Balancing your study time and social life can help you enjoy the college years.

It’s the first day of the semester examination. Students turn up bleary-eyed and tense, having stayed up all night studying. They’ve spent the last few days furiously exchanging notes and uploading presentations from lectures on to online forums. Some have been texting back and forth, trying to crack the examination pattern and figuring out which chapters are safe not to study and can be left to the luck of “choice.”

Now, this may not be the case with all students. Of course, there are the sensible and forward-thinking few who manage to work steadily throughout the semester, keep all their notes up to date, and need no more than a quick review to get ready for that dreaded final. These students are the envy of almost all the others. Like the proverbial grasshopper, the rest have fiddled the semester away — and no doubt had a lot of fun in the process — and are now wondering where all the time (and the class notes) went.

Middle path

Surely there is a middle path? There must be a way to enjoy all that college life has to offer without losing out on the learning, or pushing it to a point where nothing less than an all-nighter will do. If you look carefully, there are students — a handful in every class — who manage to take full advantage of the extracurricular opportunities, and also get the most out of the courses. It is from them that lessons in survival and productivity must be learnt. They have discovered — or perhaps stumbled upon — a way of doing and being that will hold them in good stead through life.

Last fortnight we spoke about balancing the needs of different courses in a programme. The larger balancing act however has to do with balancing work and play, fun and discipline, relaxation and application. It is those bursts of enjoyment that give you the energy and enthusiasm for the hard work and the tedium of (some) class work. But in equal measure, it is the regular immersion in class notes that makes the fun even more fun in relief.

So while you are working out a calendar that will guide you through the work of the semester (such things as assignment deadlines, lab schedules, meetings with professors), also make note of the empty pockets of time that show up. Make sure you make time for those college picnics, movies, coffees and teas and gupshups that add spice to the routine. But also make sure you space these out sensibly. If you manage your course work sensibly, you will find that there is time even towards the end — when everyone else is rushing around trying to play catch-up — for you to relax and refresh yourself before the last burst of activity that is needed to prepare for the examinations.

Doing nothing

If you think carefully about how your time is consumed through the semester, I’ll bet you that (most of the time) it slips into a deep crevice called “nothing in particular.” It’s very important to have some of those hours available to you at the end of the semester when you are scrambling for time and wishing it would stand still for the next assignment. Unfortunately, we can’t put away time and pull it out when we need it, but exercising a little caution in accepting every social invitation you receive may help.

I’m certainly not recommending that we over-schedule our lives, or that we micro-manage every moment and allocate blocks of time firmly to work and play. After all, it is the sudden and unexpected get-togethers and outings that are so much more fun and memorable. It is more about developing a sense of proportion and timing. The first allows you to judge how much fun is good, or how much enjoyment is truly enjoyable. The second tells you when it is okay to do something and when you should probably be spending time on doing something else.

Planning of this kind also prepares you for the more important task of balancing the different aspects of your life as you move into the professional sphere. That thing called work-life balance? Well, this is what we are talking about. In college, it’s just called by another name: study-fun balance!

The writer teaches in the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, and is editor of Teacher Plus. www.teacherplus.org. Email: usha.raman@gmail.com