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By Gus Bode

As we near the halfway point of the fall semester, many students are trying to figure out how to get everything accomplished on their to-do list and still have time for relaxation and socializing.’ ‘

The demands from classes, work, family and friends seem to increase exponentially. This increase in demands and the feeling of being pulled in numerous directions leads to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated or even depressed.’

So let’s break this down and figure out how we obtain that hope for balance in life. Priorities are the things and activities that are important to you or that you want to get done. For example, spending time with your friends may be important to you.’ Demands are the activities and things that others want you to do. For example, professors assign you homework and set dates for your midterm exam.’ ‘


A classmate wants you to join a study group or a volunteer organization. Most difficulties between priorities versus demands are because of your own priorities conflicting with other peoples’ priorities (i.e. demands).

Learning to balance priorities and demands is the basic task for structuring one’s life so it isn’t too empty or too full.

If you are the type of person who has difficulty saying no, wants to always please other people or wants to avoid conflict, you may find yourself feeling overcommitted and overwhelmed.’

If this describes you, it’s time to sort out what is more and less important to you. Make a list of all your commitments and obligations – class attendance, homework, sleeping, eating, your job, social activities, volunteer work, exercise, etc.

Now sit back and ask yourself, ‘What it really important to me?’ and ‘What are my priorities for this week, this month, this semester?’ Once you’ve answered these questions, begin to rank order your commitments to reflect what is important to you: your priorities.

Keep in mind, that importance is relative. For example, getting your homework done may be a low priority, but getting a B in your class is a high priority.

This means you have to make time for the homework in order to get that B. After you’ve created and ranked in order your list, review it and make sure your rankings reflect both your short-term goals and your long-term goals.


After all, spending time with friends may be your short-term goal, but if you perform poorly in classes and get on academic probation you are risking your long-term goal of obtaining your college degree.

So how do you successfully ‘live’ your priorities while balancing the demands? Let’s say your main priorities are keeping close friendships, getting a 3.0 GPA and keeping physically fit.

With each new opportunity or request you need to ask yourself how this fits into your priorities. If it doesn’t, say no.

When you have competing priorities, you will have to learn to compromise or negotiate.

Example: A good friend invites you to hear a band perform tonight. You want to spend time with your friend, but also want to get that B on your midterm.’ Time to balance those competing priorities. For example,’ ‘No, I can’t go out tonight. I have a midterm exam in two days.’ But I do want to spend time with you. How about going to the Recreation Center to work out and have dinner together in the dining hall before I study and you hear the band?’

The negotiation allows you to successfully meet your priorities.

Simmons, Ph.D., is the director at the Counseling Center