Avoid burnout: finding work/life balance in college

By Zane Harding February 27, 2019

It is so easy to get caught up in working too hard or socializing too much in college. As the semester progresses, classes become harder, friend groups become closer, and commitments begin to pile up, whether that be extracurricular groups, jobs, volunteering, or anything else.

But there’s a catch. It’s easy to start the semester with a burst of motivation to succeed, get amazing grades, have a great time socially, and accomplish a ton. But as the semester goes on and the responsibilities pile up, it’s easy to push harder. And harder. Until you feel like I just can’t keep doing this. You’re burnt out.

College is hard, and college is time consuming. That said? College is also supposed to be fun and fulfilling. Here are a few tips to keep motivated as the semester goes on and avoid burnout, whether you’re on campus already or joining us as a part of the #Victors2023.


Go to class and set aside homework time

First things first: school. This is a university, obviously, and a huge part of college is learning. This might seem intuitive, but attending class is crucial to your college experience. As commitments pile up, it’s easy to oversleep one day and miss a lecture. One missed lecture turns into another, then another, then another, and before you know it, you haven’t attended class in three weeks and you have an exam on Thursday.

Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience, and if it happened to me, it can surely happen to you. Even if the time-slots aren’t ideal, attend your classes! They are a huge part of your learning experience. Besides, look at it this way: it is so much easier to do three hours of homework for a course when you don’t have to catch up three lectures before you even begin. That’s a quick and painful road to burnout if I’ve ever known one.

Another important step to take as a student is to set aside time in your schedule to complete your homework. Even this university’s most challenging classes, such as Math 217 (Linear Algebra), do not expect students to spend more than twelve hours per week on homework (in fact, I am directly quoting the Fall 2018 syllabus to Math 217 itself). That said, if you are in a strenuous class, you really should set aside that block of time in your calendar to get your work done. Not all classes will require a ton of hours of doing homework, but for the ones that do, set aside the time, and make sure to keep up on all of your tasks.

Procrastination may be natural, so a good schedule can at the very least keep you on track. Besides: you don’t want to overstudy either. Feeling behind can burn you out, but working too hard is what burnout is primarily associated with.


...But also set aside recreational time

While being a full-time student can be a huge time commitment – especially if you add in extracurricular groups and/or a part-time job – burnout is real, and if you don’t set aside the time to unwind, there is no way that you will make it through the entire semester with a “sprint” mentality. YouTuber Matt D’Avella discussed burnout in a recent video which discusses how that “sprint” mentality can lead to problems with both physical and mental health. Placing this into a collegiate context, burnout can negatively impact your grades, your social life, and every other aspect of your life.

Don’t book yourself to work all day, every day. Spend some time with friends. Pick up a hobby or side-hustle and find some personal time to pursue it and develop it. Just… don’t work on your one Computer Science course 20 hours per week. That is not the only reason you are at a university. Just as an example: as creative outlets to take my mind off of the stressors of school, I write for admissions (as you can see), and I write on the Detroit Tigers for Bless You Boys and on baseball in general for M-SABR. Additionally, I attend every Michigan Basketball game and make plans with friends multiple times per week.


Don’t forget to sleep

The last thing that so many students fail to do while at college is simply to sleep. Whether you’re waking up early in the morning or closer to noon, it is crucial to get an ample amount of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults aged 18 to 24 should get between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Not getting that amount of sleep – or oversleeping – can impact your performance in school or at work, and can impact your energy level when with friends. Do your body a favor and set aside the time to sleep. You’re better off getting proper sleep than burning yourself out studying late into the night on a regular basis, anyways.


Need Help?

If you do feel burned out, there is support for you. If you feel like you are struggling with mental health, CAPS is available to all students, as well as student organizations like the Wolverine Support Network. If you’re stuck on an essay, try the Sweetland Writing Center. If you’re worried about an exam, go to office hours or use resources such as the Math Lab. And if you’re stressed about your schedule, your academic advisor is always willing to help.

Zane Harding
Zane Harding

Zane is a graduating senior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts with a major in English. He first became passionate about writing when he helped found the Michigan Society for American Baseball Research (better known as M-SABR) and joined SB Nation's Bless You Boys contributing articles on the Detroit Tigers. Zane has spent the past month living vicariously through his Animal Crossing villager and looking at U-M job listings to pass the time during social distancing.