When it comes to success in university, less is more
Despite the pressure to take an "all-in" approach during our university years, minimizing overwork can actually yield maximum rewards in the long run
By Ardena Bašić, Opinion contributor
When you start university, everything seems a lot more challenging. Your high school teachers constantly warned about how strict professors would be, your peers spread the word about how difficult the courses are and the whole transition to this new stage of life feels incredibly intimidating.
With the fear of failure during this rather stressful point in their lives, what many first-year students turn to is an "all-in" approach. This approach could include of studying 24/7, never saying no to a party or social event due to fear of missing out, feeling the need to make friends with everyone and overall pressuring ourselves to put 100 per cent effort into all endeavours, all the time.
I personally focused all my energy on studying not only in just my first year but also in my second. This decision was motivated by the aforementioned factors of new beginnings and arduous challenges and my personal goals. As someone who desired a job in high finance or law — requiring grad school and the associated stellar achievements — I thought that any distractions or activities taken away from school and work would be impeding.
Very soon, however, the consequences of this approach become clear to me.
For one, you miss out on learning opportunities outside of your books. University is a time when we are exposed to new people, ideas and perspectives that can shape the way we think going forward; when we're trapped in the library all day, we fail to appreciate this and to build integral skills like social and emotional intelligence. As such, this "all-in" approach can limit our personal growth and development.
Secondly, we forget the importance of balance. I do not believe we are ever in a state of perfect equilibrium, but rather in a constant flow with different focuses at different points in our lives. However, making time to go for walks, read books for pleasure and not just to fill our brains, going to events and exploring Hamilton are pivotal to ensuring we are well-rounded individuals, experiencing all colours of the life we are meant to live.
Lastly, burnout, anxiety and stress are real — especially for students; the all-in approach only accelerates this fatigue and distress. Being too focused on achievement, as opposed to living, can cause us to resent the purpose of our hard work in the first place. Once this happens, it is easy to lose motivation and set yourself back, destroying the efforts of your focus and ambition.
With time and experience, I have come to embrace the "less is more" approach. You know yourself best and know how much you need to study for certain subjects and work to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Taking some time to reflect on your priorities can help you figure out how much time you need to spend in different areas of your life and how to allocate it accordingly.
Once I decided to spend my weekends with friends, breaks between classes at coffee shops and mornings at the gym, I felt clearer, healthier and more motivated to achieve my goals. Of course, there will be times when you must divert your energy elsewhere, like during exam season, but I believe that being flexible in your approach is the key to success in your dynamic university years and well beyond.