By Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life (Crown Business, February 2016).
Going to college is one of life’s big leaps. For the first time, students are expected to take responsibility for their choices – and there are a lot of them to make. They need to pick classes, sign up for extracurricular activities, and decide how often to do their laundry. They’re figuring out who they are and working out how to impress their new peers. And somehow, amid all that, they need to organize themselves to get work done. It’s as if they’re taking an unfamiliar new job in a foreign country, but without the benefit of any past life experience to draw on.
So how do they handle this wrenching, exciting transition? When I was a college student, I got feedback on my class contributions and term papers. But there was no guidance on the business of managing myself from day to day. As a result, I did what a lot of students do. I stayed up late. I ran every deadline to the last minute. I got upset when social situations felt challenging. I took on far too many activities – debating, singing, writing, student politics – then had something close to a breakdown when I finally started worrying about my grades in my senior year. That was when I was given some useful life advice for the first time. A favorite professor told me, “When you’re feeling overwhelmed, go sit in a park for a half-hour. Take some deep breaths. Think about what really matters.” I tried it, and of course it helped. I calmed down, refocused, and ended college in good shape. (more…)