Don’t let priorities be the death of you

Rachel Jenks

The North Wind staff recently attended an Associated Collegiate Press conference to help us develop our skills as journalists and pick up a few tips on how to create the best newspaper we can.

During one session I attended, the speaker was asked: when everything is falling apart, when the panic is starting to set in, how do you assure others—and yourself—that everything is going to be OK?

I’ll admit that I was doodling on my notepad until this question was asked. Though the questioner was referring to newsroom drama, everyone knows what it’s like to be in that situation: when you’ve felt like nothing is going right, nothing will ever go right again, so why even bother?

The speaker’s response was that you have to ask yourself in that situation: “Is this the hill you want to die on?”

That is, is this the one be-all end-all, earth-shattering problem that you want to cry, scream and shout over? Would you drop everything else at that point in time to right this wrong?

If not, then move on. It’s difficult to solve a problem if you’re juggling a dozen. Find your hill because you can only climb one at a time.

This theory sounded simple enough, and it was the one note I took during the entire session. In practice though, it’s proven to be much more difficult.

How do you choose which hill is The Hill? What if you get to the top and realize that you don’t, in fact, want to die there?

Failing that test; not having that article written on time; wondering if there will be enough money for rent; getting the call from dad saying the cancer is back.

It’s like standing at the base of the Andes Mountains and trying to determine how high you can climb before it gets too difficult to breathe.

Everyone has been there, and in college it’s especially hard to prioritize our problems when we’re in such a transitional period in our lives. There’s the constant worry about how an event will affect the future. So the difficulty comes in with determining if passing that upcoming test is more important than turning in that paper on time or visiting ailing grandparents for the weekend, because it’s hard to say which one will have the greatest overall impact.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a secret staircase to the top of any hill (or mountain) that eases the process. However, I do think that unless you figure out which hill is Your Hill, you might end up sitting at your desk crying for an hour.

The first thing I had to realize was that I don’t need to get an A on everything in order to graduate. It’s OK to accept a couple of B’s if it means I can get two assignments done instead of just one.  Unfortunately for students, sometimes quantity does mean more than quality. That doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped trying my best, but it does mean I’ve recognized that “my best” is different in every situation.

I’ve also come to accept that sometimes you just need a break. According to CNBC, more than 70 percent of college students are working while studying, and that 70 percent works an average of 30 hours per week. On top of a college course load, it’s easy to get burnt out and turn apathetic.

I’ve finally recognized that instead of staying up late to finish an assignment I know I’m not putting effort into, I feel so much better if I let myself relax and go to bed. This way, the work is being looked at with fresh eyes and thoughts in the morning. Sure, it may mean carefully managing my time the next day, but I’ll take that over a nervous breakdown any time.

I think the biggest thing I’ve struggled with in the past and the most important thing I’ve realized this year is that people are more important than grades.

There might be a test tomorrow, but right now my sister needs to talk. I may have work to do, but I also need to nurture the relationships that keep me trudging through the day-to-day.

It’s easier to figure out which hill to climb next if there’s someone there to help make it to the top.