The illusory work-life balance. Or in this particular case, the work-study-life balance.
How do you know just how to get the balance right, especially on days where you feel like you’re drifting slowly in quicksand with your only thoughts centred on running away from all of your responsibilities?
How do you justify and apply yourself to study, whilst you’re dodging your housemates as they ask for your share of the rent and you’re eating pasta sauce on toast (recipe enquiries welcome). On the other hand, how do you go to work knowing end of semester exams are just around the corner?
We’ve been asking ourselves the same thing, so we sat down for a strategy session with Uni of Newcastle Health and Welfare advisor, Helen Scobie, for some hot tips. Here’s what we uncovered.
Why work is important.
Let’s face it, very few of us are able to sail through uni life without some sort of supplementary income.
Apart from being able to provide yourself with ‘luxuries’ such as a roof over your head and the method and means of getting from A to B, jumping on the daily grind brings a whole host of other benefits to the table.
“You’re learning to keep that balance of different things happening in your life,” says Helen. “You also know it’s normal to have lots of different things competing for your attention.”
Work smart, not hard.
This is of course, a lot easier said than done, but it really all comes down to prioritising your time and concentrating your efforts.
Plan your assessments in advance, set some achievable goals, have focused study sessions, pick a really great study playlist, and take the time to reward your efforts as opposed to punishing your failures.
So how do we strike the balance?
“I guess one of the things to reflect on is: What matters to you.” At the end of the day, you need to be able to put yourself first when the situation allows you to do so.
Your boss may be “super duper desperate” for a double shift over the weekend, but you’ve been flat out and your body is screaming out for some down time. On the flip side, you might want to hit the town on a Wednesday night, but …you’ve got an assessment first thing Thursday morning.
“Prioritise the things that are important to you. It’s about having balance across all things and making the time to do all the things that you value, like looking after yourself, taking the time to exercise, eat right, sleep well, catch up with friends. They’re the things we tend to prioritise less sometimes as they don’t seem as important, but they’re actually what’s going to give us that balance.” Make sure you acknowledge that although it may not feel like it at times, there’s a whole lot more to life then hitting the books and collecting a pay check at the end of the week. Again with the balance.
Be straight up
It’s a lot easier to be straight up with your boss about your study schedule, especially around assessment heavy or exam periods, then simply running away from your responsibilities and maxing out your stress levels in the long run. Sure, calling in sick may seem like the option for the short term, but it never ever (ever) works out that way.
Plan ahead, have an open discussion with your boss and your work mates. You’ll feel instantly more in control of your time, effort, and by extension, your studies (yay).
Utilise your support network.
Before your start reaching for the comfort of fast food and reality tv, remember what they say in High School Musical, ‘We’re all in this together’.
It’s so easy to fall back into the notion of not wanting to bother the people we care about most with our work/uni/social life stresses. But getting everything out in the open usually turns the issue at hand from the size of the local crowd at the Boxing Day Sales, to something a lot more measurable.
There are lots of external resources that you can check out as well, if you ever find yourself in that quicksand induced, responsibility fleeing mindset. “The University website has a lot of great resources. You can find tip sheets on finding a balance, stress, preparing for assignments, exam assignments, or if you’re going out on placement”.
If you feel like you’re struggling to balance work and study, the University has a counselling service that is here to help.