College is about knowing when to stop

College is about knowing when to stop

The beginning of a new semester is an ideal time to reflect and refine for upperclassmen and freshmen alike. As I enter my junior year, I have again taken time to look back over the previous four semesters of college and figure out what worked, what didn’t and what needs to change this time around. 

This reflection has provided me with ample food for thought as I try to self-evaluate and improve. If I were to summarize all of these lessons into one pithy piece of advice, though, it would be this:

Know when to stop.

As I look back on my career at UA, every mistake I’ve made and success I’ve achieved has been defined by my relationship to this principle at that time.

Sometimes the application is overwhelmingly simple. It’s obviously important to know when to stop procrastinating that paper or putting off studying for that test that is next week, and many useful hours will be lost if you don’t know when to stop watching Netflix or scrolling through Twitter to get around to those 30 pages of reading assigned for class tomorrow. That simplicity doesn’t mean the execution is perfect or even easy, though. Some of these same negative tendencies defined the beginning of my college career and I have had to explore and test many different study methods to avoid falling back into old patterns. 

However, this principle doesn’t apply only to academic endeavors. Setting these personal boundaries is important not only because it develops a sense of time management, but also because it sets a framework for healthy mental, physical, and emotional habits. 

These less quantifiable boundaries are the ones I have personally found most difficult to maintain. Academic performance is evaluated often throughout the semester, so goals can be visualized, tracked, maintained, and adjusted with relative ease, but healthy and unhealthy thought processes and physical habits aren’t always easy to pinpoint and extra care must be taken in these more abstract areas.

So, know when to stop poring over textbooks and notebooks and take a break, eat, or simply go to sleep. 

Know when to stop throwing a pity party over a bad grade, a fight with your roommate, or a bad decision. 

Know when to stop doing everything else and clean your room, do some laundry, or take out the trash.

Know when to stop listening to that voice in the back of your head incessantly repeating that you’re not smart, strong, or established enough to achieve all that you’ve set out to do.

Know when to stop planning for all the things you hope to accomplish and begin taking the first steps toward accomplishing them.

So, where does this knowledge come from? Certainly it isn’t inherent; the only way to obtain it is to dive in head first and learn from the failures and successes that are found therein. This journey toward heightened self-awareness is daunting and often requires hard conversations, injured pride, bravery, and mistakes, and college, while designed to educate and prepare you for the workforce, is also the ideal time to take this plunge.

Emily Strickland is a junior majoring in journalism. Her column runs biweekly. 

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