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Balancing university work, social life and your own personal goals is hard. Especially when you’re at university and have moved out of your parents’ house for the first time as you’ll find you have so much more that you have to do in a week. You can’t always do exactly what you want. You have to cook for yourself. You have to wash your own dishes. You have to do your washing. All these little things add up and suddenly there is a lot you have to do and a lot you want to do in a week.
On top of all of this, you’ll have to plan everything yourself. Depending on your degree you’ll probably have more time outside of your classes than contact hours. This can then give you the illusion that you have a lot of free time or make you overwhelmed at how much you have to do for yourself. You should not sacrifice your to-do list for what you want to do, but you should definitely not do the opposite either – you need your own time. Hence, you need balance. Here are my tips on how you can avoid sacrificing any parts of your life.
Work out everything you have to do AND what you want to do in a week
Some of your obligations cannot be moved. Your lectures, your seminars, your workshops, your labs all have fixed times. The first step of planning your time is knowing when these are. Make sure to also prioritise any society meetings, gym classes or anything else you want to do that are unmovable! Then you can plan the rest of your week so that your ‘free’ time is utilised well. Giving tasks such as seminar readings or doing your laundry a specific time or day to complete them can help you get them done. You can also do this for things that aren’t on your to-do lists. If you are struggling to fit your hobbies or social time into your week adding them to your plan highlights that there is enough time for them.
Get into a routine
It is harder to forget to do something when you do it at the same time every day or every week. Whether you struggle to get reading done for a seminar because you go out on a Wednesday or if you struggle to go out because you have to get your reading done, setting a routine can help. If you know you’re going to do something every week you won’t have to choose, you will be able to do both without even thinking about it.
Work out your deadlines in advance
As soon as you know your deadlines write them done. Add them to your planner, put them on your calendar and stick them to your wall. Writing them down in multiple places will make it harder for you to forget them and have a better sense of how far away (or close) they are.
Get work started early
This is a good way to avoid being overwhelmed during deadline periods. However, this is often easier to say than to do. So, start small. Simple things can make a big difference. If you finish a task half an hour before you expected to, then continue to work for the rest of your allotted time. Small tasks like provisionally choosing an essay question or doing a bit of research on your essay topic will help you nearer the deadline.