Overachieving might seem like the lesser of two evils, but it can cause stress and low self-esteem. (Illustration by Yunyi Dai, Maryland Institute College of Art)
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If you manage your ambition, you can make much better use of it.

Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed by all of the activities going on in your life? Whether you are an average or overachieving college student, the answer is probably yes.

While some days you can feel on top of the world with what you are doing, other days it can feel like the world is crumbling down on you — just because you forgot one assignment.

Although all students have stressors in their lives, so-called overachievers tremendously increase their stress levels by taking on every opportunity, like an online accounting class, that falls in front of them. These students fail to recognize the consequences that come with taking on too many tasks. Overachieving students should understand that sometimes, it’s smart to say no to opportunities, despite their need to go above and beyond.

Saying no might initially feel like a punch in the gut, but that simple word has a lasting effect on a student’s future well-being. Here are four disadvantages of overachieving and how students can properly manage them

1. I Am Not Enough

Does the word “perfectionist” sound familiar to you? Overachieving is often coupled with perfectionism, which entices students to believe that what and how much they are doing is never good enough. Overachieving perfectionists value the quantity and quality of their performance instead of the beneficial impact they are making on society.

This dangerous cycle creates an unhealthy, poor self-esteem in students. Poor self-esteem is not something that any college student should look forward to, but rather improve upon. To lessen the burden of perfectionism and improve their self-esteem, students can follow these three, easy steps.

The first step toward self-improvement is to make a list of your top priorities. Is it important to be a standard member of 10 different organizations, or would you rather have a more influential role in just one group? At the end of the day, your goal should be to keep yourself happy, and if that is possible without exasperating all of your time and energy, why not?

The second step is to go visit your college guidance counselor. A counselor is not only a great resource to help you manage your academics, but to help you manage your stress too!

The third and final step toward self-improvement is to make a schedule of your daily activities. This organizational exercise will help you prioritize your time so that you can accomplish your goals while also reserving free time for yourself. People are not designed to be machines, but they are designed to change their outlook on life without sacrificing their self-esteem. If you are an overachiever, you can too.

2. Sleep Is Not My Friend

College is so hectic that most days, all you want to do is forget about the piles of homework on your desk and just go to bed. For overachievers, however, sleep is just another waste of time that requires sacrificing another part of their lives.

But what these hard-working students fail to understand is that sleep is actually very beneficial to their overall work performance, while lack of sleep results in a poor work ethic. The old phrase “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise” supports the belief that sleep contributes to success and happiness.

Although you may not be able to sleep for a complete eight hours, try to get at least six hours of sleep a night to give your body enough time to recover from its daily intake of stress. Plus, getting enough sleep can prevent you from falling asleep in class, a time when your attention is critical to your success.

Consider sleep as another accomplishment — after a good night’s rest, your body is ready for another day and an even greater feat that has yet to be tackled.

3. What Would They Think?

Although a majority of people do not care about what others think about them, a certain number of people do, including overachievers. Overachieving students are constantly worried about how they appear to their bosses, peers, family and the outside world.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that no one cares about the person next to them as much as they care about themselves. Feeling the need to please others is not a strength, but rather, a disadvantage.

To fix this, overachievers should learn to network with others and only take advantage of opportunities that they believe are beneficial to themselves, regardless of the viewpoint of others. At the end of the day, you should do what makes you happy without having to sacrifice your energy on what makes others happy.

4. I Don’t Have All the Time in the World

Being an undergraduate student can be a stressful experience for anyone, but for an overachiever, life gets even more troublesome with the constant worry of how all of your plans are going to benefit your future.

How are you expected to juggle classes, homework and clubs with internships, volunteer work and career training? There comes a time where you decide to sit back and wonder what it would be like to be a high school student again. Those were the good old days, right? Wrong.

Your professional life has just begun, so don’t be so worried about what has yet to come. One thing you can do is a make two lists: one of your daily goals and one of your future goals. Making a to-do list of your daily goals, such as working out, finishing your homework on time and making a study plan for upcoming exams will help you make use of each day.

Although you may not have all the time in the world, you can make the best of each day by setting realistic goals for yourself that can ultimately lead to a positive change in your life. Making a list of your future goals will help you focus your intentions and efforts toward these aspirations. Compare the lists to discover what you are doing each day to help reach your future goals.

Life is about balancing new and old experiences while learning from your mistakes. With that in mind, treat your mind and body right by not taking on more tasks than they can handle. Always remember that you are are worth it and you are enough.

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