When everything takes priority

The ups and downs of balancing a busy schedule at college

Hanna Bubser, Columnist

Throughout my entire life, my father has echoed the phrase: “The busier you are, the happier you are.” Most of the time, when he said this to me, I responded with the most dramatic eye roll I could muster. I’d drone on and on about how I craved lazy days filled with messy hair, comfortable clothing and movie marathons. A day to do absolutely nothing at all.

To be honest, those are the kind of days I still daydream about. When my desk is cluttered with homework and I have back to back meetings, I allow myself to think about the next chance I’ll have to burrow under a mountain of blankets.

There is another part to this as well, a part that my high school self would have never admitted to her father: I like to be busy, and I know I’m not alone on this. Considering my environment, it’s not all that surprising.

In addition to classes, college campuses are crawling with student organizations, clubs, jobs and boards. “Get involved” is practically stamped on your acceptance letter.

Once you find your niche, the problem is no longer whether or not you are choosing to be busy, but rather how you plan to balance your schedule. Time management is a huge component of the college experience, and it can be tough to master. Planners, Google Calendars and iPhone alerts are sorted through every single day and we are left to wonder: how much is too much?

The idea of a person being “stretched too thin” wasn’t something that crossed my mind often until I started college. This is because I hadn’t really felt the impact of a truly busy schedule yet.

This is not to say that I wasn’t very involved in high school, because I definitely was. My lifestyle was different at that time. I lived at home with my parents, my day to day routine was fairly stationary and I was mostly just focused on the idea of graduating and moving on with my life. Sure, there were times that I found myself rather stressed, but it was nothing compared to what I have felt at college.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. The real challenge has been figuring out how to balance it all.

One piece of advice that I have heard before is to prioritize. This method seems straightforward, but does it really work?

I always struggle with this because I don’t like to think of one component in my life as a higher priority compared to another. Homework and studying for exams have an obvious importance, but so does a big project at work, or helping with an event put on by a student organization. Being selective with my tasks has never been a strong suit of mine.

I want to do my best no matter what the situation is, and I know quite a few people on campus who can relate to that. We are building our resumes and we have people to impress. There is simply no time to slack off in any area. It can be overwhelming, to say the least.

This is where the idea of stretching oneself too thin can come back into play. We want to cover all our bases, and prioritization seems hard. You could talk to every single person on our campus about how they choose to sort their to-do list, and you would get a different answer from each person. In order to prove this, I approached two of my roommates, Brennon Fleagle and Morgan Fox, and asked them both the same question: how do you prioritize what work gets done first?

“To be honest, I do what is the most interesting first. That way, I am more motivated to get the rest of my work done because I actually start out by being interested in it,” Fleagle answered.

Meanwhile, Fox was on the complete opposite end.

“I always do the homework that’s the least interesting first, and then I reward myself with the homework that is the most interesting!” Fox said.

Fleagle is a Public Health and Bio-Chem major. Fox is an Education and Psychology major. How they choose to approach their work loads couldn’t be more different, but they both lead busy and fulfilling lives here at Hamline. Different things do indeed work for different people. Does this make the task of figuring it all out any less daunting? Probably not, but it does show that a full plate can be a successful one too. It is important to know your limits, but it is also important not to limit yourself.