Don't Give it Your All: Only 80%
We hear it all the time from friends and family: stay in school and "give it your all." I appreciate the support and motivation but I don't exactly heed their advice; I only give it about 80%. It sounds counter-intuitive but pulling back actually affords me the opportunity to become a better student.
Not giving it my all allows me to:
Be available. I never know when a unique opportunity may arise that will require my immediate attention. If I'm completely booked with school work and related projects, I may miss out on an important experience. That's not to say that you should jump at everything that presents itself. Be selective and only take advantage of opportunities that are beneficial to you or the communities you support.
Be creative. Sometimes immersing myself too much in the work causes tunnel vision. When we focus too much on the exam grade, we often lose sight of the reason why you spend so much time studying in the first place. I try to allow myself the space and time needed to creatively apply and develop the skills I need for my academic work. In some cases it may be related directly related to a project, in other cases it may just be a personal hobby.
Avoid burn out. No one, not even your teacher, is meant to operate at full speed all the time and anyone who tells you they are "always busy" is either lying or not doing a good job. Everyone should to take time to recharge and, in the words of my late grandmother, "have fun and make love." If you're not good to yourself, you can't be good to anyone else.
With that said, I don't want to give the impression that it's okay to do a half-ass job. Parkinson's Law states, "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Therefore it's possible to deliver peak performance without fully committing all of your time and resources. However, it requires self-awareness and intentionality.
To attain that focus, many people swear by the 80-20 Rule but I find the exercise more important than the product. I take the time before and after each semester to reflect on what I'm currently engaged in and hope to engage in. Then I review the commitment required for each project and the relative outcome. If the outcome is worth the time required, I'll continue and may even expand my commitment. If not, it gets dropped.