“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”

M. Scott Peck

It’s crunch time. We’ve got hardly any time to breath. We’re in a race against time to get everything done, because we have too much to do–but not enough time.

Time is the most valuable commodity you have. Every minute that you are alive, you could be doing hundreds of things–but unfortunately, you can only do one (multitasking doesn’t count–in fact, multitasking is proven to be ineffective and inefficient).

So, what on this earth is worth your valuable time?

It all comes down to priorities

We’ve all always been told that we need to “have priorities”. Most of us have even been told what our priorities should be: “School comes first!” Indeed, that’s how we got to college in the first place. But…now that we’re in college, we have the freedom to choose what’s going to “come first”–and also what will come second and third and fourth–because we are the ones who truly know ourselves best. But…what actually are priorities?

First, let’s look at how it looks to have no priorities. We “try not to worry about things”, so we schedule our classes and extracurricular activities, make plans to hang out with other people, and figure that homework can just come at the end of the day (or the night before it’s due). We don’t give much attention to the personal importance of each of those things in the interest of simplicity (and having less stress). But soon, we find ourselves…obligated. We must stay up until 3am doing homework, must hang out with someone, must volunteer with a student organization…eventually, we feel trapped by those obligations because we just have so much to do. It all has to be done. We are no longer in control of ourselves–we become controlled by our conflicting obligations.

Here’s what happens: when we don’t have priorities, everything is treated as if it has the same level of importance to us–even if we were to admit to ourselves that some things certainly aren’t as important as others. And when we find ourselves stressed out of our minds because we are equally obligated to do everything on our to-do list, we deprive ourselves of living purposefully and willingly. It can lead to some really awful things…you can burn out, lose your passion and drive for what you love, and lose some valuable friendships. Living without priorities doesn’t just cause you more stress–it’s destructive to your mind, your emotions, and your life plans.

Kicking the habit

There are Main Priorities, and there are Situational Priorities. Main priorities are our basic framework–and they are the ultimate stress preventer. The situational priorities are rather flexible–they can change among situations. Having this balance of rigidity and flexibility is what will enable you to stop living out of obligation and to start living how you want to live.

You can start making Main Priorities by pondering these questions:

  • What is actually most important to me(For this question, it is best to take out a pen and paper and actually write it down. That way, you can see it–it will become more real to you. Create a numbered list, or rate the importance of each item on a scale of 1-10.) 
  • What “should be” more important to me–and is it because I believe it should be, or someone else believes it should be? (This is important for figuring out who and what you want to be–regardless of what others believe for themselves or for you.)
  • What will make me become who I want to be? How is my time best spent in order to achieve my goals?

How does it look? Did you remember to factor in sleep, eating, and other health needs? Did you remember your family? Your friends? Taking care of your living space (since dorm rooms aren’t much of a home)? How about classes? Student organizations? Alone time? Make that list juuust right, because this is your framework!

A Way of Life

Now that you know where your desires truly lie, follow them. And stop worrying about everything else. If it’s not important to you, it’s not worth your time. (Feel free to tweet that.)

The way you do that is by using your Situational Priorities to your own advantage.

The way you follow your own priorities–which truly are your goals, desires, and needs–is by constantly asking yourself if you’re fulfilling them. Are you spending enough time on #1? Or are you concentrating all of your energy on #1, but ignoring #2, #3, and #4? Are you spending too much time on Facebook when you rated homework or friends higher on your list?

Out of these questions, you form mini-priorities (yes, your Situational Priorities)–whether it’s for tonight, for the rest of your week, or maybe even for a month. Tonight, will you forego a homework assignment to get some more sleep? Or do you need that assignment in order to reach your goals for your grades? This week, will you decide to spend more time alone to recoup from a few busy days?

Soon, these questions won’t be intentional, and you’ll start to operate based on your priorities. You’ll be far less stressed–after all, what’s the point in worrying about something that you now know isn’t as important to you as some other things?

The key is to make sure your time is truly reflecting how you want to live your life. Then, and only then, can you begin the journey to effectively managing your school stress.

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