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The Art of Balancing Academics and Social Life: How to Keep Up as a Student

Richard is the class’ most popular kid.

He has many friends, he’s good at weaving into conversations, able to meet up with everyone, yet still have personal time to spare.

You envy that kind of lifestyle, and wish you could do the same. But when you try it, it feels almost night and day. Your homework is left unfinished every day, you always feel like you’re rushing from one place to another without catching a break. In the end, you feel helpless.

It almost feels impossible to juggle academics and a social life together, but is it really? 

Today we’re here to take a crack at a long-standing ‘myth’ so we can answer the question: “Can I maintain a healthy social life, while keeping up with good grades?

Here is an index for you to refer to what we’ll be guiding you on today.

Why is a Work-Life Balance Important for a Student?

A student like you faces different challenges every daily which often pushes you to be your best. This is especially so in Singapore where studies have become much more competitive over the years. It can feel unforgiving at times when you fall behind. 

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And so to avoid this stress from racking up, taking care of your mental and physical well-being is very important. Whether it be improved academic performance, personal development, relationship-building, or establishing healthy habits for the future, this balance between your student and personal life ensures that you have a fulfilling and successful youth.

To break it down, we’ll talk about these 3 key takeaways: Ranking Priorities, Time Management, Maximising Productivity.

Rank Your Priorities: Who/What Truly Matters to You?

To find a balance, you must know your limits.

Time is limited as a student, and so we students all want to make the best use of our time. In the process, we have to learn to give up on certain things to make time for others!

And so we’re here to help you make it easier to manage your social life. But what parts of your social life are you focusing on? It’s alright if you don’t give us an answer now, we’ll teach you how to draw it out of your subconscious using a simple trick.

Solution: Process of elimination! 

Everyone has different priorities, whether it be their hobbies or their commitments. So put them against each other to identify who and what matters to you the most

How to Get Started with Ranking Priorities

Outside of your time with family, determine who and what you want to spend your time on the most after considering these factors!

Friends & Peers

[Freepik / jcomp]

The Good:

  • Stronger Relationships: You will experience deeper connections, increased trust, and a sense of belonging within your social circle.
  • Emotional Support: You’ll have opportunities to share experiences, seek advice, and receive emotional support during challenging times in your life.
  • Broadened Perspectives: Interacting with diverse individuals can expose you to different perspectives, ideas, and cultures, broadening your horizons and promoting personal growth.
  • Approachability: A friend of a friend, is a friend of mine! It’s always good to stay in touch with people so that you’re always kept in the loop! You’ll also be kept company in school almost all the time!

When you’re older, your approachability can also lead to valuable networking connections, potential collaborations, and future career opportunities. 

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[Freepik / LipikStockMedia]

  • Fun and Recreation: You’ll be enjoying your youth to the fullest! Birthdays, chalet trips, BBQ parties, movies, group dinners, celebratory outings and participating in social trends and events are some of the things that you’ll be taking part in!

The Bad:

  • More hours on the phone: Having to read, reply and keep up to date with messages and on social media. These can become distractions and give you a habit of procrastinating and hurt your productivity levels.
  • Peer Pressure: In certain social situations, there may be pressure for you to conform to certain behaviours or make choices that you may not agree with.
  • Conflict and Drama: If you’re close with someone, differences in ideals will be inevitable. If not handled correctly, it may lead to temporary or sometimes permanent tensions or misunderstandings. This falling out can create negativity throughout your school years.
  • Neglecting Personal Needs: There is an increased risk of spending too much time with your friends, that you may neglect self-care, personal goals, or alone time.

Romantic Relationships / Best Friend

[Freepik]

The Good:

  • Emotional Connection: Close relationships are strengthened with increased company. Spending quality time together allows for open communication and understanding.
  • Support and Companionship: Sharing experiences, challenges, and successes can strengthen the relationship and create a sense of teamwork and compatibility.
  • Growth and Personal Development: Partners can learn from each other when given time. You can gain new perspectives, and learn to support each other’s aspirations and goals.

The Bad:

  • Conflict and Drama: Close relationships at a young age can cause a series of rash and immature decisions. When this happens, it can be difficult to sustain the relationship and may lead to more complications that pervade through your entire school life.

