Tips for Finding your Work/School/Life Balance

Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

Written by E'layna Baker, OAC Communications Intern

Finding a healthy balance when it comes to work, school and life can be difficult. This is something I have personally struggled with in the past, and honestly, I still find myself a little unsure of how to plan out my days and sift through all my to-do’s without completely overwhelming myself. 

As students, our time can be spent trying to balance coursework, finances, personal relationships, part-time work, volunteering and extra curriculars. Sometimes it can feel like our days are never ending. If we do not establish a healthy routine, and balance our responsibilities to suit our lifestyle, we can induce burn-out, stress, anxiety and more. 

Here are some ideas on how we can all find a healthier work-school-life balance as students.

1. Prioritize your time

Procrastination is a word we are all too familiar with as students. University life can eat up a lot of our day, so it is important to know what tasks fall in which of the following categories:

  • urgent and important (for example, studying for a mid-term at the end of the week)
  • important but not urgent (for example, studying for a final exam in 4 weeks)
  • urgent but not important (for example, reviewing before a practice midterm study group session tomorrow)
  • neither urgent nor important

Establishing a priority list like this can really help you map out how you will spend your time weekly and even daily.

2. Know when and where you are most productive 

Some people are more socially productive, in settings like a group floor in the library, for example. On the other hand, some of you may be similar to me; I feel more at ease and intentional with my time in quiet spaces on campus or in my bedroom. This level of self-awareness can help you not to waste time by trying to operate in a setting that is not your ideal work environment. 

Not sure where you are most productive? Try out a few different environments and settings and reflect on your productivity. Do you feel focused and energized? Did you complete what you wanted to? Reflect on what worked to help you focus and what distracted you.

3. Plot daily personal time

Personal time can mean different things for different students. Personal time for me is what I like to call a ‘pause period’. Your pause period can take up as little as just a few minutes of your day, and can be spent listening to music in bed, talking with a relative, taking a walk around your neighborhood, baking or cooking or whatever you enjoy. Make sure to take time to pause from daily responsibilities to do an activity that you enjoy. Prioritizing these activities can help calm your mind and be the energy booster you need to get through a challenging day.

4. Make time for something you love

Do not put things you love doing on the back burner because you feel you are too busy with work and school. These activities may be the very thing you need to nurture your creativity, refresh yourself, and motivate you to persevere through your to-do list. You may enjoy doing outdoorsy activities every two weeks or you may enjoy spending a few hours each week practicing new eyeshadow looks. I have a friend that reads at least one book a week. Often times she would stay up late on Friday nights, or wake up early on Saturday mornings to read through an entire short novel. Remember to give your hobbies the time they deserve!

5. Establish boundaries

If you are overwhelmed with assignments, learn how to simply say no.  If someone asks you to do something extra it is okay to say, “no, I have too many commitments right now and I cannot do that for you.” Try to clearly communicate to others what you’re feeling. This helps yourself and others to have clear expectations of what you can and cannot do at specific points in time. 

Another way you can work at creating personal boundaries is by developing a ‘mental on-off switch’ for your to-do list and your personal time. But, this requires discipline. Stick to the times you have set for personal times and make the most of the times you’ve set aside to be productive

 6. Nurture your relationships

As we adjust to university life and take on new and more difficult responsibilities, there is a chance that we may neglect relationships that we find important. Working toward exceling in our studies, jobs and extracurriculars does not have to cause strife in our personal relationships. Your relationships are your support system and often times the quality of our relationships can reveal a new sense of pride, positivity and productivity in our academic life.

7. Take Care of Your Physical Health

Remember to take time to hydrate yourself, eat balanced meals, be active and get adequate rest whenever possible. We may often feel like there is simply not enough time in each day to properly take care of ourselves. However, it’s important to remember that our health should be our number one priority. During my third year, I allowed myself to become so immersed in responsibilities that I neglected taking care of myself. It was difficult to break out of unhealthy habits like sleeping only four hours each night and eating one meal a day, but I knew that I needed to re-establish my balance if I wanted to be successful with my classes, jobs and extracurricular work. Sometimes you need to step back, reevaluate what is important and make changes to ensure you can complete everything you want to.

8. Take care of Your Mental Health

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you are not feeling your best mentally and emotionally, every aspect of your productivity and wellbeing could suffer – coursework, jobs, homelife, relationships. Take time to assess your stress level and emotions. Be open to seeking out safe spaces to talk through how you are feeling. Journaling may also be an effective approach for some students. Be proactive in finding ways to reflect on your mental state and never discredit yourself for feeling the way that you do.

This is a brief list of things to keep in mind as you work toward establishing your balance as a university student. Remember that balance looks different to each and every one of us, so it is okay if your day doesn’t flow the same way as your friend’s. Some people meal prep at the beginning of the week while others cook daily or every few days – and that’s okay! Some people go to the gym four days out of the week, while others skip the gym completely and jog regularly – and that’s okay! I believe finding balance is all about trial, error, and adjustment. I’m hopeful that this brief list of tips has been helpful in opening your mind to the ways you can find your work-school-life balance during your time at U of G!

In this series of blog posts, OAC students take us through some of the ups and downs of their journeys at the University of Guelph.

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