the circle of influence & what it means for college students

I have a distinct sophomore-year memory of calling my dad in tears, complaining I was not able to do everything I wanted to do.  I wanted to be involved in everything so I could make as big of an impact on my community as possible and, as a result, I became incredibly overwhelmed.  In response to my call for advice, my dad introduced me to the Circle of Influence.

What is the Circle of Influence?

Imagine a circle.  Picture you and each of your concerns (big and small) in the middle of that circle. When you think about all of those concerns at once, they easily become overwhelming. Now, picture an additional circle – the Circle of Influence – that encompasses the concerns you DO have control over/can do something about.

The key is to focus on your circle – the concerns you are able to control – so you can function at full capacity.  While the circle might expand or shrink depending on the context (resources, source of support, energy, etc.) it is important to check-in with yourself to be sure you not pushing the limits of your circle to the point of exhaustion.

Circle of Influence

What does this means for our students?

Sophomore-year Veronica was definitely performing outside of her circle.  It took someone else’s perspective to help me understand why I was feeling so overwhelmed.  As student affairs professionals, we have the opportunity to support our students when they are reaching too far beyond their circles. Additionally, we can proactively provide them with the resources needed to guide them away from going beyond the point of influence.

What does this look like in practice?

Continue teaching students the importance of prioritizing.  When students are able to name their values and identify what is of significance to them, they are better able to focus on a specific range of experiences to achieve a depth of growth as opposed to being overwhelmed by the breadth of opportunities.

Area of Focus

Don’t get me wrong – the purpose of college for many students is to explore opportunities so they are better able to identify what is valuable to them and that’s great!  But sometimes getting involved in too many opportunities is counter-productive.

Remember: just because a circle of influence decreases in size doesn’t mean it decreases in value.Tweet: Just because a circle of influence decreases in size doesn't mean it decreases in value. @vmroman18

Thanks, Dad : )

xo vm

// concepts adapted from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by S. Covey

// read about recognizing everyday leadership


10 tips for work/life balance


The balancing act can be rather daunting, especially during busier times of the semester.  As a student affairs professional, you may often encourage students to live balanced lives and yet you may find you sometimes fail to follow your own advice.  How can you support others in addition you support yourself?

Finding a work/life balance allows you as an SA professional to function at your fullest potential and lead by example. Here are 10 tips that have personally helped Jack Korpob and me maintain our own work/life balance:

  1. Say “No” // In student affairs, you are often presented with great opportunities or you are asked to do more than you can handle. Oftentimes, you can find yourself saying “yes” to everything because you are afraid another opportunity will never come around again or you feel obligated to do something to prove yourself. This all makes sense, but you have to think about how you are feeling and if it will be effective if you say “yes” to what is being asked of you. If you truly want to do something and your “yes” is genuine, by all means say “yes” to the opportunity. If your heart is not in something or you are feeling exhausted, it is better to be honest. This may sound hard to do because it is.
  2. Treat Yo’self // For some, it’s getting a monthly massage, for others it’s buying a nice meal. Whatever it is, find something you consider a “luxury” item and give it to yourself. It’s something to look forward to and is something for you. In student affairs, we oftentimes give ourselves to students and colleagues, but we may forget to give back to ourselves. Remember that you have your own life and that you should enjoy it!
  3. Live Authentically // You can’t be one person in one place and then go home and be completely different. Try to take your best self into each environment, as opposed to balancing which environment should get your best self that day. Living authentically will help you naturally maintain a sense of balance within all of your environments.
  4. Expand Your Professional and Personal Circles // When you think about balance, it also means the people and relationships you have with others. Try meeting people for lunch or outside of work hours who you do not directly work with. If you can speak about other things besides work (or keep conversation about work to a minimum), great! Even better, really capitalize on friendships outside of work or your institution. Having friends in different social circles can really make a big difference.
  5. One life, One Calendar // Combining your personal & professional calendars helps you see the bigger picture and make conscious choices about how to spend your time. Once an item is put into the calendar, make sure you are fully present while you are addressing that particular item.
  6. Make Time // You have the power to put things in your calendar that give you energy and help you get through the day. Setting a time-limit for each item in your calendar or on your to-do list is difficult, but it allows you to be more efficient and move forward to address other tasks as well.
  7. Give Yourself Time to Recharge // You all know student affairs is not a typical 9-5 position. Some people live-on/live-in and work nights and weekends. However, it doesn’t mean you should not set boundaries between your work life and personal life. This does not mean that when it’s 5pm, you should stop all work activities, but it might be wise to set a range of times that you should begin to slow down. Deadlines must be met, but if you are not pushing a deadline, work will be there when you get there in the morning. Take time to relax and recharge and do absolutely nothing.
  8. Get Some Sleep // You can schedule your day with work and other commitments and do the things that give you energy, but you must take the time to sleep enough hours every night to do everything you want to accomplish. Make sure to balance your waking hours with your sleep. Sleep is a prerequisite for wakefulness. Manage your sleep and you can do much more when you’re awake and feeling refreshed!
  9. You Do You // Although it is helpful to ask others for tips on how to achieve a balanced life, what works for one individual may not work for you.  Don’t be afraid to try new strategies to determine which strategies work best for your own lifestyle.
  10.  Don’t Give Up // “Balance” will have a different meaning to you at different points in your life.  Remind yourself that finding a sense of balance is a process, not an end-goal.  It takes patience and lots of practice.

So here you have it – 10 tips that can help you with work/life balance!  What would you add to the list?

xo vm

// original post here

// more on balance here

// thoughts on living a fulfilling life here