Managing the Work-Life Balance
Finding the balance between my University work and my leisure time has been something I have struggled with throughout my time at Warwick. My over-commitment to pre-lockdown society activities meant that I did occasionally skim readings or work late into the night to keep up with my coursework, and I tended to see these society activities as enjoyable obstructions to my academic work. Strangely, however, the extra time I have to spend on my course due to the pandemic restrictions and lockdowns has not made doing my classwork any easier, instead making me realise the importance of having a balance between my work and life. Therefore, I thought I might share my journey and experiences of trying to find my balance throughout my time at University.
For most of my first year, I was very cautious about making sure that I didn’t over-commit myself to society activities to the detriment of my coursework. While I would now encourage first year me to get out and try more things, at the time the slow approach allowed me to ease into University and work out my balance as I went along. Starting University and getting involved with new people took a lot of energy and time, as I got to know my course and the people around me. Strangely, I would say that I had the best work-life balance during my first year – I was careful about what society activities I got involved in, making sure they wouldn’t take up too much of my time. Easing slowly into the societies also allowed me to get to know people and figure out how the societies worked, which eventually meant that I could get more involved with them, joining one of the execs at the end of second term. Then in my third term, once classes and assessments were winding down, I got much more involved in the drama societies, signing up to various roles on several shows to get a taste of what I enjoyed. As the ‘work’ side of life became more relaxed, I emphasised the ‘life’ side, meaning I got to try things in a more manageable way.
Having found my confidence in the drama societies in first year, I decided in second year to go all in. I continued signing up for things and getting involved, which generally meant I was juggling my University work and several shows at the same time. By the end of my second term, I had got to a point where I was struggling to balance my society commitments, coursework, classes, readings, and a work placement at a nearby arts centre. As a result, the quality of work I was putting into all of these began to slip, as I was skimming readings on the bus into class, missing society rehearsals and meetings, and rarely seeing those friends I had who weren’t in shows or classes with me. Looking back, I have absolutely no idea how I managed to balance all these things, and yet somehow I did. In fact, that incredibly busy period was one of the highlights of my time at University and taught me a lot about time management, although I definitely couldn’t have sustained it. By the final week I was feeling burnt out and overwhelmed by everything I needed to do, and my relationships with my friends had begun to suffer as well. In a strange way, the first lockdown came at a perfect time, as I’m not sure I could have managed everything I had lined up for my third term. While I certainly enjoyed running around being involved in so many things, it wasn’t sustainable, and made me very aware of how much I could take on.
Going into this year, I thought that the lack of society events and shows due to the pandemic would improve my work-life balance, as I would finally have the time to do my work. Strangely, however, not having the busy-ness of societies has made me realise how much I needed that busy-ness to get my work done. While I spent the first few days of the term researching, reading and writing, I very quickly began to burn out, even though I didn’t have anything else to take up my time. From talking to my friends, I realised that this was quite a common feeling. It seemed that a lot of us were finding the lack of other activities to be having a negative impact on our coursework, as we felt tired more easily and were spending about the same amount of time on readings as we were in the previous years. This led me to realise the important, if incredibly obvious, point of the work-life balance: the balance is necessary for them both to succeed. In second year I had found that having too much ‘life’ had begun to impact my work, and this year I was finding that too little ‘life’ was impacting my work. Being able to see the importance of both has been incredibly important, and is definitely something I will take beyond the lockdowns and restrictions.
Obviously, finding a ‘life’ to balance the ‘work’ is a little harder this year than in previous years. However, I have found a few things that have helped me in the last few weeks:
- Attending society workshops online has been a good way to channel my creativity outside of my classwork
- Going on walks with my friends around the local area – or accidentally walking all the way from Leamington Spa to Warwick! – has been an excellent way to catch up with my friends and get some fresh air
- Getting involved in online society shows has let me meet new people and think about something that isn’t course-related
- Working on independent research projects has (strangely) been a way to unwind and, again, think about something that isn’t my course
- Online society socials and calls with my friends have let me be social and catch up with people, including those less-close friends who I wouldn’t see otherwise
Finding a balance between work and life is more important now than ever, especially as it can feel as if work is the only thing to do. Therefore, I would definitely encourage everyone to take breaks, connect with friends and seek support if you need it, to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.