  • Dependency and Isolation: Over-prioritising time with a close partner can lead to dependency on each other for social interaction, potentially isolating you from other important relationships and activities, as well as your potential for self-development.

Online Groups & Communities

Engaging in online social groups, clubs, or communities that align with a student’s interests can be vital. These groups offer opportunities for shared activities, discussions, and connections with like-minded individuals, and can give you a way to detach yourself from the stress of work.

The Good:

  • Sense of Belonging: Online social groups and communities can provide a sense of belonging and connection, within the comforts of anonymity. It allows you to talk to like-minded individuals who share similar interests, values, or goals, fostering a sense of community and support.
  • Shared Activities and Events: Whether it be your favourite game, or your favourite idols, music and shows, you can participate in these shared activities, events, or causes. This can lead to enjoyable experiences, personal fulfilment, and a sense of purpose.

The Bad:

  • Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction: Online socialising lacks the face-to-face interaction that in-person interactions offer. This can sometimes lead to a sense of disconnection without a tangible way to experience these established relationships in the real world.

[Unsplash]

  • Time Sink and Distractions: Chatting online can become time-consuming, and it’s easy to get caught up in endless scrolling or discussions. It’s important to manage your time effectively and avoid getting overwhelmed or distracted.

After laying it out, we’re sure you have a vague idea of what you feel is important to you now. We would like to give you another mental exercise to allow you to understand these priorities yourself:

Say you have 5 hours to spend today.

Your closest friend / romantic partner is having her birthday today. Your favourite mobile game that you’ve been playing has just released a highly anticipated character at the same time. What’s this? Your mother wants you to buy the groceries and make sure you’re attending your piano lesson tonight as well!

School relationship: Close person’s birthday. 

Personal Time / Community: Your favourite game and the online community. 

Family: Your household obligations. 

Personal Development: An extracurricular activity for self-growth.

How are you allocating these 5 hours today?

Manage Your Time: Do I Have a Schedule of My Own?

[Unsplash]

When you’ve gotten your priorities straight, it is now time to hone our ability to manage our time

We’re told from young that our main responsibility is to study. So we attend lessons every weekday like clockwork and become used to this lifestyle. But as we get too accustomed to timetables, many students lose the ability to be independent! You become lost when you’re outside of school.

Solution: We make an “after-school” timetable ourselves! 

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of organising a simple schedule like this can be. When you don’t have a good plan of your time, things can get messy real quick! You move from one place to another like a headless chicken, resulting in a lot of time wasted travelling inefficiently. Events can also slip your mind, causing you to be absent in social events like birthdays and planned group trips.

To chart your destinations in the best possible way, and keep tabs on the important parts of your student life outside of school, it is imperative to build a personalised timetable to solve these problems!

How to Get Started with Time Management 

Plan events within your timetable into these 8 categories (★ in importance)!

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1) ★★★ Sleep: Plan out your six to eight hours of quality rest everyday! Your brain maintains its health by making you sleep, so don’t mess with it! Chart these hours away, so that you can calculate how much time you have left for the day.

2) ★★★ Dinner / Bath: You want to map out how long it’ll take before you’re full and clean at home! Thirty minutes? An hour? If you want to squeeze out some time for yourself at home, charting these out is necessary!

3) ★★★ Chores / Responsibilities: If you know that you’re responsible for the household chores, or any other responsibilities that you have, keep them recorded as well! To appear trustworthy to others, you must have a good record of committing to your own responsibilities in a timely and conscientious manner.

[Unsplash]

4) ★★★ Homework / Study Time: Allocate dedicated blocks of time for completing assignments, studying for tests, and reviewing class materials. As you learn to schedule these blocks over time, you’ll gradually understand your learning pace and can set more realistic time limits for yourself. 

You’ll be surprised how little time it actually takes to complete your daily work when you put your mind to it!

5) ★★ Socialising and Relationships: Allocate time for spending with friends, family, and loved ones, whether it’s hanging out, chatting, or engaging in social activities! Instead of spreading them apart loosely, condense them into quality sessions that you can be a part of! 

When time is set aside beforehand for play, you’ll feel less pressure when you’re acting within a time frame that you have set for yourself.

