Managing the Work-Life-School Balance

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How do you juggle all of your responsibilities without letting one, or more, of them suffer? And is there such a thing as the perfect work-life-school balance?

There’s no doubt that as adults, we all have obligations. We have to go to work, pay the bills—and the mortgage—and in many cases, take care of our families. So how do you juggle all of these responsibilities without letting one, or more, of them suffer? And is there such a thing as the perfect work-life-school balance? You probably know by now that nothing is perfect. But there are some real steps that you can take to help ensure that you use your time well, and avoid burning out in the process.

Why is time management important?

Many people simply don’t recognize the importance of time management, to their own detriment. Like it or not, you’re going to have to find a way to fit homework and studying in when you’re not in class or at the office. And the only way you’re going to able to be successful at that is by effectively managing your time. That means you need to build a realistic routine that you can stick to consistently, but also leave room for inevitable unexpected things—like childcare emergencies—that may come up. You’re also going to need to begin each week by laying out your responsibilities and priorities. What assignments are due? What work-related events are on the horizon? Who has a dentist appointment? Then it’s a matter of allocating enough study time into your schedule—that way when you run into surprises you can shift your time to another slot during the week. The more flexibility you give yourself, the better off you will be.

What are some time management tools?

Don’t discount the importance of time management tools when it comes to staying sane and productive. If you haven’t already, get a calendar or a daily planner. Then use it religiously to map out what you need to accomplish each and every day. Once you’ve completed a task, mark or check it off with a pen. It can feel extremely gratifying to physically cross thing off your list! If you have other members in your household, keep your calendar where everyone can see it – then you’ve got built-in outside motivation to get the job done. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling! It’s very crucial that you make time for your loved ones, because they are going to be the people to keep you focused and grounded when things get difficult. They can also let you know when you need a break—or even just a laugh.

There are also a lot of great technological time management tools that you can take advantage of. If you have a Gmail account, Google Calendar can be a great way to keep track of your tasks, appointments and other responsibilities. The beauty is that you can set-up reminders so you’re not caught off guard at the last minute. There’s also a wide variety of free apps out there can help you with things like tracking your time on projects; identifying time suckers; syncing up and managing your to-do lists; and enhancing your focus to improve productivity. Some examples include:

  • Rescue Time: Sends weekly reports to let you know where and when you’re wasting time.
  • Focus booster: Prevents procrastination by helping you avoid distractions and better manage your time.
  • Evernote: Captures all your notes, lists, ideas and images in one place to help you stay organized.
  • focus@will: Combines neuroscience and music to boost your attention span and productivity.

How do I develop good study habits?

Developing efficient—and consistent—study habits will go a long way to helping you strike a good balance. A good place to start is to create a study sanctuary. This should be a place that is comfortable, well-lit, quiet, and only used for study purposes. Make it known that when you’re in your study sanctuary, you shouldn’t be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. Another good rule to avoid distractions is to turn off your WIFI and put your phone on silent. That way wasting time on online, or texting, is not an option when you’re supposed to be studying. And to be safe, remove any TVs from your room as well!

Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of taking good notes in class, or online. If you are in a classroom you can even use a voice-recorder to record the lecture. That way, you won’t miss anything and you can go back and pull out the relevant information at a later date. Your tasks should all be prioritized in your calendar or time management app, so the last thing to remember is to avoid procrastination at all costs!

How do I keep the right mindset?

A big part of keeping a positive—and productive—mindset starts with making time for yourself. Sometimes, you just have to allow yourself take a breather, whether than means going for walk, practicing yoga, or having a quick coffee with a friend. It’s also important to deal with stress head on. Stress is inevitable, but taking care of yourself is a great way to help you better manage it. That means making sure that you get enough sleep, eat healthfully, exercise—and incorporate 5-to-10 minute breaks into your study schedule.  Keeping an eye on your health is of the utmost importance - stress has myriad negative impacts on your health - proactively staying healthy despite stress can only help!

It’s also important to be realistic about your course load and what you can handle given all your other responsibilities—don’t set yourself up to fail. When you are struggling, remember why you’re doing this in the first place, and let others help when and where they can. And most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate all of your successes, no matter how small they may seem. When it comes to the big picture, they mean a lot!