Finding balance: Living productively as a student

Illustration of person with many responsibilities
Annabelle Baker/Staff

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Back in high school, there was a structure to everything. You woke up at the same time every day, walked in the same hallways at school, met the same group of friends in classes, had dinner with your family every night, did homework before bed and repeat. Now all of a sudden in college, you’re thrust into an environment where you’re in control. You’re the master of your 24 hours. If this seems daunting, you’re not alone.

During my first couple of weeks here at UC Berkeley, I struggled to figure out my routine and I would be lying if I said that I have it all figured out now. Should I play video games with my friends in the lounge after dinner or complete homework? Should I spend an hour folding my pile of laundry or video call my friends from high school who are miles away? Should I go to a group exercise class in the gym or use the hour to finish that lab project instead? Initially, I felt all over the place (and sometimes, I still do). I would scramble during the week to submit my assignments and attend infosessions and meetings, relax during the weekend, and before I knew it, Monday would roll by and it was the same story all over again.

Finding that balance between so many aspects of your life is definitely hard, but certainly doable, too. I realized that I need to consciously make an effort and set aside time for everything — from buying cereal to ironing my clothes. It’s so easy to stay holed up in your room when you have too much work, or at the other extreme, spend an entire day doing nothing. One habit that I’ve found helpful is blocking specific hours for catching up with family, laundry (instead of doing it whenever I run out of clothes), grocery shopping and exercise. When it comes to making time for friends, it can be as simple as getting dinner together, trips to Trader Joe’s, accompanying a friend to the FedEx office or spending an hour searching all the bookstores in Downtown for a specific book (all of which I have done!).

And most importantly, find time for yourself too! Listen to your favorite music, get around to reading that book that has been sitting forever on your “must-read” list, or do anything that makes you forget all the tasks waiting for you! 

Contact Nandita Radhakrishnan at [email protected].