4 Tips for Managing Your Irons in the Fire

How many of you have taken a look at your deadlines for the week and become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work you have to do?

I certainly have.

In high school, we were not adults balancing the large load of responsibilities of every-day life. Now that we are near the end of our college season, life looks much different for many of us. Some of us are now living on our own, some are wives or husbands, some are parents, others are working toward their degree while working part-time, full-time, or multiple jobs, and others battle through serious health conditions that make studying that much more difficult. There are so many other scenarios I could name, but I’ve been there, and scenarios that I haven’t experienced myself I have observed while interacting with others in the Unbound community. But we’ve made it.

Let’s face it—with each situation comes varying responsibilities and unique obstacles. The question I’m asking is, how can we manage it all in a healthy way?

I’m not writing to you as someone who has it all figured out and is looking back with complete hindsight. I’m writing as someone who is in this season too. Someone who sometimes has to sit down and just cry in response to the intense stress that life brings. Someone who wants to fast-forward through the next few months until it’s all over. Someone who aches for the marathon to be complete.

However, I have not battled alone, and I want you to know that you are not alone either. Even though I am not 100% finished with my own degree, I want to share with you some lessons that I have learned along the way that can be applied to whatever season of life you are in, whether you are a freshman, senior, or graduate.

Since no management technique is one-size-fits-all, not all approaches will be the answer for you, but I encourage you to read through the list and try these methods and tweak them in a way that works for your specific situation.

Tip 1: Make a List

When there are four assignments due, work schedules to keep up with, relationships to cultivate, volunteer work to do, bills to pay, laundry to fold, monthly budget reports to organize, that project you’ve been procrastinating getting started on is due soon, you name it—all needing to be done this week—they have a way of spinning out of control inside of our minds, don’t they?

The first step in the process of regaining control over this stress is making a list.

When you have one hundred things swirling around in your mind, it can be hard to think straight and many times it seems like more than it really is. Simply writing everything down can help calm your mind. You can know that since it is down on paper you can’t forget about it as easily. It doesn’t matter the order of the list, just write.

Done? Great! Let’s move on to the next step.

Tip 2: Organize and Prioritize

I cannot stress this one enough (no pun intended). Maybe you wrote down that you have an exam on Friday morning, a work project due on the following Monday, an appointment to schedule, the gym to go to, and a hotel room to book for your post-graduation vacation.

It might be helpful to create two columns—one for mandatory and high priority tasks, and another for lower priority tasks. Decide what takes the greatest priority and organize it accordingly by writing down in a planner or calendar which day you want or need to accomplish your tasks. You could use a simple pen and paper, you could be super detailed and use a spreadsheet, or you could do something in the middle—as long as it is beneficial to you!

Organizing and prioritizing can be very helpful in making sure that every task has its own space within your week, making the workload feel less overwhelming. And then, as unexpected things come up throughout the week you already know exactly what is and is not mandatory to complete and what can and cannot be moved around within your schedule.

However, an important caution brings me to the third tip I would like to share with you.

Tip 3: Know When to Say “No”

You know how personal finance instructors say that if you are struggling financially, you need to figure out what you can cut back on? Maybe it’s cancelling Netflix, Amazon Prime, or the daily Starbucks run. In the same way, sometimes we need to cut back on the things that drain our energy when the reserves get low.

Personally, I love to jump at opportunities and do as many things as possible—something I usually realize a little too late. While it is a wonderful thing to take advantage of opportunities that come your way and being Unbound increases those opportunities, they are not necessarily always the best thing for you at that point in time. Before you accept an opportunity, I encourage you to sleep on it and maybe talk to a close friend, parent, or spouse about it to make sure you can manage it.

I am not saying that you should live only for work and school. What I am saying is that if you have four extra activities over the next two weeks and you realize that their existence is creating more stress because it takes away precious t

ime you could be using to complete projects, consider postponing one or maybe even two of them if you can. You will then gain precious hours that you can dedicate to whatever you need, whether it is much-needed sleep, time with your family, or a study session.

It might sound a bit counter-intuitive at first to take away something that is unrelated to work or school, but sometimes cutting back even temporarily on something that is not mandatory can make the world of difference for your peace of mind.

With this in mind, it is essential to balance it with the fourth tip:

Tip 4: Do Not Neglect Self-Care

This is probably the most important but least followed point of advice given to students, graduates, and people in general.

Please remember that taking time for yourself does not make you lazy. This is an obstacle I have personally struggled with, and I know that others do as well. Taking time for yourself will help you rest, retain information, perform other tasks, and maintain your health.

Self-care is something that takes practice, especially if you’re rather Type A, like I am. We allow ourselves to be overtaken with all of the necessary things that we need to take care of that we wear ourselves out. Self-care doesn’t need to cost money and it doesn’t have to take very much time.

I have compiled a list of self-care ideas that I have used and seen others use. It is by no means exhaustive, but it can get you started.

Read a book that you want to read

  • Go for a walk

  • Watch a couple of episodes of your favorite TV show (laughing will help reduce stress, so a comedy might be beneficial)

  • Do some fun research for a trip you want to take (attractions, town history, etc.)

  • Listen to your favorite music

  • Find a hobby

  • Vary your study/work location if possible

  • Exercise

  • Engage in a group activity

  • Take a day and do something that you want to do

  • Take a nap

  • Speaking of sleep, get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis

  • Don’t forget to eat, and drink water

Regularly making a comprehensive list, organizing and prioritizing that list, cutting back on unnecessary tasks, and practicing self-care are the first steps in surviving college and the stresses of life in general. I hope that whether you are a freshman, senior, or long-time graduate, these four tips can help you be at peace within the chaos that comes with being an adult.

How do you like to practice self-care and organize your mountain of tasks? Written by Alexandria Garcia

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