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September Stress and Semester Success: Balancing School with Other Commitments

By Shannon Hogan, 3rd-year French and History student

Ah, September… An exciting month of trying new classes, catching up with friends, and making fall “looks” with that great new sweater… Wait, what?!

Yeah, September can be great, but getting back to school is hectic! All at once, you have to handle a busy class schedule, get involved in extra curriculars, find time to line up at the bookstore, maintain your workout schedule, talk to your family, and sleep enough, among other commitments. When everyone and their cousin wants a bit of your time, it’s easy to feel stretched too thin.

If you’re struggling to find enough time to do everything you need and want to do, try these techniques to help you balance your commitments:

1. Prioritize

Write down every single thing you have to do for the next two weeks, then make that list less daunting by ranking the tasks from most to least important. Mark tasks that you need to get done ASAP with an “A,” tasks that you should do soon with a “B,” and tasks that you could do if you have leftover time with a “C.” Work on getting all the As done first, followed by the Bs, and then the Cs.

Remember: What you decide to prioritize may be different from what someone else decides to prioritize, and that’s okay! Everyone has their own scale of what’s most important to them.

2. Reflect your priorities in your schedule.

Once you know what you want to devote the most attention to, schedule time to do it! Make yourself a weekly or term calendar that helps you plan ahead for big deadlines and maintain your day-to-day commitments. Here are some average numbers that you could test out when you’re allocating your time.

  • Spend 10 hours per week on each course, including class time, readings, homework, assignments, and review.
  • Spend 7-9 hours per night sleeping.
  • Spend 2 hours making and eating meals each day.

To maximize concentration and free time, you can also incorporate study techniques like working from 9-5 each day, focusing for 50 minutes before taking a 10 minute break, and doing the most difficult tasks at the start of study periods.

3. Scrap the to-do list.

It can be discouraging to look at your to-do list at the end of the day and see that some tasks aren’t crossed off. A good alternative is to make an accomplishment list at the end of each day: Write out every task that you completed to remind yourself of how much you’ve really done – it’s probably more than you think! This list also has the added bonus of showing you how much you can realistically get done in a day, which will help you to accurately allocate your time when you’re making your schedule.


So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by your commitments, remember that it’s okay to be busy, and that it’s not wrong to make time to do the things that make you happiest. It’s all about balance!

For more time management resources, please visit sass.queensu.ca/learningstrategies.


Photo courtesy of SonnyandSandy under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.