If you’re trying to juggle a job along with attaining your education or raising a family, you might feel like you walk a tightrope above precariously balanced chaos. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day — how can you manage everything?
Anything worth doing takes considerable effort. Moving forward on your educational path while attending to your other duties is arduous. However, you’re a warrior — and if you follow these tips, you can manage school and work balance while staying satisfied with your personal life.
- Create A Master Calendar
- Make Daily To-Do Lists — The Night Before
- Give Yourself The Right Tools
- Update Your Supervisor And Professional Contacts
- Create A Dedicated Study Space
- Learn How To Say No
- Work Ahead When Possible
- Eat Healthy Meals
- Exercise (Almost) Every Day
- Make Your Bedroom A Sanctuary
- Plan Time For Socializing With Family And Friends
- Ask For Help When You Need It
- Take A Break And Celebrate Small Victories
1. Create a Master Calendar
Whether you’re studying electrical engineering or nursing, you’re going to have a lot of deadlines to remember between school and work. If you are raising young children, you likely need to pencil in events like the science fair and soccer tournaments, too.
Before the beginning of each semester, create a master calendar of all the important dates you need to remember. You can keep a print version hanging on your wall and reinforce it by setting reminders on your phone.
When the day arrives, take a moment to write down the amount of time it took — that way, if you budgeted two hours for a 30-minute task, you could adjust your schedule going forward.
2. Make Daily To-Do Lists — the Night Before
When it comes to how to balance work, school and family life, the humble to-do list is your best friend. You get an ego boost when you check off accomplishments each day. Every evening, take approximately five minutes to write out a checklist for the following day.
When drafting your list, ask yourself, “What one thing could I accomplish that would make the most difference in my progress toward my goals?” Place that item in the top position. Often, people distract themselves with busywork like checking emails first thing in the morning. Then 6 p.m. arrives, and they feel like they’ve accomplished little.
Making to-do lists will help you set goals for yourself — and goals will keep you motivated to accomplish what you need to each day.
3. Give Yourself the Right Tools
You log on to complete a paper that’s due tomorrow — and your computer decides to update. You lose a valuable 20 minutes waiting through a series of restarts. Who has the time for that?
If you have the budget, invest in backup devices in case one laptop needs maintenance. If you don’t have the money, make it part of your routine to check for updates and clear your cache after each work and study day. Each Sunday, run a virus scan and defragment any electronics you rely upon during your daily grind.
4. Update Your Supervisor and Professional Contacts
You can’t expect your co-workers to respect your need for work-study life balance if they don’t know you’re taking classes. Your supervisor doesn’t have a crystal ball — they won’t know to avoid scheduling a big client presentation the day after your final exams if you don’t tell them you are attending school.
Schedule a brief meeting with your immediate superior at work to tell her about your endeavors. Frame the conversation in a positive light — emphasize that your learning will benefit you on the job in the future.
If you plan on looking elsewhere after you graduate, play that card close to your chest. You never know what the future holds — but it won’t be bright at your present company if you crow about how you can’t wait to move on to bigger and better things.
5. Create a Dedicated Study Space
Do you plunk down on your couch with a pile of textbooks and flip on the TV? This technique might work if you live alone — and you use the tube merely to hear the sound of other human voices. Otherwise, you’re making yourself study longer and harder without learning very efficiently.
Design a clean and organized learning space that offers comfort, not distractions. Ideally, locate your study area in a private room where you can close the door — especially handy if you have children. If you must do your classwork in a common area, don headphones and make a playlist of relaxing instrumental music to block outside noise.
6. Learn How to Say No
If you’re trying to excel at work, it’s easy to fall into the trap of biting off more than you can chew. Doing so to excess can hinder, not help, your aspirations — and it could even make you sick. Professors know students experience higher rates of illnesses during high-pressure periods like finals week. Plus, saying yes to tackling a work project and failing to deliver by the deadline gains you a reputation for flakiness.
In work, school and life, it’s essential to learn how to conserve your energy for what counts. That means prioritizing essential projects or areas of life and learning to say no when something would stretch you too thin.
When your colleague asks, “Can I ask for your help with this project?” learn to reply that you’d love to, but you lack the time at the moment to devote the right amount of attention to it. Be firm, yet polite. You could say, “I’m too swamped to give this the attention it deserves right now. However, I’m happy to help you with X in the future.” Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but do express your willingness to assist when things quiet down.
7. Work Ahead When Possible
When you procrastinate, you allow your to-do list to grow from a molehill into a veritable Everest of work. When it comes to managing college and life balance, getting ahead of the curve is the best way to win the game.
If you find yourself with an extra 30 minutes in your schedule, resist the temptation to waste it surfing social media. Instead, knock out another page of that 10-page paper or read the next chapter in your biology textbook. Your future self will thank you.
8. Eat Healthy Meals
If you want to power through your busy days, you need the right fuel. Your body requires a blend of carbohydrates for energy and protein for building muscle. You also need healthy fats. Strive to fill your plate half full of fruits and vegetables at every meal. If you choose to eat meat, opt for lean versions like chicken and fish.
You can find healthy fats in nuts and avocados. Prep and portion out foods once per week on days when your schedule is lightest, and pop grab-and-go meals in the freezer. You can nuke them quickly on busy days.
9. Exercise (Almost) Every Day
“Yeah, right,” you might say. “I have enough on my plate without squeezing in the gym, thank you very much.” However, you will get far more done when you take care of your body. Exercise boosts your immune system and helps you ward off the latest flu — something you can’t afford with your busy schedule.
The good news? You reap the most significant benefits from working out in moderation. Take a 15- to 20-minute walk after dinner or put on your favorite music and dance. You can even work up a sweat doing some vigorous housecleaning.
10. Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
Do you take your laptop to bed with you? While you may think you’re increasing your productivity, in reality, you’re harming your sleep cycles. The blue light from electronic devices interrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you get your Zzz’s.
Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex — nothing more. Spray lavender essential oil on pillows to help you ease into dreamland. Hang curtains to block out external light during midday catnaps — and flashing neon at night if you’re an urban dweller.
11. Plan Time for Socializing With Family and Friends
It can feel like juggling schoolwork and family responsibilities requires the talent of a Cirque du Soleil performer at times. When you make your weekly agenda, purposely schedule a time to spend with family and friends.
You might not see your extended circle as much as you like, so make gatherings count. Get everyone together for a barbecue or take an evening to celebrate “friendsgiving.”
12. Ask for Help When You Need It
If you start falling behind in your studies, reach out for help immediately, rather than waiting. Reach out to a study group or teaching assistant about getting caught up in class. Do the same at work, at least as much as possible — if you need a day off to study for an exam, ask for it.
13. Take a Break and Celebrate Small Victories
Finally, give yourself small breaks when you need them. If you can’t afford to take a full mental health day, for example, clock out one hour early and take a stroll at a local museum. If you ace an exam, treat yourself to a flavored latte or another small token of success. Celebrate the little victories along your journey and nurture your soul regularly.
Yes, You Can Achieve a Work-Study-Life Balance
It’s not easy to achieve a balance between work and school. It’s even trickier to squeeze in family and social responsibilities. But by incorporating these tips for organization, motivation and mental health, you’ll make time for your commitments and make it to your goals.