At university, a common phrase we hear is ‘work life balance’, normally preceded by ‘it’s vital to have a..’. It’s easy to say, but how do we, as full-time students achieve this? It’s taken all of first year and some of second year for me to get to grips with the concept, but I think I’ve found some useful tactics that I’d like to share with you all.
1. Listen to your body
I cannot stress this enough. There were too many evenings I would spend on essays, reading and other uni work even though my body and brain were telling me to stop. If you feel physically, or mentally tired and need a break from your desk for some down time, it is essential that you do this. Powering through when you’re already exhausted will only lead to more intense feelings of tiredness as well as stress, because your brain probably won’t be functioning at its best at 2am! If you allow yourself to recognise when you’re feeling like this, taking action (or rather, doing nothing!) will help you in the long run. Put it this way, if you’re working late and feel tired, going to bed will benefit you the next day, as you’ll have more energy to work, instead of feeling extremely tired and then being unproductive.
2. Plan when to do your work
If you can (more or less) have a rough idea of when you’re going to do your work in the day, this will enable work to become a habit. For example, I make it my goal to always do work at university and then I know that when I get home I can relax and watch TV with my housemates. Not only does this have a positive impact on my stress levels as I am separating work and home, but it has also become a routine for me to go to the library before and between lectures, and then get the bus home when I’m happy with how much I’ve completed.
3. Every day is not essential
It is a fact of life that some days, we just won’t be feeling it. You might have had a stressful few days, be really tired and just not able to concentrate on your work. This used to panic me last year, but this year I have realised that even if having a day or half a day off means that I can recharge, then I can work a bit extra the next day, if necessary. Giving yourself a break will not be detrimental to your grade. Similarly, if you’re feeling unwell, a break might be what your body needs to repair itself. This goes back to my point of listening to your body!
4. Don’t be disheartened by what others are doing
When I’m done for the day and see someone working late in the library through snapchat, it’s natural to think ‘oh, maybe I should be working too’. It’s important to remember that what you see on social media is a snapshot (literally) of their day. They might have just started working for all you know, whereas you might prefer to work in the day. Comparing your work ethic/timetable can only cause a negative effect on yourself. Everyone has different methods of working; nothing is right or wrong!
5. Early start, early finish
Whether you prefer to work early in the day or late at night, remember to still incorporate some sort of routine in your day. I usually start working in the morning, but then I’ll finish in the early afternoon. If you work at night, similarly, try and finish ‘late’ (and not into the early hours of the morning!) so that you get a decent amount of sleep. Spending an entire day doing work, as I discovered last year, had a negative impact on my mood and stress levels. Leaving a good chunk of the day free to do whatever you want (go to a society, chill in front of the TV, meet your friend..) can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your workload.
I hope this blog has given some useful tips to carry with you every day when trying to manage this ‘work-life balance’. Nobody will ever achieve a perfect balance, but it is about doing what works for you