If you’re a bit like me, then you probably have an “I CAN DO IT ALL! NOTHING AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME! HAHA!” attitude towards life sometimes. And, if you’re a bit like me, then you already know that sometimes this attitude can be your worst enemy. I like to call this enemy, “the curse of biting off more than you can chew.”
Don’t get me wrong: believing that you can be a super student without breaking a sweat can be helpful and motivating. It’s a very positive mindset to have. But there’s a catch, since all of those things that you really want to do and believe you can do, need to become actualized at some point, especially if you’re obligated to do them. And there’s only so much time in a single day.
This isn’t an attempt to scare anyone off from taking on that extra class, extracurricular activity, or research opportunity. It’s always important to step outside our comfort zones, to challenge ourselves, to continually grow, and to set goals. However, we also need to be realistic. Ask Present-You if you’re doing Future-You a favour.
Last week, I talked about time management. One of the points I touched on was how much productivity relies on flexibility and feasibility. But both flexibility and feasibility are subjective terms: what is flexible/feasible for you might be less so for someone else. I know some people who are fine doing coursework for six classes a semester, whereas I enjoy only having four classes to worry about. By doing so, I can allocate more time to extracurriculars and to self-care. Knowing this, it’s crucial that you sit down and ask yourself, “What’s realistic for me?”
Start by breaking things down into smaller pieces. One way of going about this can be listing off pros and cons. For example:
“Should I take on that club executive position?”
– the club’s focus is interesting/fun – might conflict with class schedule
– learn transferable skills – requires commitment
– good networking opportunity – requires lots of time in March
From there, you might imagine scenarios based on these pros and cons to imagine how likely it is that you’ll actually overload yourself. Are there ways of reducing your time commitments in exam studying season? How many people will you really meet? Sometimes the pros and cons are not as impactful as you’d imagine… and sometimes they’re more so. The point of this exercise is to ground yourself, and to remove the blinders that idealism can put up.
If you do happen to bite off more than you can chew, remember that it happens to all of us at least once in our student lives. You had positive intentions, and that’s what mattered. Now you know for next time.