The Psych Central Report

Back to School, Back on Schedule

by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
September 2005

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There's a certain comfort taken from routine that one appreciates as one gets older. At this time of the year, that means students heading back to school or university, and for the rest of us, preparing for the cold months ahead. Students who are already back to school may find themselves initially overwhelmed by the amount of work that is piling up. Parents may find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of money they have to spend, or the increased pressures placed on their time and schedule.

But it doesn't have to be this way. You can successfully handle the increased pressures of school and all the things that it brings to both students and parents.

Accept Daily Routines as a Student

One of the hardest lessons to learn as a student is to accept the routines of life. Students often rally against routine as somehow being "boring" or too mainstream. But routines bring structure, and structure brings project completion. There's no reason a routine can't include parties, social hang-out time, IM, gaming and Internet time. The sooner you get into and accept a routine, rather than fight against one, the sooner you'll find it easier to get schoolwork done.

A routine doesn't mean a written schedule, although many people find that using a day planner or calendar or the like helpful in keeping them organized. Try out different things and find a system that works for you. Some people like to make a daily or weekly "To Do" list, others like to informally break up their time ("Schoolwork during the week, party all weekend!"). Any system can work, as long as you find one that fits into your lifestyle and your needs.

Accepting a daily routine will help you better organize your needs and find the time to complete schoolwork on time and with greater quality. While you may still need to pull an all-nighter from time to time (hey, old habits die hard!), they will occur less often. A side effect of being less stressed is that you'll also likely be a better (e.g., more fun to hang around with) friend, student, or significant other.

Incorporate Their Needs Without Losing Yourself

One of the hardest lessons to learn as a parent is how to incorporate all of the school and social needs of your children without losing yourself or your own needs in the process. Parents often have a difficult time learning to delegate responsibility for their children's needs. Yet delegating such responsibility will ensure that you don't try and cram 34 hours of activity within a 24 hour day.

Delegation means, in part, talking to other parents and setting up a local social support network. For instance, just because your daughter needs to go to soccer practice doesn't mean you alone have to be responsible for getting her there every day. Find other parents that live around you where carpooling can be used. Bunch errands and chores together once a week, so you're not overwhelmed by running out every day for this or that. Better yet, have a spouse or family member help you out with the smaller stuff so that you can focus on the things that matter most to you.

By learning to delegate, you'll be learning that you don't need to feel overwhelmed with your children's school and social needs. This will make you a better parent as you'll be less stressed and more fun to be around!

Seek Balance by Finding Harmony

Harmony is your internal calm. Your life reflects how you feel -- about yourself, about others, about the priorities you've set for yourself. You won't achieve a balance in your life without first achieving that internal calm. And that internal calm won't occur if you're stressed out, feeling overwhelmed, and running around in circles.

Organize your needs and your priorities first. Find the daily routine in your life that is working for you. If your current routine isn't working, start changing it by changing just one thing you do every day. Maybe it means instead of beginning your day with rolling out of bed and running to class, you take some time to grab a bite to eat. Maybe it means instead of doing errands every day, you resolve to do them only once every other day.

They key is to start small with little things first. Too often people fail in trying to make changes in their lives or their routines because they try and change it all at once. Success will be achieved if you pick one smaller thing and work on changing that over the course of an entire week. Then pick another small thing, and take your time with it. Although this way will take longer, you're more likely to stick with the changes you make and find changes that make sense to you (not just random changes that someone else recommended).

Start today and before you know it, you'll be back on schedule!

Last updated: 7 Sep 2005
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Sep 2005
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