Secrets to Finding a Successful Work-Life Balance
It’s no surprise that students are often required to juggle multiple responsibilities. Between school, employment, volunteer work, family, and friends, it is easy to wonder how one person is supposed to do it all.
What is the secret to obtaining a work-life (or school-life) balance? The short answer is... you don’t. It is simply not possible to balance all responsibilities and commitments all the time. But don’t give up! There are things you can do to be successful in each of the responsibilities on your plate even without a perfect balance.
Keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” since everyone’s situation is different. Deciding how to manage it all is a very personal decision. You could begin by considering all the commitments in your life and then ask yourself what your ideal schedule or routine could look like. While you’re in this stage of self-reflection, it may be a good time to evaluate your long and short-term goals as you decide what is most important to you.
While achieving a perfect balance is not accessible, you’ll know when you find a healthy medium when you’re able to keep up with the demands instead of dreading them or feeling burnt out. You may even find that some aspects of your life give you a boost in the other areas.
Here are five additional thoughts to ponder as you find the right fit for your phase in life right now.
You can’t devote 100% of yourself to everything simultaneously. At times, school will be at the forefront of your mind. At other times your mind will be focused on quality time with family. Every responsibility on your plate requires a portion of your resources and has its place in your life. The ultimate goal should be for each responsibility to receive the amount of time required, but without putting a drain on your other commitments. The key is to prioritize what is important to you and when you will focus on each.
What are your highest priorities? You could choose 2-4 of your highest priorities, or even rank them. Then, ask yourself why each of those are of the utmost importance to you. It may not always be realistic to do everything that you want to do, even if they are all worthy ambitions. If you realize that it just isn’t feasible to fit everything in your life, you may need to narrow your focus and make sacrifices.
Letting go of what you’d like to do, but realistically cannot manage, can be extremely difficult. At some point, everyone must learn how to drop things that (while still important), are not as important as your #1. In order to have the time and energy to devote to the things that are most important (for example, priorities 1 and 2)--we may need to let go of other priorities for a time. This is something that I am continually learning myself. Personally, it has helped to remind me that I can pursue those other interests at a later time or to even have a plan of when I’ll pursue them. Remember, priorities may adjust along the way as the things we value change.
Do you find yourself distracted often or thinking about other commitments throughout the day? If so, you’re not alone. This is where boundaries come into play. Boundaries are essential in separating the many demands we face each and every day. These boundaries help us to stay sane and tune out when we need a reprieve.
Technology is a huge part of school, work, and our personal lives, so I’ll use that as an example as I demonstrate boundaries. Technology is clearly very beneficial, but it also can present additional challenges in maintaining boundaries. Many of us at one time we're working remotely, and even attending school online or virtually. This makes it especially difficult to have boundaries in place to divide work and school time from personal time. Having set times assigned to each commitment and taking breaks in between can be helpful in making clear boundaries.
We may feel it necessary to check email or social media constantly throughout the day or before going to sleep. Some may even sit in bed with a laptop propped up in front of them. We may at times feel some pressure to respond to texts, messages, or emails right away, even if it’s late and they could wait until the following day.
Electronics can be extremely difficult to turn off and put away, but quiet time is so important in relieving stress and coping with our busy lives. Having boundaries in place could mean putting away cell phones at a certain time to unplug and refresh. Another example could be officially ending work or school responsibilities at a certain time on specific days of the week. Find a way to hold these boundaries in place and challenge yourself to give it a try for a week.
Live in the Moment
No one enjoys stressing about school when at a party. If you are constantly thinking about school when you’re with your friends, you're still at school mentally and not taking advantage of that much-needed break.
Living in the moment is much harder than it sounds but is crucial to finding peace. When you are at work (whether a physical office, home office, or whatever your circumstance is) focus solely on work. Do not allow interruptions during these set times and avoid thinking about other responsibilities. Once you are done with work, for the time being, concentrate on the new task at hand. Be 100% in the moment, wherever you are or whatever you’re doing. If you don’t, you’ll really miss out on what is happening around you.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. I know from experience how easy it can be to see a gap in my schedule and eagerly try to fill it. It is easy to overschedule ourselves, which then puts a strain on our productivity and well-being. Rather than schedule yourself nonstop throughout the day, plan a small gap in time between large commitments to avoid feeling rushed while transitioning between one task and the next. Even 15-30 minutes can make a big difference.
Another key to better time management is to avoid multitasking. Our minds don’t multitask as well as we think they do and actually have much better performance when focusing on just one task at a time. Do you have a plan of when you’ll focus on certain responsibilities?
Don’t forget to take care of yourself amidst so many demands on your time and energy. At times, this may mean saying “no” when you’ve reached your limit (or need a break--no need to always be at your limit). When life becomes especially hectic, it is perfectly fine to schedule time for yourself. Everyone needs a moment every day to destress and refresh.
During this time you could take a nap, try something new or continue a hobby you enjoy--anything that gives you a well-deserved break. However, don’t just schedule the time--protect it! Treat it as you would any other hard and fast commitment. If something urgent does come up, move your free time to another day instead of plowing right over it.
“Do or Do Not, There Is No Try”- Yoda
Prioritizing, living in the moment, and taking care of yourself are all ways to better manage the many demands on your time. Each one takes work and dedication, but you can do it! Be patient with yourself as you learn how to set those boundaries and use time effectively. Concentrate on doing your best, and you will continue to improve. As you manage the responsibilities on your shoulders, you will see the difference that each of these skills can make in your life.
Now that you’ve read this blog post, commit to putting some ideas in motion. You don’t have to go about this alone. As always, we are here for you along your way. We can help with setting goals, staying motivated, managing time, general study skills and so much more to help you be successful as a student. To learn more about who we are, what we do, and why we do it visit our webpage, and while you’re there, schedule a time to meet with us. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to hear your success stories!
About The Author
Rachel is a senior pursuing her degree in communication here at Weber State University.
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