During a pandemic, with the winter weather disruptions of late, and the near-constant tensions in current events, none of us can be as productive as usual. The strategies below can help us be efficiently productive to allow time for self-care.
Study is a Marathon, not a Sprint
Time is our most limited resource. If you’re feeling exhausted but still don’t have time for all of your work, make a change. Pause, evaluate how you’re spending your time, and find solutions to help you work less but accomplish more. It’s possible.
Self-Care is an Academic Responsibility
Hobbies, physical movement, and rest are critical to your studies. Self-care helps your mind and body be ready to focus, write, memorize and perform. Sleeping enough, seeing friends, cooking food, playing sports, finding fun – these activities genuinely help you produce better work. Learn which leisure activities are helpful and which only provide the illusion of rest and recovery. If you ever feel pressured to skip self-care, remember self-care is a responsibility, not an indulgence.
Watch for the Short-Term Task Trap
Academics require balancing three things: short-term tasks, long-term tasks, and self-care. Short-term tasks (due tomorrow, due this week, waiting for a replay) have the most visible deadlines, which push us to prioritize them. Alternatively, long-term tasks (writing a thesis, finishing a paper) and self-care activities (sleep, rest, play, movement) are much more important, but there is little consequence to letting time slip by without working on them. This makes it easy to start skipping on self-care or long-term projects. Fight to keep short-term tasks from taking over. Accountability helps.
- Create your own deadlines and rules, like “3 pages by X date” or “Go for a jog M/W/F” or “Meal with a friend 2x per week.”
- Reserve times exclusively for long-term tasks or self-care. Never let short-term tasks violate those protected hours, even if that means leaving someone waiting.
There are More Things Worth Doing Than Anyone Can Do
When deciding whether or not to take on a new task or project, ask yourself “Is this more worth doing than the thing I will have to give up to do it?” Anything you add means less time for something else. Consider what you’ll be giving up and whether losing that will be worth it. You might wait 24 hours before saying “yes” to something new to give time for reflection.
College Pushes Us in Many Directions
University culture pushes us to ask a lot of ourselves – as a student, friend, intellectual, agent of change, and more. No one can give outstanding effort in so many directions at once. Focus on the aspects of college that are most important for you personally to give your all.
Reach out for help if you need it.
There are many support structures to help you at UNC-Chapel Hill to help you balance academic demands – advisors, learning center coaches, wellbeing coaches, CAPS, and more. Reach out for help!
Adapted from Healthy Work Habits by Ada Palmer