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Work-Life Balance as a Postgraduate Student

Image shows an open laptop, an August weekly To-Do list and a mobile phone

For postgraduate students, the struggle to create a work-life balance can be very real, and balancing study with other commitments like work and family can feel like a massive challenge. In this article, I share my personal top 3 tips for establishing and maintaining a healthy balance, and provide some helpful resources from Student Wellbeing. 

I’m a full time PhD (Classics) student, and throughout my enrolment I’ve typically been balancing my studies with at least two paid jobs and two volunteer jobs at any given time. At first this felt like a truly impossible task, but over time I’ve managed to find a rhythm and pattern that works well for me. We all have our own unique experiences to navigate, and no single structure will be a perfect fit for everyone, but here are the strategies that I personally found most useful for creating a healthy work-life balance. 

My Top 3 Tips For Navigating Work-Life Balance

1. It’s all about the scheduling

When you have competing deadlines and multiple tasks coming in to play, scheduling is definitely key. What works best for me is having one calendar where I can fill in and colour-code all my commitments. I begin with the non-negotiables like work shifts, meetings and consultations – all the things that have to be done at specific days and times. When this is done I then make a To-Do list of all the important things I must do in my own time, like independent study, chores, and general life admin tasks. I take my time to rank these in order of priority (based off when things need to be completed by), and then I can set some time aside for each task in my calendar. 

In my experiences, it’s really important to build flexibility into the To-Do list. It isn’t always achievable to be completely on top of all goals every single day, so I like to factor ‘catch up time’ towards the end of each week. Then, if I fall slightly behind on any tasks throughout the week, I don’t have to stress because I know I can devote time later to come back to anything that falls behind.    

2. Make time for self-care

It is also super crucial to consider self-care when navigating a healthy work-life balance. If we aren’t deliberate in setting aside time to do things we love – whether it’s me-time or socialising – the risk of burning out becomes very real. I’ve definitely found that when I’m intentionally kind to myself and making time for the things I love, I’m happier and more productive overall. If you’re not sure where to start with cultivating fulfilling practices, Student Wellbeing has some fantastic online modules on practicing self-care and managing burnout, which can be great starting points for creating a pattern that works best for you. 

3. Reach out when needed

Don’t feel like you have to navigate work-life balance all on your own. For me, having open and honest communication with my HDR supervisors has made all the difference – in periods when I’ve had too many things to juggle, I’ve reached out to them and together we brainstormed ways to make things work. The same goes for coursework postgraduate students, feel free to schedule a consultation with your course coordinators if you feel like you might be struggling to balance deadlines or stay on top of tasks – your supervisor/course coordinator can either help you out directly or refer you to someone who can help.  

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed you can also reach out to the Student Wellbeing counselling service, where you can get guided advice specific to your circumstances.  

Closing Thoughts

Don’t be afraid of trial-and-erroring a range of different approaches when finding your own personal work-life balance, and make sure to reach out to support services if needed. The postgraduate experience should be fun and rewarding, and a healthy balance will ensure that your studies don’t get in the way of the other things that matter.   

If you’re looking for some practical places to start, check out the free online workshops run by Student Wellbeing, like the upcoming ‘Creative Self Care’ and ‘Make Stress Your Friend’ workshops. Most of all, be kind and patient to yourself while you find your own way to establish and maintain a work-life balance that works for you. 

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