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On Keeping Busy: The Fine Line Between Balance and Overload

Tanner Newcomb on Tuesday, 13 September 2011. Posted in Clubs, Coursework, Student Life

To put it simply, I am energetic. I wake up with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step almost every morning, even when those mornings begin at 6am. Usually this perk is met with playfully judgemental glares from my coffee-fueled roommates, but sometimes that energy is contagious. This will sound a little weird to a lot of people, but there's nothing that envigorates me more than waking up knowing that I have fully loaded schedule, and that each and every day I can work down the list to cross off my accomplishments. That systematic planning and execution is what powers me; I thrive on order.

Now, why am I talking about this? What's the point? "So, you're peppy and  organized, lucky you!" I get that sometimes, it's true. But, I've come to understand that my happiness correlates directly with my business, and I think that (at least in some respect) that principle can be applied to everyone! Hear me out.

Studies have shown that the busier we are, the more organized we become. Why? Because we have to be, so our minds re-prioritize our wants/desires with our required tasks and push us to excel. I know plenty of people who go to class, do their work, maybe participate in a club or two, and go to bed. They classify their days as stressful but uneventful, and they sometimes exude this air of... defeat. They complain about their classes, the work they forgot to do, how crunched they are for time, etc. We all know the type. Believe me, I love to kvetch (kvetch [Yiddish]: to complain, especially chronically), but generally it's all in good fun. I began to ask myself, "Why are my friends so stressed, and miserable?" 

Don't get me wrong, I understand that courses can run you dry and squeeze the life from you. Sometimes you are just worked to the bone, and stressed beyond recognition. I used to be the same way, almost all the time. I felt overworked, and although I was maintaining good grades, I felt unhappy and bored. Towards the end of my Freshmen year, I began to realize that I could change these negative feelings. Slowly, I began to immerse myself in clubs and extra curriculars, and work. I was initially nerve-wracked at the idea of adding more to do on top of my class schedule, and it was a rough transition for the first few weeks. But, wouldn't you know it, I began to compensate! I started to think a little more clearly, and a few steps ahead. My schedule began to work itself out, and I always knew where I needed to be and when, and when an assignment was due. And best of all? I always had time to have fun. I was shocked, to say the least.

It took me almost my entire freshmen year to understand the concept I just explained. When I came back to RIT as a sophomore, I was amped up and ready to take the bull by the horns. My school year started as an Orientation Assistant, which is, hands down, the greatest way to energize yourself before the school year. I joined more clubs and became more active in them. I found a job on campus and worked that in, too. I woke up early every morning and my days went into the late evening. I was tired, but I was happy! In fact, I had never been so happy in my entire time at RIT. What I had done was find my niche as a student, worker, and leader. 

Business is like walking on a high-wire. You need to balance your responsibilities, as well as your free time. Too much of either and you'll fall (hopefully into a comfy safety net). Finding that balance can be tough, especially when social distractions get the best of us, and you will likely stumble. Don't worry, we all do! As long as you can lift yourself up and try again, you'll be amazed at how wonderful you can feel working 40+ hours a week as a student. The sense of accomplishment in knowing you've done a long days work is inexplicable. In 3 words: organize, prioritize, and adapt. 

This post has a lot of "me" and "I," but it's really about you! To new or prospective students: don't be afraid to jump into new activities and to try new things! Just because you've got a heavy course load doesn't mean you can't have fun on the side. To everyone else: break your normal habits of school, homework, study, sleep. It doesn't matter if you've been at RIT for 2 years or 6, there's something for everyone, truly!