How to Balance Your Obligations by Learning to Say No
Not to scare you, but we’ve passed halfway through the semester which means that assignments will be due before we know it and things are potentially about to get crazy. As someone with a lot of commitments, I can tell you that when things at uni start getting busy, it definitely gets harder to juggle all of the other things in life. How can you balance everything all at once? How do you prioritise some things over others? These are the big questions that will come up when you start feeling like you have too much on your plate, so I’m here to try and help you answer them!
People often ask me, ‘Hollie, how do you manage to get all of this stuff done?!’ and to be honest, sometimes I don’t even know, it somehow just gets done. Most of the time, however, it’s all down to prioritisation and time management. I’ve written another blog post with 4 simple steps to boost your time management skills, and I would recommend starting there, since the main reason I get stuff done is due to that process. My flatmate has started implementing some of the methods I mentioned in that post and says it really helped, so it must be alright! Managing your time not only helps you to get work done, but also allows you to take a break and spend some time doing the other things that you need to be balancing. If you plan out your study well and stick to it, you can allow yourself time to have brunch with friends, go to the gym, watch a movie, hang out with your partner, go see your family, or whatever else it is that you like to do outside of study.
If you’ve read my post about ways to balance study & relationships, you will have already heard my advice about establishing your priorities and the advice still stands. Whether you write down a list, manage it in your head, or just know, it’s so important to know what matters to you the most. Having a clear picture of the most important things to you allows you to say yes or no to the things that don’t align with that. If playing video games isn’t your priority, then when you’re faced with a decision between going to the gym (which is one of your priorities) or playing video games, you have a clearer idea of which decision to make. It can also help you to explain to others why you can’t make that event, or do a certain thing, because you can say “I’m sorry I can’t make it, uni (or whatever it might be) is just my main priority at the moment so I really need to focus on it, maybe I can come next time!” If you’re a people-pleaser like me, this can be really hard sometimes, but having the focus from your list of priorities will help you be more confident in your decisions. It’s also great because it allows you to spend time doing things that matter to you more often, rather than spending all of your time being run down by doing things you’d actually rather not be doing.
Learning to say no
This is where learning to say no comes in. I used to be literally the worst person at saying no to things ever. I don’t know if it was because I had a fear of missing out, if I didn’t want to let people down, if I was too nervous, or if I was too afraid of conflict to say no, but whatever it was, it stopped me from making the right decisions so many times. I have and still do often get run down and burnt out because I can’t bring myself to say no and actually do what I want to do. I’m getting better at it, especially as uni has gotten more intense and the workload has increased, and it’s helped me to learn what I should be saying yes to. For me, I should be saying yes to uni, work, rest, time with Sam, and church because those are the things that matter to me and the things I need the most in my life right now. Further down the track, these things will probably change as my circumstances do, but for right now, if something doesn’t fit into those things, I will more than likely say no to it. That’s not because I don’t care about going to the gym, or having parties, or going out for dinner or anything else, it’s just that the other things are more important to me right now, and are often the things that I enjoy more at the moment. Knowing this has helped me become better and more confident in saying no. It was difficult at first, but once I started to try, it got easier. Try it once, and see what happens. You might end up being happier, more relaxed, or more productive just from that one time you said no, and you don’t have to be ashamed of that! Once you figure out what’s important to you, you can be proud that that’s who you are right now, and empower yourself to say no, because you should be allowed to do what makes you happy!
Go with the flow
Now after I’ve just told you to schedule and prioritise everything, I’m also going to tell you that you can ignore that sometimes and sometimes it just doesn’t work out how you planned and you will just have to roll with it. Today for example, I planned to write this blog post and finish editing my weekly vlog, but I’m probably not going to get to the vlog because I’m playing board games with my friends and going to a comedy gig later on today, and that’s okay! Almost every day I fill up my to-do-list, and there’s almost always at least one thing that doesn’t get done, which can be frustrating, but it just get’s moved to the next day. If you can’t do something, or sometimes just don’t feel like it, it’s alright to give yourself a break, do something fun and come back to it later. Unless it’s due tomorrow, in which case, you should probably just get it done!! But seriously, don’t get too stressed out by schedules and priorities and calendars and lists, just do what works for you and try your best. Sometimes being too pinned down by planning can actually work out worse which I learn a lot when I only leave room for certain things to be done at particular times on specific days, and when I can’t do that, it all goes wrong because there’s no other time I can do it! So it’s alright to be a bit chill, and go with the flow!
Balancing your obligations is not a particularly simple task, but it is definitely achievable with some determination, confidence and planning. I hope that this post has been helpful for you and given you some steps towards achieving that balance, and I’d love to hear about it if it has! Let me know how you’ve applied these things to balancing the things in your life, or if you have any other tips and tricks, I’d be keen to hear those too!
Much love, Hollie! :D