How I Balance College, Writing, Reading & Solving the World’s Problems

Are you trying to save the world and go to college at the same time? Well, maybe not. Perhaps you’re just trying to edit a 120,000 word book, read a gigantic tome, and eat regularly.

If you’re like me, adulting takes away a lot of time. And by adulting, I mean, going to school, working, or just living. Living is time consuming. You don’t have afternoons off to read, and weekends free to plot out stories.

Instead, there’s barely moments to sneak in a scribbled idea, or late nights to read until exhaustion.

But, I’m not quite content with that. I don’t want to be reading and writing just by a fringe. Instead, I would like it be a lifestyle. Part of my life that practically nothing can take away.

So. how does that work? How can an extremely busy person find time to get everything done and read and write?

I’m not an expert, but I’m working on managing time. From one busy soul to another, here are my best suggestions.

balancing college life writing, saving the world

 

Skip out on Social Media

Social Media vacuums up spare time like squirrels steal acorns. Any extra moment you thought you had, is just gone. Nadda. Zip. Non-existent.

Solution? Don’t use Social Media.

Easier said than done, I know. But social media doesn’t just ruin your spare time, it stresses you out.

Friends all getting married? Feeling wistfully single.

Everyone arguing about the confederacy and local politics on Facebook? Suddenly frustrated with the lack of education.

Mindlessly skimming through minion memes? #timewaster Time for dinner already and you’ve not finished any homework

social mediaYou get it. Social media just makes you more anxious and less inclined to read and write.

But it’s nearly impossible to get rid of ALL of it, so I take short breaks each week.

I don’t check Facebook Sundays and Wednesday. At least I try not to.

Some days, I forget and casually start scrolling. But I love challenging myself to see how long I can go without opening Facebook.

Made it all day Sunday? Let’s see if I can make it till noon Monday.

This semester’s record is just after 4pm on Monday. Maybe I’ll go a whole two days in a row sometime this month!

I also deleted the FB app, stopped Insta notifications, and turned off Twitter alerts. This helps me not notice the incessant notifications. And hopefully, leads to checking the accounts less often. At least, that’s the theory. Oh, and I deleted my Snapchat in May, so I don’t even have to worry about that account!

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

I have a goal – 7 hours of sleep a night. And a handy app on my phone that lets me know when I’ve missing my goal. And it gets super annoying when it reminds me that I have sleep debt. You missed 2 hours of sleep last night. Go to bed earlier! Um, I can’t. Sorry phone app.

Sleep is important. It sets the tone for your day and keeps your refreshed.
You can’t study, write, or be on top of life when you’re fighting exhaustion.

It is a fight to get enough sleep. You have to be prepared. Because college and sleep aren’t exactly friendly to each other.

So here’s a few steps I’ve taken.

Turn my phone on silent at 10.

Don’ t check any social media after 11.

Study in the early evening, morning, or afternoons. Unless absolutely necessary don’t stay up studying after 11:30.

Sometimes, it’s hard. Ok, a lot of the time. But it’s healthier. And more productive.

And if you’re behind on sleep, an hour long afternoon nap is a great remedy. 🙂

I also try to get up around the same time every day. Between 6:30 to 7. Some days, it’s more like 7:15. But I try not to sleep past 7:30. Keeping my morning routine helps sets the whole day successfully.

Invest in Friends More than your Characters

Writers need friends. You need relationships in your life. Invest in relationships before spending hours alone writing.

Otherwise, you’ll end up only having your characters for friends. And that’s just depressing.

Instead, focus on the real world. Study with people. Hang out downtown. Listen to a friend’s struggle.

If you don’t live in the real world, you can’t write authentically in your own world.

Your friends don’t just help your writing, they help you. When you’re in a brain fog, friends help you clear your head. They might, if you bribe give them chocolate, listen to your crazy plot ideas.

My friends have helped me see my characters more clearly – and pointed out when I was just a little, well, maybe a lot, crazy.

They also help pull you back. A reminder not meeting your own deadline isn’t the end of the world. It’s ok that your book isn’t perfect yet. That you need sleep. Or time outside. Or focused homework time.

Honest friends are good. Without them, you’ll get overloaded and drive yourself crazy.

Don’t Mindlessly Read

Reading is escapism for me. I find it very easy when I’m overwhelmed to just curl up and read. Simple, easy fluff books. And kindle unlimited really helps with that.

But that’s not the best way to read. I need to read hard books. Books that make me think. Books that challenge my write, stretch my ideas, and grow me personally.

So I unsubscribed from Kindle Unlimited. Saves me $14 a month. And instant access to easy reads. #winwin

It’s incredibly hard to find time to read. So it’s important to stop reading mindlessly and start reading purposefully. Read a biography. A book on theology. Or, gasp, my homework! Ok, I’m actually pretty good at reading my homework. 🙂 

And I’m really preaching at myself with this point, because I’m so terribly guilty of mindlessly reading. 🙁 

It’s Ok to not get it ALL done. At least all right now

As my friends like to tell me,* you can’t get it all done. And as the wisest man in the world said, There’s a time for everything.**

While in college, I do need to focus on grades and homework. While at work, it’s important to be active and do a good job.

Wherever you are, be all there

When you are writing, be all there. When you are reading, be all there. When you are with friends, be all there. When you’re resting, be all there.

It doesn’t all have to happen at once. Breathe, relax, and don’t worry. The books aren’t going away. Your ideas are simply ruminating. And time will come.

*See above point about good friends

**Solomon in Ecclesiastes 

let's chat

Do you take breaks from social media?

How much sleep do you manage to get? Are you a morning or night person?

Do you share your writing with your friends? A braver question – are any of your characters nearly clones to your friends?

And how do you stop mindlessly reading? 

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A Redheaded Texas Gal. I love the woods and thrive where there’s green grass and room to grow. I dream of living in a used book store and wearing period costumes to work everyday. In the meantime, I’m studying Journalism and Political Science, and trying to follow Jesus wherever He leads.
  • Jennifer Garey

    What a great post! I really need to take most of these points into consideration. I’ll be honest, I don’t have many friends so my characters are usually based off of people I see in public. But each character always takes some characteristics of my friends and family!

    • Elizabeth Hunter

      Thanks! It seems like the vast majority of writers are introverts, so I’m sure most characters aren’t run by as many friends as mine are. I’m just completely extroverted, so it’s much easier for me to live in both my writing and investing in people.
      Thanks for commenting!

  • Oh this is such a great post – and fabulous advice here, thank you. I do try to take breaks from social media on certain days, or at least check them a bit less…they’re soul-sucking, really, ahah, before you know it you’re spending hours and hours on end just scrolling and not doing anything 🙂
    thank you for the lovely advice 🙂