“There just aren’t enough hours in the day!” We have all had this thought at one point or another, and I daresay that college students say this phrase a little more often than most. Balancing exercise, life, and college is no easy task. If you’re part of the amazing group of people who manage to balance all three realms plus managing a family, kudos to you. For those of us that need a little guidance, here is how to effectively balance exercise, life, and college.
1. Figure out what you’re spending your time on.
Be honest here. You might have blocked an hour of time for studying, but if you were really just scrolling on Facebook with your textbook open next to you, you aren’t really studying. If you want to balance exercise, life, and college, knowing how you spend your time will reveal two things: where you are wasting your time and what areas of your life need more time spent. This is especially important if you are a working student and your time is even more limited.
Here are two ways you can see where your time is going.
Time Evaluation Worksheet
I made a free worksheet that you can access here. Feel free to save a copy to your own Google Drive or download as an Excel file for your own personal use. This simple worksheet will guide you through detailing how much time you spend on a task and compare it to how much time you want to spend on that task. It will even give you suggestions based on your results!
RescueTime is a time-management app that tracks the time you spend on your devices. I recommend using RescueTime if you spend a lot of time on a computer for work or school (or maybe even both). RescueTime will give you detailed reports that show which applications and websites you spend the most time on, as well as your productivity score for the day. There is a lite version that is free for life that will give you all these features and more. You could be surprised and find that you’re spending way more time on a site that you thought!
2. Prioritize your tasks.
Now that you know where your time is being used, the next step is to choose which tasks means the most to you. One way to do that is to prepare yourself for a successful college semester and figure out your deadlines as soon as possible.
Here are a few questions you can also ask yourself to help you decide which tasks are more important:
- What are the consequences of not doing the task?
- Is there a deadline for the task?
- Does the task have to be repeated on a regular basis? (Examples: Weekly meal prep, exercise, laundry.)
- Will anyone be affected if I decide to do this task? (In other words, will spending too much time on this task impact my relationships with other people?) If so, do you care?
- Is the task part of a larger goal? (Studying for your degree, exercising for a healthy lifestyle, etc.)
3. Take the non-negotiable tasks and create a schedule.
Treat your non-negotiable tasks like you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with your boss. What is a non-negotiable task? Something that absolutely has to be done no matter what. What that is exactly is up to you. It could be studying for a test, exercising, or working on a project with a deadline.
Minimizing distractions is important. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends or family to give you space at certain times. You can even set your phone to airplane mode to prevent you from picking it up and scrolling on social media. Take it a step further and install a browser extension like StayFocusd to block certain sites for a specified amount of time. There are several habits you can learn to become more productive.
4. Understand the consequences of not doing a task.
In order to really drive the message home, it’s important to understand the consequences of not doing a task. For example, not studying for a test means you might fail the test. Failing multiple tests will result in failing the class. Failing multiple classes will mean you have to redo the classes. If you’re in college, that could mean paying for tuition to retake the semester, any class fees, and supplies.
By taking the time to understand the consequences, you become more aware of the situation. This helps you build discipline by creating a connection between your actions or inactions and the results. To balance exercise, life, and college, you need to understand the tasks you want to accomplish and what happens if you don’t.
5. Give yourself room to make mistakes.
Sometimes the unexpected happens, and it throws our plans out the window and runs it over, reverses, and runs it over again. In other words, life happens. We can take every step possible to make sure our life is in balance, but you never know what life has in store for you. It’s a part of being human.
If you need to take a break and take a day off for yourself, do it. If everything goes according to plan but the results aren’t what you expected, learn from the experience. Remember, mistakes are proof that you are trying.