Students are masters of stress: keeping up with assignments, friends and a part-time job can be very overwhelming. On top of that, international students deal with a cultural change, increased pandemic worries, and more often than not, being alone in a completely new place. Is this you? Worry not, we’ll go through some of the things that may help you balance everything without sprouting grey hairs.
First things first, don’t be discouraged!
A great amount of pressure starts before you even know it. Worrying about whether you will be able to take on things such as your Uni workload or finding new friends is only going to hinder you from making meaningful connections, both with yourself and others. Approach the novelty of everything with an open heart, and deal with things one step at a time. That’s where a good time management system can help you tons!
Lay your plans out in the open, simply.
If you aren’t the type to use a heavy binder or a complex app to plan your time, trying to fit your schedule and tasks into one of those all of a sudden can be overwhelming.
And, from one student to another, I will say that oftentimes simplicity is key when it’s well designed. That’s where Grid 4 Quadrants come into play.
Four Grid Quadrants that help you stay balanced and on top of things
The #1 setback we are met with once Uni starts (again) is the avalanche of tasks we need to keep track of. On the other end of the planning spectrum, there are people who chuck all their tasks and goals into a very long list.
When I did that, I got immensely frustrated because:
- my work felt never-ending,
- I couldn’t easily pick out relating tasks and at the end of the day,
- none of my achievements really felt important.
Try getting organized and on top of things the Grid-way
Without further ado, let me show you how arranging tasks on a one-page Grid can solve it all.
- Get an A4 sheet of paper and divide it in 4, using a pen. (Or, skip this step by printing out a neat template here.)
- Notice the four areas you’ve created. From left to right, up to down, they will help you categorise your tasks:
- Your Personal Life quadrant can catch things like meeting friends, walking your pets, a GP’s appointment or even your journey between one country to another.
- The Self Care quadrant is meant to give you a space for all the things you wish to do but never get around to! Besides that, it’s also a neat way of keeping track of your workouts, TV shows and self care routines without guilt.
- The Work/Study quadrant stays true to its name. Here you can jot down things like assignments, part-time work and group projects.
- Having a Career quadrant can sound scary when you’re freshly into Uni, but it can be a great way of making sure you get some experience and knowledge little by little. I use it to keep track of workshops I attend, and sometimes I list my readings on there too.
- Break down your to-do items into small tasks you can finish at once. This is a crucial step in making sure you actually get things done – if I were to write ‘Dissertation’ in a neat box at the top of my quadrant, I’d also have to follow that with actual steps I can do, such as researching a specific topic. You can get a more detailed idea of how students use the Grid system without pressure here, and find some more tips on how to Grid as a student here.
- Finally, start a rota of doing your tasks: once you’ve done something, highlight it with a colour you find soothing or energising. Keep track of the quadrants lacking in colour as you go about your week, and balance them out bit by bit.
Caring for your Mental Health
Finding balance in life can be as easy as doing a rota of Grid tasks. However, showing up to it still requires caring about your mental health, and tending to it daily. Here are a few suggestions on this in relation to the Grid method:
- Prevent burnout! Don’t try to finish off your whole Work quadrant before you move on to other parts of the Grid.
- Actively add relaxing, rest-taking task ideas to the Self Care area – as Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier says, sometimes taking action simply means taking a break.
- Choose your workload realistically: when first starting out, you may find that your Grid is only halfway finished by the end of the week. It’s normal to overestimate how much time some tasks will really take you to complete. Learn from each Grid, and as time passes you will get a better grip on how you work.
- Release pent up energy at the right time (and vice versa). A great function of the Grid is being able to choose which task you feel like working on – go with your gut, and start with something that will get you excited.
- Reach out to others! Whether it is to share the workload, vent or simply to get some human contact, other people play a big role in how good we’re feeling. Join a student society, attend a departmental event or strike up a conversation with someone in your seminar. Friends are all over the place, if we take the first step.
I hope this guide helped you get motivated and lose some of the worries. Let’s make your time as a student count in a way that brings you joy, results, and greater connection with yourself and others. If you’d like to get more tips on how the Grid works, check out the rest of our freebies and treat yourself to a 25-week Gridding Block!
What are your expectations about getting to Uni this year? Let us know in the comments!