Having It All: Nurturing the School/Life Balance
We hear the phrase “work/life balance” fairly often. As an Excelsior student, you know there’s another part to the equation: school. What’s one more thing to add to your plates, right?
It’s not news that we live in a world where we’re expected to do it all, and do it all well. Multitasking has never been easier in our digital era. There’s a stigma that if we aren’t busy, if we aren’t taking on the world and then some, then we’re not doing enough. Modern technology allows us to multitask at levels that aren’t healthy, and inevitably one corner of our arena is sacrificed. Psychology Today published an enlightening article on the physical and mental dangers of excessive multitasking.
Tips On How to Balance School and Your Busy Life
Here are some tips that I often share with my advisees on the best ways to have it all without their mental, physical, and emotional well-being taking a hit. I acknowledge these might not work for all, but with some tweaking and consideration, each one can be applied to your lifestyle and schedule.
- Embrace a schedule: This can be tough for some people, but hear me out! There are 24 hours in a day. Ideally, we can mark off eight hours for sleep and eight hours for work. That leaves us with eight hours. Many people are required to work more than eight hours (nurses often up to 12 or more), but the important piece here is to ensure you’re getting enough sleep (seven hours on average) for your overall health as well as for your productivity. Sleep-deprived employees aren’t effective and sleep-deprived students deny themselves their full potential.
- Schedule your school work time like a non-negotiable appointment: At the beginning of the term, you receive your course syllabus. Have a designated calendar or planner where you write out all your due dates for discussions and assignments and, additionally, schedule time in the days leading up to those due dates to work on them. Generally speaking, you should expect to dedicate fifteen to eighteen hours per week to performing the work in one 3-credit course.
- Make family/social time as non-negotiable as school time: The timetable above shouldn’t feel as rigid, immovable, and stressful on your days off. Make sure you have days with no school work so you can take time for yourself and your loved ones. Don’t miss out on a family party because you have a paper to write or reading to do.
- Embrace convenience: Amazon Prime. Grocery delivery. Meal prep/delivery services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. A cleaning service once a month, if you can swing it. Ready-to-heat meals from Costco or Wegmans. Find ways to simplify your routine and take some things off your plate.
- Ask for help: Be sure you’re leaning on your village (spouse or significant other, parents, neighbors, friends, etc.) for help while you are in the midst of a difficult term, or even just in the middle of a tough week where everything seems to be piling on. If you can afford the luxury, consider taking on a “Parents Helper” to run errands you may not be able to fit in or just help with those chores you can’t seem to get to.
- Take time for you: I’m not saying you have to take a vacation twice a year, or retreat to a spa in the Berkshires for a weekend (although once in a while, #treatyourself) but the basics of self-care are to sleep, drink water, eat well, and to exercise. None of these are luxuries; they are life necessities essential to your health and your performance at work, at school, and at home. You don’t have to be a fitness fiend or spend 1–2 hours in the gym every day; a 30-minute brisk walk on your lunch break (alone or with a co-worker) or after work will clear your mind, boost your endorphins, and help keep your mind and body healthy.
While our work and our education are important, nothing is more important than the person we are, the people we love, and the people we are raising. Our work and academics aren’t all that define us as a person (if anything they play a very small role in that definition). Strive to achieve your goals, but remember the real “why” behind them, and be sure you’re devoting the same amount of time, if not more, to those whys.
If you want a deeper dive into the methods of time management and to chat about work/life balance, reach out to your academic advisor in the Student Success Center.