Anybody who wants to do so can work and attend school without making sacrifices. Can’t they? It may not be as easy as you think, and balance may never be fully achievable. However, you can come close if you follow these tips.
1. Never Expect to Reach The Perfect Balance
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting that you will reach an ideal balance between work, school, family, and social life. It’s just not going to happen, and that’s okay.
After all, even when you are finished with school there will always be an imbalance in the things that need your attention. Just focus on prioritizing things the best that you can.
2. Learn to be Present
The moments that you spend in class, at work, and with your family and friends, where you are truly present, will be much more valuable than the moments where you are mentally somewhere else. For example, it is much better to schedule an hour of dedicated study time than it is to schedule two hours of study time if you will spend half of the time worrying about work or family.
One way to help with this is to limit the time spent with any device with a screen to tasks that require that device. You’ll be forced to be present where you are, not distracted by trying to connect elsewhere.
3. Take Courses With Varying Levels of Difficulty
You may be tempted, especially if you are a nontraditional student, to take on a heavy course load just to get finished with your degree. You might also want to take on really difficult classes as a way to boost your academic reputation.
There is nothing wrong with doing these things, but you should consider the rest of your life before making a final decision. Will it be worth spending more time at school or more time studying, if you lose that time on the job or with loved ones? You might consider one or two easy classes each term to give yourself a bit of breathing room.
4. Let Technology Help You
Today, more than ever, there are apps that help students with productivity, communication, organization, academics, finances, and entertainment. Take advantage of this.
If you can save time by using technology to help you in areas where you are struggling, you will have more time and more mental energy to focus on high priority things.
5. Establish and Keep Your Boundaries
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and then to guard those boundaries assertively. For example, if you decide that Saturday afternoons are for spending time with family, don’t let your boss, your study group, or anybody else pressure you into changing that.
If you have a study group commitment on Thursday nights, make sure your family knows that you will not break that commitment for trivial reasons. Just be prepared that you may have to be more firm with family members than others, especially if they are not used to your returning to school.
6. Schedule Some True Down Time
You can’t come to any sort of balance unless your needs are part of the equation. If you are only focused on creating a schedule and prioritizing your life so that you are completing tasks and that other people feel as if they are getting enough of your time, that is hardly balance.
You have to schedule time for yourself that does not involve the wants or needs of other people, and for which you do not answer to anybody else. In fact, if you do not schedule this time for yourself, you are very likely to become burned out or resentful. Neither of these things are good for anybody.
7. Don’t Multitask
You cannot multitask and be at your best. You simply cannot. If you think you are the exception to this rule, you are in dangerous denial.
It’s tempting to think of multitasking as a way to get many things done at once. However, in reality it’s just a way to do a lot of things just a little worse than you would if you focused on one thing at a time. Many chronic multitaskers often discover that if they focus on setting priorities, they have less need to try and cover a lot of ground at once.
8. Allow Yourself to be Imperfect
You will blow an exam. You will oversleep and miss class. You will forget a commitment to a loved one.
In other words, you are going to make mistakes. It is impossible to work, have a personal and family life, and attend school all at the same time without dropping the ball. When this happens, the best thing to do is focus on recovering and getting things back on track.
Wallowing in guilt and regret or beating yourself up is simply unproductive. If you find yourself continually having problems, it may be a good idea consider paring something back. You may have simply given yourself too much to take on.
9. Consider Asking For a Modified Work Schedule
If you are able to (it’s not an option for everyone) you might want to see if it is possible to take on a somewhat modified work schedule while you are in school. For example, you might want to see if your schedule can be changed so that you travel less or work less overtime hours.
You might even explore the option of transferring to a department where there is less stress, or even to a department where you can begin using some of the skills that you are accumulating while you are in school. Giving yourself even a little bit of a break at work can help a lot.
10. Take a Look at Online Learning Options
If you are able to take at least a few of your classes online, you will save time commuting between school and home. In addition to this, if you are able to take a few self-paced classes, you will really benefit from the ability to schedule your class time so that it complements the rest of your schedule.