Learning to Balance Work and Fun

Rach, the “teen”

I moved into college about two weeks ago. So far things are going well: I have lots of new friends in my hall, my classes all seem superbly interesting and I’ve been applying for some pretty cool campus jobs.

My dilemma this week is: how can I learn to manage to work and play without losing my mind. That is, how can a teen living entirely independently for the first time learn to deal with studying and partying without getting overwhelmed by either?

My HA (hall advisor) says it’s best to plan out entire days, have scheduled time for “fun” – but that’s not how fun works. Spontaneity is half the fun of, well, fun. I’m really worried that I won’t leave enough time for just hanging around, or that I’ll burn out and not get any of my work done. What did you do, and how can I get my parents to help me out with this?

Mary, the “mom”

Wow, Rach! Great question and one that I wish I knew the answer to. I tend to be the kind of (uptight) person who has trouble having fun when there’s work hanging over my head. Don’t get me wrong, I like to kick back and relax and I like to have fun, but I like to get the work done first. Somehow I just can’t relax and enjoy when I know there something I should be doing. Or, in the case of a long term project, I need to know that I’m on track with it. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly when this kicked in. I think it was when I went to college and was terrified of letting my work slip.

So, I guess my answer would be: do the work, and then go have fun or at least plan a set time to do the work before you go have fun. It doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous. It just means that when some fun opportunity interrupts your work, you need to decide whether you will have time to do the work later. Sometimes, the answer will be no and if that’s the case you should probably turn down the fun opportunity.

Learning this balancing act is at the heart of my concerns about letting my son manage his own workload versus me keeping on top of him about it. He’s got to learn to make these decisions on his own before he gets to college. On the other hand, the objective right now is to get him there.