Mind your mind: Focus on how to balance your time and energy

Welcome back from reading break! Hopefully you enjoyed some well-deserved time off and used it to recharge amidst the soul-sucking midterm season. As you ease back into the swing of classes, I want to share some thoughts and tips on spending your energy wisely for the rest of the term to avoid burning out sooner rather than later.

A conversation with my roommate in the past week propelled me to reflect more on time and energy, and how we may not be the best at balancing the two. It’s not uncommon to hear these two words being thrown around together, but somehow a greater focus has been emphasized on saving one and not the other.

Oftentimes, you hear people — myself included — despairing over how they don’t have enough time to do all the things they need to do, that 24 hours in a day is not enough, etc. Sounds familiar, right? It doesn’t help that the society we live in encourages and commends the sacrifice of our precious leisure time, meal times and hours of sleep to fit in more hours for work — whether it’s to simply cross off everything on our to-do lists, to get ahead or to catch up.

While it’s admirable and important to know how to maximize your allotted hours and get the most out of each day, it’s just as important to know how to maximize productivity and this sometimes means simply knowing where and when to spend your energy.

People are usually more concerned with being productive with their time as opposed to being productive with their energy. Perhaps this is because time is out of the reach of human control, whereas the amount of energy we expend every day is more or less malleable to our own willpower.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with pushing yourselves to the point of exhaustion and it’s easy to think this is where the limit is, that exhaustion is the brink of your energy stores. However, once you bring yourself to the edge of your energy limit every single day, it gets easier to burn out earlier in the school term as opposed to later. So, are you being as productive as you could be? You can be optimistic and tell yourself you can push yourself 110 per cent each morning, but sometimes your mind and body aren’t able to bend to sheer willpower — and that is completely okay.

Sometimes, you might find yourself in the position of deciding if you have not just the time but also the energy to pursue a certain task. Energy isn’t all that different from time — you only have an allotted amount to spend each day (whether you like this or not, you’re only human). You’re not always going to have the same levels of energy each day, but that just means you have to be smart about where you deposit this energy. This means:

Knowing which tasks to prioritize and which ones to come back to later

It’s inevitable that you find yourself having too many things to do on certain days, and sometimes the reality is that you just don’t have the energy to do them all. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and you don’t have the necessary energy to finish each task to the best of your abilities.

This might not be an issue of time management, but an issue of priority. Which deadline is closest? Which assignment is worth more? Which one do you personally care about most? It’s not practical to take on the smaller, inconsequential tasks just to get them out of the way when you have more important ones looming over your shoulder.

Decide how much energy you have for that day and which tasks take priority. Don’t worry, you will have time tomorrow to come back to the ones you left unfinished.

Acknowledging your personality type as either leaning towards being more introverted and extroverted

This is a tricky one since human personalities are never fully one or the other, but getting a general sense of how your energy rises or decreases in social settings can impact your level of productivity.

As students, being social is largely one of the main outlets of energy you expend in a day, and it’s hard to properly focus on your studies when your brain is exhausted from forcing yourself to be social when you’d rather be enjoying a restful time at home. Conversely, it’s just as hard to focus when your mind is brimming with restless energy and you find yourself with no outlet.

Keep in mind it’s also just as important to know what kind of people you are spending your energy on, because, let’s be honest, some people are more exhausting to be around than others. Choose wisely. It’s okay to keep your own best interests in mind.

Taking breaks

I know I’ve mentioned this a lot in my previous articles, but I can’t stress how crucial it is to let your mind and body rest when they need to. You are only human — as much as some might fancy themselves otherwise — and you are allowed to be. You are allowed to stop in the middle of the day and give yourself a break.

I definitely understand the pressure of racing against the clock, but what most people — myself included — forget is that while we only have 24 hours in a day, there will be a next day. And a next. And a next.

Save your energy to meet the time when it comes.