If you are reading this post, you are a) suffering from a terrible work-life balance, are chronically sleep deprived, and are always rushing, or b) would like to have extra money but are not sure how to manage your study and workload. First, it helps to know that your problems are not unique. Already talking with friends should give you tips about how to manage your time.
Why Work Next to Your Studies?
Before discussing how to balance work and study, let’s tackle the underlying cause of time pressure: your work. You should be clear about what kind of experiences you gain from your work. If you work in a restaurant, as a taxi/Uber driver, you learn client management and customer service. Working as a delivery man/woman teaches punctuality and planning. Office work gives you plenty of chances to learn about work values, conflict resolution etc. If you cannot discern any clear values from your work, except money, if possible consider a different job. Ideally, you can use your current work experience to showcase your skills to your future employer.
How to Balance Study and Work
The most important thing is to not procrastinate – under no circumstances leave anything until the last minute. People have the tendency to do the little easy tasks first. It is rewarding. You work 30 minutes and it is done. You can tick it off your list. Asana, a project management software, even lets you have a unicorn dancing on your screen to celebrate that the task is done. But, the big tasks normally require thinking time. And that takes time. Big projects, like reports and presentation, need time if you like to deliver high-quality work. Leaving them to the last minute will result in stress and lack of sleep.
Little Tips to Make Life Easier
Of course, there are also other little behavioural changes that you can do to make it easier to achieve a balance between study and work. Some require you to have a disciplined attitude, others will ask you to change your behaviour. As a full-time single mother with a side hustle, these are my favourite tips:
- Share the cooking. If you live with others, make a meal plan so that you do not have to cook every day. Other shortcuts include: buy ready cut vegetables (a tip from my sister, an occupational therapist), use delivery services (Hello Fresh or BlueApron are great if you do not have that many cooking skills).
- Study at online universities. This saves you the travel to and from university, however if you are not disciplined, this solution will not work for you.
- Find work at university. Reduce commuting time. Just do not sleep there too. A change of scenery can do wonders for your motivation.
- Have fixed times for going to bed and getting up. Having a good sleep rhythm helps your productivity. This means you can get more done during the time you are awake.
- Do not work for 1 day per week (minimum requirement). Do yourself a favour and get some rest.
Eisenhower had a great and simple time management technique known as the Eisenhower matrix. If you have never consciously done any time management, or have so far relied on never-ending lists, this might be a first step towards (better) time management:
- Make a list of activities that you need to do
- Group them according to: important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important and urgent, not important and not urgent
- Do first: what is important and urgent
- Schedule: What is important but not urgent
- Delegate: What is urgent but less important
- Do not do: What is not important and not urgent
Write Down Your Intentions
Your work-life balance might be off, tilted towards too much ‘life’ or ‘work’, because you dread to do certain activities. This could be studying for a test, applying for a job, or taking care of yourself. The reason for an imbalance is your behaviour. There is no other way than to change your behaviour. Writing down your intentions is an approach that has been widely researched by health professionals and clinical psychologists. The goal is to identify the obstacles that stop you from reaching your goals. The goal is to develop some explicit strategies to help you change your behaviour You’ll have to do these steps:
- Write down your goal. For example, stop telling your boss that you can work an extra day.
- Write down the obstacles that so far have stopped you from reaching your goal. For example, you need the extra money, you are afraid your boss will fire you, you are too nice and can’t say no.
- Write down realistic and concrete IF…THEN statements. For example, “I will put $5 aside for a ‘rainy day fund’. This money can only be used for buying basic grocery items. The ‘rainy day fund’ will give me a financial safety net. I can then tell my boss that I can not work an extra day. If I take money out of the ‘rainy day fund’ for anything else than basic grocery, then I will have to give the money to a friend.
If studying online is something for you, check out the reviews from various open universities in Europe and Asia on EDUopinions. If you know that this is not for you, pick a city on EDUopinions that is close to your work (or find work that is close to the city you like to live and study in).
Do you have any tips for achieving the perfect work-life balance? Please tell us about it by leaving a comment!