This article was last updated on December 31, 2015
Whether you’re a college student working to get the bills paid, or a career person taking courses to amplify your skills, you need balance in order to stay sane. Time management and other physical and intrinsic tools will keep you centered despite circumstances that might otherwise be overwhelming. You can follow this practical advice and successfully juggle work, study and personal life. Read the seven effective tips and start applying the ones that work for you right away:
7 Actionable Tips to Balance Work, Study and Personal Life
Set a Schedule and Follow it
What are your main priorities? Unfortunately, you can’t spend 8 hours each day on job-related tasks, 8 on schoolwork, and 8 doing your own thing – one aspect of your existence will surely get neglected. By knowing your priorities and the amount of time needed to get everything you need done, you are able to set a schedule that will help you cope with your busy life. The more detailed your calendar, the greater your chances of successfully carrying it out. Break your personalized schedule down into monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly tasks for the most effectiveness.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute has an 8-hours per day printable schedule for students that can be used for managing your time at school as well as work. What stands out about this simple day plan template is the five tips offered:
- Cross off class times
- Cross off meal times
- Cross off work or activity times
- Cross off study times
- Total should be 8 hours/ day and 40 hrs/ week on the job as a student.
You can take this one step further by breaking down the total hours you would like to spend on each of these tasks, and modify the last piece of advice to encompass work and personal time as well. You don’t have to use a hard template like this. If you’ve got a calendar app on your smartphone that is backed up to your computer or a cloud, this will work just as well if not more conveniently. Just remember, details and follow-through are going to pay off in the long run.
Plan for Unexpected Roadblocks
Leave some room in your schedule for emergencies and unexpected changes throughout the day. In a study titled, “You can’t always get what you want: the influence of unexpected task constraint on voluntary task switching,” researchers found that the costs of people having to switch from one task to another without notice were high. When they had to switch back to the original task after completing the second, the costs rose. When you can anticipate sudden changes by allotting yourself extra time between tasks and creating mental preparedness, you will be ahead of the game, and stress as well as time costs will be minimized.
Use Productivity Tools & Apps
Task management apps, calendars, accounting software, and alarms are available for free, or at a low one time fee, to anyone with a smartphone. Take advantage of them. You can find almost anything you need in the Android and iOs app stores. Try out the ones that appeal to you. Keep the ones you like and delete the ones that don’t help much. Simple is key.
Nurture Your Spirituality
UCLA has found that spirituality and religion do, in fact, play a role in well-being, synonymous with balance. Their study, “The Spiritual Life of College Students: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose” found that students showed a commitment to spirituality, life’s deeper meaning, and that they are consciously looking at questions that are existential in nature. The numbers show an increase of broad spectrum comfort and happiness based on higher spiritual commitment. This is to say that those who didn’t participate in spiritual or religious practices, or participated less actively, showed less happiness. Find the time to look deeper into yourself through prayer, meditation, or other rituals to maintain your stability despite your hectic schedule.
Practice Stress Reduction Techniques
Breathwork, yoga, meditation, physical exercise, and other practices can greatly reduce stress. Methods work distinctly different for everyone. Because the body’s stress response is the same whether you’ve just bumped into someone at the market or you are being chased by a puma in the rainforest, your body reacts the same. Some of your body’s systems will be in hyperdrive while others, such as the digestive system, will shut-down completely while you are responding to stress. Too much of this will lead to illness. With stress reduction techniques, you can minimize your response time and maintain centered and aware throughout the day.
If you don’t yet know which strategies work best for you, you can do some research on the subject to learn more and try out some activities that resonate with you. If you need electives to fill your schedule next semester, you might check to see if your college offers some sort of stress management course. Depending on where you work, it is possible that your employer can help you find a workshop to attend on the topic. Taking this seriously will benefit you greatly.
Outsource Some of Your Work When Possible
If you can afford to hire someone to help you with some your work, now might be a good time to consider outsourcing to someone with a lower rate than you. This only works if you are able to take at least some of your work home with you. In the case that you are, it can save you time to seek out help. Potentially, you can delegate online tasks to someone overseas or a student or intern looking to build a portfolio. If you find a system that works really well, there is the potential to receive more incoming work hours from your employer and make more money than you currently are. Outsourcing can help when you are in need of more personal or study time if your job provides the opportunity. Consider it as a temporary or somewhat permanent option.
Utilize Grants & Scholarships and Start Paying for School Now if You Can
Well-being is important for your emotional balance. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report, a study of over 30,000 college graduates, found that those who had successfully completed college with high student loan debt experienced significantly decreased well-being. As the dollar amount went up, the happiness of the college grads went down. This information was taken from a study that focused on those who had already completed their degree programs and were in the workforce, but it is safe to assume that loan debt affects current students in a similar way. While it is an investment in your future to pay for education, it is undoubtedly best to get the financial burden it bears out of the way as soon as you can.
Grants and scholarships, obviously, are an excellent way to pay for college. Sometimes they can seem like too much work to apply for, especially when you plate is already full. Keep in mind that several hours of your time spent writing essays and filling out applications will be well worth the effort. For those who cannot qualify for either of these means of payment, a safe piece of advice to follow is to start paying off your debt as soon as you can.
Remember, when you make a loan payment over the agreed amount, the excess will go toward principal rather than mostly interest. In the beginning phase of most payment agreements, your student loan payments will be going toward the interest of the debt. In some cases, this is up to 75% of a single payment for ¼ of the life of your payments. So, make a payment today if possible.
It’s possible to find the perfect balance, you just need to find the techniques that work best for you and utilize your strengths whenever you can! If you any tips to add on how to balance work, study and personal life please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo credit: Abel Maestro Garcia via flickr