Burnout is better for cars than your body.

Welcome to College 101, a weekly series HackCollege will be providing with how-to’s and what-not-to-do’s for incoming college freshmen, and those who think they need a refresher course. This week – the topic that’s literally plagued me for the past month – burnout.

We often romanticize college. We all know about the social side, but most of us here on HackCollege focus more on the productivity side: getting things done, earning internships, and putting ourselves in the best position possibly for our dream jobs.

But, there is a dark side to college as well. Sometimes that student involvement position you really enjoy trumps your academic pursuits or your on-campus job takes up more time than you’d like to admit.

That’s been me for the past month. I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ve reached burnout with my academics, physical fitness and appearance, and religious life taking a backseat for the panaceas of student involvement, employment, and my social life. I still use my to-do list daily, and track my goals but the same goals remain unchecked and the same tasks become overdue.

When I calculated my GPA this week and found it at an all-time low – granted, it’s early in the semester but still – my wake-up call had come. It was time to stop using what I enjoyed as an excuse and a time to allot time more effectively. I made the decision to beat burnout, and with the tips below, you can prevent it from ever happening to you.

Determine your passions. If you’re not passsionate, stop. Why are you doing what you do? Are you studying for what you want to do for a living or to have a high-paying job? Is your on-campus job really necessary or can you slide by without it or with a different position? Is that involvement position relevant to your major? Does it even excite you or is it just a stepping stone to a more prestigious place somewhere else? Those are tough questions but those are the ones that need to be asked to take preventative measures against burnout.

Think holistically. We often focus on school, work, and social as a perfect trifecta. Not so much. Think about future job prospects and you’re post-collegiate career, and call your family. The point of hacking college and hacking your life is to make yourself better, not just more precisely focused.

Believe in the big picture. College lasts 4 years. Sometimes a little longer. Don’t make the one organization or interest you’re involved in your entire life with no room for error. I fully endorse diving headfirst into your passions, but it shouldn’t replace your life when you need a moment.

Don’t cut your nose to spite your face. When I kicked ass in student involvement, I sucked at fitness. My roommate, a former bodybuilder, loved to call me out after I made fitness goals that I left unfulfilled. If you’re trying to improve in multiple areas, devote time to improve in all those areas – not just one or two of them.

Use a trigger list, often. I wrote one here on Lifehacker back in the day (one whole year ago!) and it definitely helps me realize what I need to do and what I forgot I needed to do. I add those tasks to Remember the Milk and voilá, productivity.

Burnout can be a pain, but don’t let it be your pain. I beat burnout, and you can too.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user AleGranholm. Licensed under CC BY-2.0