I stared at the clock in disbelief. It was 2.30 in the morning. I had spent the last three hours rushing to complete my 25-page report. I was exhausted and had not had enough sleep for several weeks. My schedule was fully packed with campus events, band practice, volunteer work, part-time jobs, assignments and tests. I loved college but it seemed that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I was burnt out and all for just one reason… I could not say “no”.
Back when I was a college freshman, my friends would encourage me to take up extracurricular activities while studying in order to get the best of college life. My coursemates often requested my help with their club fundraising events. Being a person who could never turn down a friend’s invitation, I took up their offer without a second thought. It was fun at first, as I could meet new people and learn many new things. However, the workload increased and began to take toll on my well-being. Besides feeling exhausted, I did not have enough time for myself. Every weekend was spent juggling part-time jobs and volunteer work.
For example, I once applied to become a volunteer for a marathon charity event. Two weeks before the marathon, my housemate asked if I could help her with some library duties. I immediately said “yes” without first checking my schedule. That night, I was shocked when I opened my diary. The dates of the marathon overlapped with my library duties! I quickly came up with a plan on how I could do both at the same time. Luckily, the marathon was held in the morning while library duties were scheduled in the afternoon. Great! I could juggle two tasks on the same day. Sadly, my plan was a recipe for disaster. The marathon ended late and I was forced to work in the library until the evening. To make matters worse, I had a deadline to meet the next day. After all of that, I barely had any energy left to tackle the following week.
As time went by, I began having difficulties concentrating on my studies. I was constantly sleepy and late for my classes. However, I still continued to add more projects and roles to my already strained schedule without considering the consequences. Due to the amount of projects I took on, my social life took a hit. No longer able to spend time with friends, I started to feel lonely and miserable. I decided to discuss this issue with one of my close friends and the campus counselor. After sharing my problems with them, I felt much better and came to a conclusion. I needed to prioritize the right things in my life.
I began by reducing the number of extracurricular activities I would participate in. I had to admit it was one of the toughest decisions I’d to make in my college life. There were times when I had to decline a friend’s invitation and missed out on doing things that might seemed enjoyable or interesting. But by the end of the semester, my life had undergone a huge transformation. For the first time of my 3-year college life, I got to hang out with my friends again and enjoy myself. I did not feel so stressed out anymore. Furthermore, I could attend classes and stay energized throughout the day. I also started to exercise as a way to keep myself fit and healthy. When I was extremely busy, I had no time to prepare my own meals. I consistently ate unhealthy fast food and frozen meals, quickly gaining weight in the process. After prioritizing correctly, I was able to find time to prepare healthy meals for myself.
I’m so glad that I decided to take action in changing my lifestyle. I’ve since realized how important it is to set priorities in our lives and not overburden ourselves with things that, comparatively, are not important. Be honest with what you really want. Learn to say “no” when you are struggling to cope with an increased workload. Don’t worry, new opportunities will present themselves each day. Having more does not mean your life is more fulfilled. Sometimes, having less enables you to concentrate on doing what is most meaningful in your life.