How to Know Where You Are – Student Advice Column

Ursula Junker and Eliza Chun

I really want to buy something, and I have enough money saved, but I’m really afraid of spending it. I don’t really get stuff for myself often, but whenever do I always feel guilty afterward. What should I do?

 

Well, first off, you should go ahead and buy that thing you have your eye on. If you don’t tend to overspend — or don’t spend at all — then it’s alright for you to go ahead and indulge yourself. It’s important to remember that while saving money is important, it’s okay to go ahead and treat yourself every once in a while. Mindless accumulation of wealth won’t bring you happiness, nor will untethered spending. You have to find a balance between saving money and spending that works for you, so you have plenty set aside for special occasions, yet you can also allow yourself to spend a little on yourself.  Unless you spend money constantly to the point of being extremely detrimental to your savings, I think that you shouldn’t feel guilty about buying yourself something nice on occasion. If it makes you happy, then that’s well worth your money. In the words of many, so long as you don’t buy in excess, don’t be afraid to ‘treat yourself.’

 

I can never focus on my work. Social media always distracts me. How can I focus better?

 

You are not alone! Almost everyone I know (me included) finds it hard to avoid distractions at our fingertips when we have work to accomplish. When you are a click away from constant entertainment and communication, it can feel impossible to set aside time for studying. Social media is fun and useful, but it has a time and a place, and it sounds like you want to prioritize other goals. Find a distraction-free place to sit down and focus. Make sure you turn off your phone (or at least silence it and put it away) before you start working. Or if you’re on a computer, close out of all your unrelated tabs. At the beginning of your study period or when you sit down to do homework, set a goal or two for yourself like aiming to finish an assignment in the next half hour. Allow yourself to take a ten-minute break. Nobody knows better than you what you actually have to get done, so set realistic goals while managing your time well. For a long-term assignment, I find it helps to write down what you hope to do each day so that you don’t find yourself straying into a not-so-focussed territory and leaving it all for the last minute. Remember that the time you spend on social media adds up, and “just a quick look” can be a lot longer than you think. 

If you feel the pressure of needing to see what your friends are doing, decide what is a reasonable amount of time each day to spend on it and stick to your resolution. Make sure, though, that you still enjoy your social media time, and that it’s not just born of FOMO or a source of stress and insecurity. If you feel like it’s overwhelming or not fun, maybe it’s time to cut down on your number of platforms or rethink your online friendships. Your time and energy are precious and deserve to be well used. That said, don’t be too hard on yourself– as long as you stay conscious of your priorities, it’s totally fine to have some unproductive time!

Studies show that social media can be addictive and affect your mental health and productivity (https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/11562/10373). If you feel like your social media habits are out of control, consider taking two or three days off completely. Talk to friends, read, take a walk, or distract yourself in other ways. Consider how you feel when you use social media. Does it make you feel happier? More connected? More anxious? Everyone has to find a balance that works for them. If you really can’t keep yourself away from it for even a day or two, talk to a parent or a counselor. Social media should never rule your life. But if you return to your account and find it inspiring and interesting, then good for you! Just make sure it doesn’t take the place of what matters most.