Ask Ainsley, Student Life

Ask Ainsley: How can I balance my academic and personal life?

Dear Ainsley,

I am new to McGill and trying to find time to keep up with my studies, but it is hard because there are so many activities and extracurriculars to take part in. How do I balance life at university so that I can join clubs, hang out with my new friends, and still stay on top of my school work? Is this all even possible?


Trying to Survive (TTS)


Dear TTS,

This is a question so many students struggle with during their time at university. Students often lament that they only have enough time in the day to pick two of three options: Getting enough sleep, achieving good grades, or enjoying a full social life. While this scarcity of time is understandably difficult to handle, there are ways in which students can, in fact, “have it all.”

Though finding a balance between so many priorities can be exhausting, staying organized can help in achieving this balance. Make schedules and to-do lists your best friends. Schedules are great for keeping track of upcoming deadlines and what daily free time you might have, so you can see when and where to squeeze in some homework or friend time. If you don’t know what your obligations are, keep an updated list of the tasks you would like to accomplish with you at all times, whether it be in a notebook or on your phone. Careful planning makes filling in those schedule gaps a bit easier throughout the day. While you may think that you can keep all of those nitty-gritty reminders in your head, it’s helpful to free up that brain space and leave them on a calendar. Visualizing those details can also uncover time for some well-deserved social time or sleep.

You can also create more space in the day by making your study time count. Often, students will try to enjoy the best of both worlds by taking company to the library, but this can distract you from hitting the books. In this case, it could be beneficial to compartmentalize, either focusing on school during the day and friends at night, or school during the week and friends on the weekend. Talk it over with your friends in order to sync your academic and social schedules. While studying, there are also plenty of tricks to reduce procrastination and finish work more quickly and effectively. For example, having a “power hour” would allow you to study free of social media for one hour, and afterward allot yourself some time for a real break.

Lastly, when trying to manage university life, don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s rest. Many students will prioritize their academic and social lives and, consequently, neglect their health through sleep deprivation. If this is the case for you, find a night where you can free up time and go to bed early. Otherwise, utilize the power of a nap. While a nap may not give you the extra two hours of sleep you’ve been searching for, it can give you an extra boost to power through the remainder of your day. Studies have shown that even a 10-minute nap can be sufficient to overcome a poor night’s rest. Of course, this is not a long-term solution for lack of sleep. Be sure to schedule in appropriate amounts of time for sleep so that your health is not compromised.

By practicing good habits and making use of helpful tools, balancing time for school, friends, and health becomes much more manageable.

Good luck!


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