By Nigel Becker
What does your schedule look like? Maybe it features strictly classes, studying, club meetings and an internship. Or maybe your schedule looks like a seven-day weekend full of rest, relaxation and minimal studying.
If your schedule is identical to one of those two, then you have a problem. College is about balancing priorities – academic, professional and social. Making time for everything is tough, but you can do it!
Regardless of whether you are in one club or ten, taking 12 credit hours or 18, keep these tips in mind as you try to strike a balance between your professional and school life.
Set Aside Time for Everything
That includes your social life! As an Ohio State student, you are here to learn, but learning takes place inside and outside of academics. If you spend every moment studying, then you miss the chance to meet new people and have new experiences.
Schoolwork matters – a lot. But so does your social life. Just as you designate an afternoon to work on a paper or tackle a spreadsheet assignment, set aside some evenings to hang out with friends or swing by a fun club meeting.
Especially around midterms and finals, this suggestion is easier said than done, but if you can unwind with friends, you will return to your work newly recharged.
“Unplug” While You Work
This would have been splendid advice in 2000. Today, your “work” – whether school, internship or extracurricular – probably depends on whatever device you would unplug.
But wait! The main point – shooing away distractions – holds true. Find a way to maintain access to the tech you need, then put away the rest.
- Turn off your phone — or leave it in another room.
- Install an app or extension that blocks distracting apps and websites. Zapier offers a superb overview of seven such apps. offers a superb overview of seven such apps.
- Look at the Office of Technology and Digital Innovation for more ways to keep distractions at bay.
Minimizing distractions while working will allow for a more efficient work environment where you not only will get more work done, but you will have more time for socializing.
Make a Checklist
The next time you need to keep track of the day’s tasks, make a checklist. Checking off a completed item is quite satisfying, and more importantly, you can easily see which tasks you finished and which ones remain.
Taking it a step further, perhaps you could even balance out the academic and professional items on the list with social “tasks” such as dinner with friends.
Get the Job Done – Then Move On
“Perfectionism is great,” said the lucky person who never faced due dates or competing commitments. For everyone else, excessive attention to detail leads to time crunches, missed deadlines and an under-nurtured social life.
To have time for a social life, you need to spend the right amount of time on your academic and professional obligations. But what is “the right amount of time?” After all, “eh… good enough” does not lead to impressive portfolios and dazzled employers.
A good rule of thumb is to strategically go above and beyond. If you find a way to make your PowerPoint look snazzier in ten minutes, go for it. But if it purely cosmetic and takes two hours, consider other, more satisfying uses of time. Dennis Learning Center offers several tips on tackling perfectionism.
If you struggle to tame your perfectionism and you feel like it is out of control, therapy can also be helpful as the Wexner Medical Center points out.
Learn to Say “No”
Do you always answer “me!” when someone asks for a volunteer? If so, you probably know this tendency leads to some great experiences … and an overstuffed schedule with little time for friends (or sleep).
Saying “yes” is key to professional development. “No” does not result in portfolios, connections, or bullet points for resumes. But saying “yes” too much can lead to unfinished work and shallow relationships, hardly the ingredients for a winning career. Push yourself to do as much as you can, as well as you can, without cutting corners on existing commitments or jeopardizing your social life.
If you struggle to say “no,” the Harvard Business Review offers an excellent set of strategies to turn down more work when you cannot fit it in your schedule.
Move Beyond Binaries
Early in my college career, I felt guilty if I spent too much time socializing. An evening at a Zoom social or a pizza party was an evening of not watching LinkedIn training or rereading textbooks.
But that outlook misses some very important points. For one thing, socializing is an education. Furthermore, you never know when your social life could pay educational or professional dividends. Maybe a friend is taking the same class as you are – hello, study buddy! Or perhaps a friend has had an internship at your favorite PR firm and could help you snag an internship.
Opportunity can knock in unexpected places. If you focus just on professional development, you could miss other meaningful experiences.
Take Advantage of the Tools You Already Have
When you need to hammer a nail, you use a hammer, not a shoe. The same logic applies to academics and professional endeavors: use the best tool you can for the job, and do not make tasks needlessly difficult.
Depending on the task, you probably have tools through your clubs or university.
- If you need an internship, start with PRSSA’s internship database
- The Office of Student Life offers great internship-scouting tips, too. Get the job done as fast as you can to maximize social life.
- For networking, explore PRSSA’s networking opportunities
- If a class is giving you trouble, try Ohio State’s tutoring service. It will help you much more than staring helplessly at your homework!
When you waste time on distractions or unnecessary tasks, you short-change your social and professional lives. And when you nurture one while neglecting the other, you can end up unfulfilled (or flunking, depending on which one you ignore).
College is a balancing act, but if you follow these tips, your academic, professional and social lives can all blossom at the same time!