How to Balance School and your “Favourite Things”

  • Ryan Mody
  • |
  • Oct 26, 2017

You’re overwhelmed. You feel that the transition into university has done nothing but put loads of tasks, assignments, and overall obligations on your shoulders. No matter how many sets of readings you finish, there is always more piled on top the next day, creating a never-ending list of responsibilities. Whenever you’re not furiously studying you’re always aware of that weight that continuously reminds you of the work you SHOULD be doing. How is it possible to constantly be under this pressure and workload, and still be expected to perform well?

You’re not alone. So many people have gone through the same thing you’re going through right now. Do you maybe feel like you’ve had to sacrifice so much in order to stay consecutively up-to-date with all the schoolwork? Like refusing to go out with your new buds, or not seeing your favorite sports games just because it takes too much time?

But it doesn’t have to be that way; there are things you can do, strategies to follow for achieving that balance between schoolwork and, “your favorite things”. You don’t have to sacrifice everything. You just have to find that balance.

Step 1: Understand that performance requires sacrifice

As AEO’s, we all value those grades of 80 and higher: in the end, that’s what we want, because that’s what’s needed. But what you may not understand (or maybe readily accept) is that in order to attain those marks, you have to sacrifice something. More than likely, you’ve figured out that you can’t spend all week gaming, or browsing the webs, just to finish your assignments the day before. And that’s okay. University expects you to sacrifice a few things in order to keep up with your classes; they want you to adapt.

Right now, you might feel that you spend hours-on-end studying just to keep up, but over time, you’ll become more efficient; you’ll learn what topics are important, and what points are testable, and those long hours will get cut down immensely.

Once you’ve embraced that notion, you’ve already taken your first step.

Step 2: Get Organized

This is definitely one of the most important pieces of advice I have for you: never underestimate the utility of organization! In this sense, getting organized would mean figuring out what your courses require you to do throughout the year (in terms of readings, projects, cases, etc.) and how you’re going to manage them.

Organization is the tangible second step: it is easier to tackle responsibilities you know (what they are, when they are due) rather than tackle things that you don’t.

Scheduling is a great way to sort all this out: using the Western Calendar from orientation, or just a handwritten agenda is easy, and can be incredibly satisfying when you cross off your work day-by-day. What’s better, is that scheduling allows you to devote some time to those “favorite things” I mentioned before, which I’ll get to in a bit.

My personal strategy is taking assigned readings and tasks I need to complete within a time period (usually weekly), and breaking them up over how many days I want to complete it in (usually ending on the day before the assigned readings or tasks are taken up in class). I use a free app called Power Planner that I highly recommend; works just like a hand-written agenda, but easier to manipulate.

Step 3: Celebrate Those small and BIG Victories!

Now we get to those “favorite things”. After a hard day or even week of completing all your assigned tasks, celebrate that victory! Go out and throw the frisbee around for an hour or two, or maybe just grab an extra cookie from the cafe! What’s important is to proportion the size of the victories with the size of the reward. Those tensions you feel whenever you’re not finishing your schoolwork will easily ebb away when you know you’ve given it your best effort; and this opens the door for you to pursue your favorite hobbies, or even try new ones.

Whenever you work hard for something, there is satisfaction in knowing you gave it your absolute best.

What’s even better is that with your scheduling on track, you can even plan out exactly how much time you want to spend doing those activities.

Step 4: Do it all again

You just made it through a grueling week that consisted of 90% studying, and now you have to do it all over again. You might have some days where you just can’t seem to get motivated and other days where you’re cruising through it. Those fluctuations are normal; and you don’t need to be afraid of them. Pile on some more work on those days you’re feeling it, so you can spare a little on the days you’re not. But either way, don’t get discouraged. Keep on pushing forward.

Because pushing forward is progress, and progress will get you your results


  • HBA