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  • Recipe for Balance

    One tip is to offer yourself reminders. You’ll know when you have too many commitments.
    When your list of commitments keeps growing, it’s time to prioritize.

    By Dinsa Sachan

    When Zeil Shah took over as the University of Michigan’s Circle K president, she didn’t know what challenges were in store for her. From representing the club at meetings and events to volunteering in the community—all this in addition to her regular studies—she often had a tough time keeping up with it all.

    Being a CKI member means adding to your responsibilities. You’ll be asked to attend club meetings, speak at seminars—and volunteering will occupy a good part of your time. Sometimes, as you find yourself juggling so many activities, it’s tough to find a balance. “There were weeks when I slept about three or four hours every night after an 18- to 20-hour day,” she recounts. So yes, it’s difficult. But it’s not impossible.

    Grace Hansen, a sophomore at the College of Wooster, Ohio, offers some useful, succinct advice. “Join a couple of clubs, but don’t join them all,” she advises. “Take challenging classes, but don’t overload yourself. Go out, but don’t spend all your time cozying up to people who you see as ‘popular.’ Make friends with people who share your interests or who have new and different ideas. They are the ones you’ll be glad to know later on.”

    So what else can you do to balance your life? How can you juggle school, family, friends, relationships, and CKI and still have some time for you? These tips should help.

    Put Your Life into Perspective.

    What’s really important to you? If you want to be a doctor after college, your priorities need to be different from someone who plans on trying out for the NBA. “A student has to find his or her own way, since every case is different,” says Patty Cavendar, dean of admissions at Christian Newport University. Your family situations and other personal factors will contribute to the thinking process too.

    Set Goals.

    If you know where your career interests lie, college is a good time to set both long-term and short-term goals. A short-term goal could be to join an association or group affiliated with your course of study, and a long-term goal could be to run for office in that group.

    Setting priorities and managing time will include all activities in the loop—be it studying, sports, or part-time work. The goal is to give every activity its fair share of time and effort, do your best on it, and to fit it into your daily schedule. But whatever your priorities, never let your grades suffer.

    Susan Poch, assistant vice-president for educational development at Washington State University, says: “First off, keep in mind that you are here for school; and second, if you’re not academically successful, it just won’t matter that you have co-curricular obligations.”

    Rank Your Goals

    Not every goal is a top priority. Rank goals according to their importance. If you have finals this week, that takes priority. Give that a 1. If you want to join a PR group because you’re majoring in public relations and want to network, that can take a lower priority until tests are over.

    “When students understand their goals, and what is important to them in life, they achieve better,” says Andy Masters, author of 37 Keys to College Success: Balancing Student Life and Academics. The purpose of setting priorities is to determine where you will direct your energy; it helps you identify the key areas of your life.

    Another way to plan your day: Check out the “quadrant” method suggested by Stephen R. Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

    Manage your time well

    What’s the best way to manage all the balls you have in the air? Follow these action steps for effective time management:

    Plan ahead.

    Plan on paper. It lets you see what you need to accomplish, and with a focused mind it’s easier to fend off distractions. “Planning allows me to accomplish all the things I need to get done,” says Melina Ciccarone, 2006-07 President of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) Circle K. “Without any preparation, I would forget to do assignments, not go to events, break promises, and probably pull multiple all-nighters to complete my work. I use a planner for just about everything in my life, not just school assignments. Writing everything down on paper allows me to limit my commitments—not double-book myself, see ahead of time when I need to do schoolwork, and most importantly, see when I have time to relax and hang out with friends.”

    Divide and delegate.

    A lot of activities can be delegated to other people. Know your limitations. Don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Delegation is an important leadership quality too.

    Learn to say no.

    It’s absolutely essential to learn to dump things that are unimportant and defer the ones that can be done later. Again, know your limitations and don’t be afraid to say enough is enough. “When so many appealing options compete for attention, and when you feel less competitive if you have a shorter résumé than your best friend, how do you say ‘no?’” says Rob Sepich, student relations manager at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “But recognizing limits, making decisions on where to cut back, and then detaching from outcomes are keys to mental health.”

    Offer yourself reminders.

    A lot of times you’ll find yourself slipping back into old routines and spending time on low-priority areas. Whenever you catch yourself in such a situation, ask, “Is this really going to help me achieve my goals?” Write your goals down and read them over at least once in a week to help keep yourself focused.

    Get in the habit

    The “quadrants,” as suggested by Stephen R. Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, should help you schedule your day in an orderly way. Ideally, most of your time should be spent on items that fall within quadrants I and II.

    Quadrant I:

    activities are urgent, as they need to be finished within a certain deadline, and also important, as they will have an impact on your long-term goals. Finishing a project and memorizing for a test are examples. These activities need to get done immediately, and there’s no room for procrastination.

    Quadrant II:

    activities are the most essential ones regarding your life vision and personal development. For example, exercising, building relationships, setting aside time to write your life purpose, etc. However, as these are not bound to deadlines, people tend to put them off. You should devote at least some of your time to these activities on a regular basis.

    Quadrant III:

    activities are urgent, and they’re important in that they help you keep your life in order, but they won’t impact your life in the long-term. Paying your pending bills, cleaning the room, etc., are examples. Quadrant IV activities are non-urgent and unimportant. Chatting over messenger and surfing the Internet are examples. We all need to have fun sometimes, but limit the amount of time you spend on activities that are pure time-wasters.

    —Dinsa Sachan

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