6) ★★ Personal Time: Set aside time for relaxation, hobbies, self-care activities, and pursuing personal interests. Before taking care of others while socialising, you must take care of yourself first!

[Bedok View Secondary School]

7) ★ Extracurricular Activities: Outside of school obligations, if you have other lessons that you’re attending to better yourself, be sure to make time for them as well! This is especially important if these activities usually include your peers where you have a chance to mingle. 

However, it is important to note that too many of these external lessons can also act against your ability to juggle your time well. If your parents are signing you up for piano lessons for “your own good”, don’t feel pressured to say “NO” no if you know you cannot handle it!

8) ★ Physical Exercise: It doesn’t take a gym-goer to know that exercising keeps yourself mentally and physically healthy. When you have the time, dedicate a small portion for physical activities such as workouts, sports, yoga, or any form of exercise that helps you stay fit and energised.

Be warned, all of this planning will go to waste if you’re not disciplined enough to follow it. Remember that scheduling your time requires dedication and focus. If you’re easily distracted by short-term pleasures or feel an itch to procrastinate, do not hesitate to call out your parents to help you with this! 

When you feel independent enough, you’ll learn to commit to your own schedule without the need for supervision.

Stay Productive: Am I Doing Things Efficiently?

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Your priorities are set, your time is managed well. Now, are you doing things efficiently? We’re here to give you general tips and tricks to ensure that you’re in the right direction when it comes to time-crunching. 

For both sides, academic matters and social life, we’ve included 4-5 ways each to keep yourself on track!

How to Get Started with Maximising Productivity

Keeping Up With Your Academic Matters

Have Effective Study Strategies: Experiment with different study techniques to find what works best for you. This includes active reading, summarising information, creating flashcards, or teaching the material to someone else. Find YOUR way to enhance your understanding and retention of the material.

Set Goals: Identify your academic priorities and set clear goals! Determine what school tasks or assignments are most important (or overdue) and focus on those first. Having a short-term goal keeps you from procrastinating.

Do I want to ace my upcoming semestral test, a distinction or just a passable grade? Having a long-term goal will allow you to visualise the work you will have to put in, and allow you to allocate and space it out within your timetable effectively.

[The Straits Times]

Eliminate distractions: When it’s time to work, focus on the work! Minimise distractions while studying by finding a quiet and comfortable environment. Put away your phone or use apps that block distracting websites. Consider using time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for a set amount of time and then take short breaks.

Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Large tasks can be overwhelming, so break them down into smaller, manageable steps. This will make it easier to tackle them and provide a sense of progress. But it’s also not good to fall behind! Set specific deadlines for each step to stay on track.

Ensuring Your Social Life is Manageable

Learn to Say No: Set boundaries according to your priorities for your social activities. Identify the social events or groups that are most important to you and allocate your time accordingly. Learn to say no when necessary to avoid overcommitting yourself.

Effective Planning: If the scope of activities gets too wide, you can consider using a dedicated planner or digital calendar to schedule your social activities. Set aside specific time slots for socialising, ensuring that it doesn’t interfere with other important commitments or personal time. 

Be Selective: Choose social activities and groups that align with your interests, values, and goals. Focus on quality over quantity. Instead of hanging out for small talk at a nearby mall, you may want to participate more in movie-going or bowling sessions. Being selective helps you invest your time and energy in meaningful connections and experiences.

Communicate and Delegate: Communicate your availability and limitations to your friends, family, or social groups. Let them know your boundaries and commitments, so they understand your availability. Delegate tasks or responsibilities within social groups to distribute the workload and prevent overwhelming yourself.

Embrace Technology: Utilise technology to streamline your social interactions. Use messaging apps, video calls, or social media platforms to stay connected with friends and communities, especially when in-person meetings are not possible. This can save time and make socialising more manageable.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, my friend, striking a balance between academics and social life is key to thriving as a student. Remember to prioritise what truly matters to you, manage your time wisely, and stay productive. By finding this delicate equilibrium, you can enjoy a fulfilling student experience that combines academic success with a vibrant social life. 

It won’t be easy for sure, but keep at it and you’ll begin to enjoy the process of balancing your life as a student! Remember, the first step to this balancing act, is to take action now!

Keep up the great work, student! We wish you great success in your journey!

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via smiletutor.sg or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.