time to make like a sponge and soak up ~university life~, however especially during third term you can end up feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. At least for me, I have found this is the case on more than one occasion. It’s hardly heroic to be busy, but busy is one thing and saying you’re wholly committed to completing several other tasks is another. Overcommitment is the easiest way to become even more stressed, so avoiding it is your best tactic.

Try and evaluate your priorities. This is obvious, but when there’s a lot going on, it becomes difficult to differentiate between what needs to be done now and what can be left for a couple of days time. Take into account deadlines and when you’ve said you’ll do things for: if it’s unofficial, then chances are you’ll be able to ask for a short extension, so it’s worth asking. If like me, you work best under pressure, then try and use the restraint of several things needing to be done rather than time as a driving force. Procrastinating because you believe your best work is done in the hour before it’s due, especially in second and third year, is near disastrous (as I have discovered. Whoops).

Write everything you have to do down and it’s more easily digested. When someone told me to do this, my first thought was flat-out no, as I honestly didn’t want to see everything on one page because then I couldn’t hide from it. However, even in the short term, writing all you to-dos down kind of feels like rounding up sheep into a pen (…I assume). Even if there’s a lot, it puts it into perspective as something that you can change and control, and seeing the page get emptier as more things get crossed out ensures that getting through your things to do can be measured visually.

Take some time out for yourself. This is absolutely classic Lifestyle talk, but if reiteration means it’ll get through to people when stressed, then it’s still important to say. I found that when I was most stressed, it got to the point of ‘f*** it, I’ll do some art’ and it was surprisingly helpful to sit down and draw for an hour or so. Okay, so it does use time up, meaning taking up pottery six hours before an exam is unadvisable. Despite this, however, it’s good to set time aside to do something alternative to uni commitments, even if only for half an hour.

This goes for evening activities too, as nights out are great, but obviously a hangover for the next day? Not so much. If you can dare going into bottom Spoons somewhat sober, then take the risk, as it still means a break from obligations and a chance to relax with friends.

Following on from this, think about the difference between what you can do and what you want to do. It’s not failing or letting someone down if sometimes you have to admit defeat and just say that it’s simply too much. Everyone has times when an extra commitment simply doesn’t fit in the day, which is fair enough. As long as you don’t leave it until the last minute, it’s a reasonable enough to hold your hands up.

We’re very lucky with the amount of opportunities there are to get involved here at Lancaster, which means of course that there is a lot to get signed up to. I can remember seeing an email for a chance to be on the Christmas market committee during Michaelmas term, and jumping at the opportunity. However, speaking to my career mentor about this, she asked me when I had the time, and just saying it out loud made me realise its impossibility. It’s so easy to say you’ll do something, but evaluate your time. If you’ve not got much room for things now, taking on something else won’t magically free up more space, even if you’re near hell bent on joining in.

None of this is meant to discourage anyone from participating with campus activities. In fact, over Easter I wrote an article for our website that included information about how to get involved with university life more. However, whilst that age old phrase “it’ll look good for your CV” rings true, at the same time it’s not worth sacrificing your sanity and welfare just to say that you were member of Insert Name Here Society. Particularly during exams, unless you honestly have time for it, don’t feel like you owe it to yourself to go through with a hundred commitments in three days. Be sensible: weigh things up. Write things down. Take time out. Be realistic. Make the most of your time at our uni by using your time wisely: commit yourself to the world and you’ll wind up committing yourself to exhaustion (maybe still go call your mum, though).

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