How to Prioritize in College When You’re Always Busy AF

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Just when you think you have it together, your phone screen cracks, your group project bails on you, your most important email goes unread and before you know it, you’re drowning in an endless mess of your own tears. Sound familiar?

we have 5 foolproof tips that teach you how to prioritize while to kicking ass at just about everything.

1. Manage your own expectations

We read self-help articles in the hopes of learning everything there is about how to prioritize our campus involvement, homework and internships and make our college experience as Insta-worthy as possible. But nobody told us we’d have so many unexpected external messes we have to clean up as well. “It’s about your own expectations, your internship employer’s expectations as well as the ones for your coursework,” Kelly Barnett, director of the career development center at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University said. “Take time to digest all that before you commit to something new.” That means taking out your syllabi, spending time to reviewing them and deciding if the time-to-work ratio works in your favor or not. Then evaluate the time other involvements requires: ten hours a week, two hours a day, short or long blocks of work? And then you prioritize the most important responsibilities and ones you don’t need to stress over too much.

2. Take a break

A buffer period once a day can clear up all the blemishes on your stress schedule. Between all the professors whose sole duty in life is to cause misery and gloom and all the unappreciated work hours, schedule an hour a day that’s blemish-free. “Make sure everything’s not jam packed in your day,” Barnett said. “If something comes up short notice, you have a place to out that.” If your group project lets you down all of a sudden when everything was going smoothly, we have that buffer period to try and save everyone’s butt. Just pray your Netflix doesn’t hear the word “buffer” and you’ll be able to relax fully.

3. Play the game, not yourself

Most students run the same race, worrying about better grades, better jobs, more experience, all while trying to juggle all those red solo cups and a washboard body. And the most common problem students have when they head to the career center? “Feeling overwhelmed,” Barnett revealed. The competition all around leaves plenty of students on the brink of a breakdown much too early in the week. Barnett recommends a change in thinking. “Take the energy you’re putting into being stressed and worried and put that into something more productive,” Barnett said. “Accept the competition—take the energy and put it into your application materials and work on networking.” Learning how to prioritize and not stress is easier said than done, but don’t let the Monday blues get the best of you.

4. Prioritize good decisions and a to-do list:

From a student perspective, resident advisor Christian Aleksandrov advised fellow students to evaluate the importance of each task you spend stressing over. “What is the most important thing for you right now, and what are the consequences of doing or not doing that thing?” Aleksandrov said. “You have to try and balance living on an agenda and knowing when to stop. Not everything has to be done at any cost.” All of your responsibilities may seem like the most important, but when you’re learning how to prioritize, make a to-do list first. Then number each item in the order that they need to get done in. You just might find that some tasks really aren’t that dire.

5. Take (self-)care:

Being overwhelmed and not knowing how to prioritize can often trigger and amplify mental health struggles. If the feeling of being down in the dumps hits too many times a week, remember that help and solutions exist, and often nearby. Surrounding yourself with positive people and encouragement reminds you to work towards that 3.9 (let’s be real) GPA, but also reminds you when to reach for that Ben and Jerry’s pint or extra slice of pizza. As one of my friends wisely said: “Bring food. You can’t do anything right if you’re hungry.

Following all of these steps at the same time may stress you out even more, but cut yourself some slack. College and the life that follows is almost never relaxing. But face it, a pint of ice-cream, a to-do calendar or organized planner from Michael’s and taking a breather is a fantastic place to start teaching yourself how to prioritize.

I’m a full-time sophomore studying magazine journalism at Syracuse University and part-time author of a constant stream of #randomthoughts residing in my brain that will probably never be printed. Keeping hopes up for an audiobook, though.

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