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Maintaining Balance

I've joined a lot of programs and activities. I'm not sure how to handle them all, but I don't want to give them up either. How do I balance all these commitments?

- 16 year old female

Oh, wow do I ever relate to this problem. I love saying yes to cool events and opportunities, but then find myself frantically freaking out about how to balance all the commitments that come along with. I think the answer is two-fold:

1) You need to be honest with yourself about what you can handle, and prioritize all the programs and activities. Which ones REALLY excite you? Which ones are you doing just because they'll be a great chance to hang out with cool people? Which ones did you only agree to because you think you *should* do them? Write down pros and cons for each program/activity and see if you can get more deeply in touch with how you feel about each one. Then ask yourself: what would it feel like to say no to this program/activity? To clear up my schedule and give up the chance to do/work on that thing? When you do this thought experiment, there will be some things that you couldn't bear to say no to, but there will also be some that might feel like a relief to get off your plate. An important thing to get comfortable with as you get older is saying "no" to things that are only medium-cool or medium-important. There's too many super-cool and super-important programs and activities to commit to.

And 2) You should start getting organized! There are infinite different ways to get organized, and you should try them all to discover which way works for you. Using Google calendar, or a physical calendar. Using a bullet journal, or a flow chart, or a running to-do list written on a gigantic Post-It note on your wall. I love writing down on a piece of paper every activity/program I am a part of, and all the things that are my responsibility as a part of that. Seeing it all written out helps me figure out how time consuming it will be, and I can then prioritize that work in my schedule. Finding a way to organize your schedule will help you organize your brain, and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

It's so great that you're getting involved, and saying yes to cool opportunities! The next step is to learn where your personal boundaries are, and how to say "Thanks for the offer, but I am too busy right now," without having any guilt or bad feelings. Just keep doing the best you can, and be sure to give yourself a break when you feel worn out.


About The Author: Sarah Enni is an author, podcaster, and journalist living in Los Angeles. Her debut young adult novel, Tell Me Everything, is out now. You can read her short story in the New York Times best-selling villain anthology, Because You Love To Hate Me. She created and hosts the First Draft podcast, where she talks shop with other storytellers. In her non-laptop life she likes enchiladas, hiking, flea market shopping, and her cat, Hammer.


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A final note: We are strong believers in the power of therapy. We know that this isn't a realistic option for every teenager, since some of you might not have the parental support or extra income necessary to make this happen. But, if possible, please consider therapy. Many of the adults you respect most have benefited from therapy, and it's likely that you will too. There's no shame in getting support. You deserve it.


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