I’m three months away from completing my Bachelor’s degree and currently juggling three internships, my third year as an RA, my role as President of my school’s Her Campus chapter, an on-campus job, a social media side-gig, my fourth year in my school’s service and leadership society, preparing for my second Alternative Spring Break, my last few classes and applying for jobs. *Catches breath* I also do my best to spend time with my loved ones, go to the gym, write and enjoy everything Boston has to offer.
My college is small and places a lot of emphasis on student involvement, so I know many of my peers are facing a similar workload. I’ve been getting questions about how I balance my obligations and keep a positive attitude, so I wanted to take time to write about what’s helped me. This is the first article I’m writing in a three-part series about my tips for time-management and maintaining motivation. It focuses on growing a productive mindset, and I hope each of you get something out of it!
Be intentional when choosing your obligations. Keep the “why” in mind.
College is full of opportunities. Your biggest choices are where to go to school and what to study, but you can also add on extracurricular activities, jobs, internships and volunteer work.
The best way to stay motivated is to be strategic about what’s on your plate from the beginning. When deciding if you should participate in something, ask yourself the classic Marie Kondo question: does it bring you joy? Engaging in activities you’re passionate about will create a spark in you and help you figure out your calling.
Then again, to quote another iconic woman, my mom says life isn’t all about having fun. It might be her upbringing in a rustic farming town in Maine, but she’s definitely onto something.
There will be torturous classes, mundane jobs, and not-so glamorous tasks for even the best internships. You just have to remember why they matter. Is the class you dread a requirement for your major? Does having a part-time job help you pay for something important? Does your internship get you closer to a resume that will stand out to your dream job? If you look closely, there are probably many important lessons and transferrable skills hidden in these activities too.
If you follow your heart when picking things and keep your eye on the prize while doing them, things have a funny way of falling into place.
High-quality work is important, but perfection isn’t a sustainable goal.
Should you put your best effort into everything you do? Duh. BUT, being too much of a perfectionist will only hinder your productivity and stand as a barrier between you and your best work. Overthinking stifles creativity, and you can’t do everything you need to if you waste your time and energy perseverating on one thing.
I’ve watched perfectionism leave people staring at tasks like a deer in the headlights. They’re unable to start tackling the work in front of them because all they can see is the successful end result they need to achieve. From my experience, it’s easier to pull things off when you divide big projects into little tasks that each have lower stakes than the entire finished product.
For example, when I plan an event, I don’t only focus on what the day of will look like. I divide the event up into “To Do” lists. I figure out who needs to approve the event, who I’m working with, how I’ll advertise, what supplies I need and how I’ll pay for them, just to name a few parts. This gives me a better vision of the path to success and makes it less overwhelming to confront bumps in the road.
Being a perfectionist is also debilitating when you’re receiving the results of something. I’ve seen people have meltdowns over a bad grade or something that didn’t go quite as planned. Although I feel for them, letting one thing throw you off has a ripple effect on other parts of your life. It’ll impact your interactions with others and ability to concentrate on other responsibilities. It can also taint your attitude towards the class/event/situation. I find that it’s better in the long run to 1.) take a little time to acknowledge and honor your feelings before 2.) focusing on letting go and improving going forward.
This is all coming from someone who makes mistakes frequently. Another example: last week I missed an extremely important meeting because I mixed up days. I definitely beat myself up about it for a bit, but I realized the only thing I could do is apologize, be transparent with the people it impacted and use it as a reminder to be more mindful in the future.
In conclusion, try your best, but practice self-compassion and keep it moving.
Your work won’t always be enough to motivate you.
I’ve seen a lot of conversation around this topic lately. No matter how amazing your job is or how much you like working on a project, inspiration won’t strike every day and expecting it to isn’t feasible. On the days you don’t feel driven by what you do, it’s essential to look for that joy somewhere else in the situation. I may not be excited to go to a staff meeting after a long day, but I’m excited to see the people that will be there. I’m rarely thrilled to go to some of my classes, but the cup of coffee I bring to them brightens my whole day. I dread going to the gym sometimes, but I love having 45 uninterrupted minutes of listening to my favorite music.
On a similar note, I’ve also seen the concept of “romanticizing your life” circulating on social media. This practice entails finding luxury and enjoyment in the small details of your day. This could be savoring your nightly tea, making homework fun by doing it in a cute coffee shop or taking time on your daily commute to admire the scenery you pass. If you make a habit of finding/creating beauty in your day-to-day life, it’s so much easier to have a happy and grateful mindset. This in turn makes you more productive and enthusiastic, in addition to transforming you into a magnet for good energy.
I hope you enjoyed this post and learned some helpful tips from it! Stay tuned for the next two parts!