Becoming Independent: How to Successfully Manage New Responsibilities
The journey to becoming independent can be a difficult one if you’ve never taken that step the way most high school graduates transitioning to college haven’t. You have likely had brushes with independence when you’re coming out of senior year, but you’ve never had to manage all the bills, pay rent on time, keep grades afloat with no one there to stay after you, and show up to class without a bit of help. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but it’s an experience that most of us have had to live and learn through. If this describes you, then you may find the following tips useful. This is how you can successfully manage new responsibilities. Let’s get started!
1. Use ‘divider tabs.’
By “divider tabs,” we’re not talking about physical dividers like the kind you find in a three-ring binder. No, these are philosophical ones wherein you break up all the crucial new responsibilities that you have into their own respective “departments.” Taxes. Car payment. Auto insurance. Renters (for off-campus types). Tuition payments. Loan data. Class schedule. Homework. Upcoming tests. Degree plan. Credit card bills. Budgets. There are many different areas of your life that you are now in almost total control over, and it’s important that you have a sense of each one when you wake up in the morning or plan for the week ahead.
2. Get organized.
This is related to number one, but it really goes further. Instead of offering a general knowledge of the responsibilities you now face, this is where you develop the action plan for taking care of business. Set reminders on your phone. Keep up with notes and to-do items in Wunderlist, Evernote, or some other app of your choosing. Consider journaling your progress in each of the areas of your life. Use good old-fashioned pen and paper for this and jot notes to yourself on what you’re doing well and what you need help remembering. The divider tabs are for setting up the game board, so to speak. Getting organized is where you actually move around the game pieces.
3. Devise a reward system.
Accepting more responsibility doesn’t have to be a punishment. In fact, it can be one of the most rewarding things of your life. To help it get there, though, you should devise a system of reasonable rewards every time you accomplish something of value. I always had a habit of treating myself to a breakfast out whenever I would remember to pay the rent on time. Passing a test that I studied hard for and did my very best on might get me a new CD or DVD. The rewards should be reasonably priced and correlated to the scope of your accomplishment. And no, they don’t always have to be monetary. You could find working out or sleeping in one day to be an adequate reward. Find what works for you, and use it.
4. Get physical.
Being physically active isn’t just a great way to look and feel your best. It can also sharpen your mind to the point that you have an easier time remembering the responsibilities and challenges that lay ahead. If you feel like your mind is in a state of flux, consider getting into your gym gear and doing an intense circuit of weights or cardio. You’ll be surprised at how much clarity it brings.
5. Show up when you’re supposed to.
Many of the problems associated with newfound responsibilities can be alleviated simply by showing up on time. Know when your classes start, when your appointments and due dates are. This knowledge will help you “show up” for whatever the next big challenge is, and by doing so, you won’t let many things slip by you whether it be studying, paying bills, etc.
6. Listen more than speak.
This is particularly true for classes where you’re having a lot of trouble or where you just aren’t as sure of yourself as you would like to be. It can be difficult making the adjustment when you go from high school to real life because — this is an unfortunate failing of modern public education — very little is expected of you until you get to college. Then, suddenly, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Slow down. Don’t try to act until you know what’s up.
7. Know the repercussions.
A severe repercussion of forgetting to study or pay a bill can be a good deterrent to forgetfulness and apathy. If you have a true sense of fallout or punishment, then you’re going to do whatever you can to avoid it. Knowledge is everything.
8. Fail upward.
When you do fail, don’t look at it as a total loss. Look at it as a learning experience. Too many newly minted college freshman get frustrated when the failures start to pile up. They don’t take the time to look at what went wrong and ask the sincere question: “What can I learn from this to make sure that it never happens again?” People who do ask that question and take the answer to heart will “fail upward.” In other words, they will turn their failures into positives and use them as an effective means of prevention moving forward.
9. Find a mentor.
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you lack answers and that you could stand to learn from someone else’s knowledge and expertise. Everyone needs a mentor at some point in their lives. Be careful to choose the right one — someone you can relate to in some meaningful and important way. It could be a coach, a professor, a family member. Life experience is important, and the easiest way to start on this journey is to focus on finding the person, who possesses the type of life experience you desire or appreciate.
What are some of the biggest things that you have struggled with in your first few years of college? Do you feel as if you’re putting it together, and what are some tips that you would like to share on becoming independent with your fellow peers? Sound off in the comments section.