How do they do it? Juggling academics and athletics

As a campus tour guide, I receive a lot of questions surrounding student life and whether a school-life balance is something one can expect to manage at the renowned U of T. Seeing everyone’s defeated, exhausted expressions on campus, I thought it’d be a good time to share some of my tips and tricks of the trade that have helped me to juggle three jobs, three sports and a full-time course load.
A drawing of a woman with many outstretched hands to juggle different life responsibilities.
Disclaimer: I don't usually look quite so glamorous while doing it.
1. Sometimes you need to downsize. Sure, juggling five balls looks really cool but if you’re exhausted and you’re about to see them all fall to the floor, consider whether you might be able to take one out of the equation. I know it’s hard, we’re very ambitious students and we prefer to be able to persevere and to succeed without giving anything up, but I encourage everyone to critically evaluate whether the cost is worth what you’re gaining.
A scale is depicted with positives or benefits on one side and negatives or costs on the other.
2. Sometimes it’s not about balance at all. Ultimately, the most important thing most of us have going on right now is our education. In an ideal world, we spend time every day doing a bit of studying, a bit of socializing and a bit of whatever else makes us happy. Unfortunately, that ideal world is not one most of us live in. Sometimes everything piles up all at once, no matter how impeccable your time management skills may be, and then comes the time to prioritize. It’s a clear choice. I often need to choose between training and studying and while it’s not a choice I like to make – it’s not much of a choice at all. My training can wait, and my test/assignment cannot. It’s more than okay to prioritize, don’t feel like you need to juggle everything you’re involved in every day all year round. 3. Look ahead. The best way to avoid that pile-up I mentioned is living in the present but keeping an eye on the future. If I don’t have anything due, I certainly still have things I can do. Keeping track of assignments and tests that may not have even been mentioned yet, has been super helpful to me. I use Google Calendar and input all the due dates and deadlines I’m aware of. If I find myself with some free time I’ll certainly enjoy some time to myself, but I’ll also take a look at what I can do to make “future-me” a little less stressed out. I always end up thanking myself for it.
Bold-faced "Proactive" is surrounded by lightning bolts on a dark background.
4. Finally, make sure you’re enjoying what you’re devoting your time to. I can juggle my many commitments because I enjoy doing them. I wouldn’t prefer to just study, just work or just train. I think this is probably the best piece of advice I can give you and the most important thing I’ve realized: no point in your life should be something you tolerate or endure in order to get to the next point. MEGA CLICHÉ ON ITS WAY: Life’s short. At least, it’s short enough that “just getting through it” is a really unfortunate way to go about your day. Many of us are no doubt building our CVs for grad school/med school/etc. but there are so many opportunities out there, it’s more than possible to find something you can enjoy while adding it to your CV.
Annette is shown hanging upside down from aerial silks.
My colleague snapped this picture of me “working.” I think this might be the epitome of enjoying what you do – it’s hardly “work.”
If you find yourself without much time but needing some physical activity or a study break, consider dropping into a fitness class on campus or visiting the athletic centre for a quick workout. If it’s stressful it isn’t serving its purpose, but if you can make the time, many of our drop-in programs are only 45 minutes! Which isn’t to say they aren’t a worthwhile workout, trust me.

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