Work Life Balance Tips For Busy Students: How to Achieve The Perfect Blend of Business and Pleasure
Is your work life balance getting you down? You may not even realize it, but sacrificing your personal life for school and work 24/7 isn’t actually doing you any favours.
It’s very common for college and university students to fall into the trap of not achieving a healthy work life balance and overworking themselves to the point of burnout. However, even if you think you don’t have the time to manage all of these things, you’d be surprised to see that you absolutely can if you take the right steps.
We’re here to help you make sure your life is well balanced, and most importantly, successful. This guide will help you learn why a good balance is so important, and how you can achieve it – no matter how time consuming and demanding your school schedule is right now.
Group of students hanging out and enjoying social time within their personal life
What is a Work Life Balance?
The philosophical concept of work life balance was introduced by 20th century psychologist and engineer Lillian Moller Gilbreth in the early 1900s. Gilbreth, who was the inspiration for the 1950 film Cheaper by the Dozen, was the matriarch of a family of 12 children as well as one of the first female engineers to receive a PhD. So, if anyone knows a thing or two about balancing work success and a good personal life, it’s the woman who invented it and perfected it.
Everyone needs a personal life and a work life. If you don’t have a healthy work life balance, you can easily begin to suffer physically, emotionally, and mentally. Constantly putting work or school ahead of your relationships, physical and mental health, or personal care can actually lead to a decline in academic performance because all of these elements are important for keeping you at peak levels of function.
The ideal balance of work and life should include enough time for all of the following areas:
● Work, including school time, study time, and your job if you have one
● Exercise or physical activity
Overcoming the Guilt Factor of Overwork Culture
In today’s society, we’re conditioned to believe that working ourselves to the bone will lead to achievement, success, and even wealth. Putting in long hours at work makes you come across as a hard worker, and we are constantly bombarded with messages telling us to “hustle” or “hit the grind.”
The longer your work week gets, the more exhausted you’re going to be. Think about those typical movie or television tropes about the workaholic who never makes time for his or her family because they’re always working around the clock with no time to enjoy their life. Sure, being a workaholic might make you wealthy, but is it worth it if you’re sacrificing everything else that matters to you?
Overwork culture is a toxic aspect of society that often leads to a burden on the health care system, damaged personal and family relationships, and decreased mental health. These are just a few of the consequences no one seems to talk about when they celebrate those who work overtime and participate in “hustle” culture. In fact, overwork culture has become so prominent that people tend to feel overwhelmed with guilt when they do things that should be considered normal in a healthy and balanced life – like clocking out on time when your shift is over.
As you learn to balance your life, remember this – exhaustion is not a trophy. Hard work does pay off, but it should never be at the expense of your wellbeing.
Female student at risk of burnout feeling overworked and stressed
Student Burnout is Real… And Dangerous
When you don’t achieve the ideal balance between your school, work and personal time, you’re putting yourself at risk for burnout.
Most students undergo stress. This is a very normal and expected aspect of being in a college or university program. However, student burnout is different from your regular stress levels. Burnout occurs when that stress begins to completely overwhelm you and interrupt your ability to function effectively, and it typically lasts for a long period of time.
Student burnout has a direct link to campus anxiety and depression. It can also be detrimental to your success in all of the areas of your life, from your academic performance to your personal happiness and relationships. Here are just a few of the negative effects and consequences that can come with student burnout and completely derail your life:
● Frequent panic attacks
● Major depression
● Loss of motivation
● Low self-esteem
● Severe anxiety
● Substance abuse
● Suicidal thoughts
● Binge eating
● Physical symptoms such as rashes, stomach pains, and chest pain
● Headaches and migraines
● Personality changes, specifically irritability and mood swings
● Interrupted sleep patterns
● Relationship problems
Maintaining a healthy work and life balance is an essential way to prevent yourself from reaching the point of burnout and managing those stress levels in a healthy, productive way.
A Good Work Life Balance Leads to More Productivity
This sounds like a complete contradiction, but giving yourself a better balance between your work, school, and personal life and making time to prioritize non-work activities can actually have a better impact on your productivity.
But how does my work productivity increase if I’m taking more time for myself and my social life instead of spending all of that time working? This is a fair question that many students have when it comes to searching for that balance and understanding why it’s important.
If your body is constantly under stress and feeling burnt out, it’s hard to muster up the energy to complete any work to the level of quality you need it to be. The same goes for your mental health. When you let your mental health and wellbeing suffer, you’ll soon find that your productivity levels suffer as a result. Essentially, the minute your quality of life starts to suffer, everything else will suffer, too – and personal fulfillment, socialization, physical activity, and self-care are all key aspects of a good quality of life.
Further, when you start to revolve your life entirely around your work and school, your personal relationships will begin to suffer. Those personal relationships are your source of help, support and relief when the stress starts to overwhelm you, and not having that support leads to that dreaded burnout we mentioned above.
Sign with words of encouragement that say you got this to encourage a healthy life balance
How to Achieve the Ideal Balance
Oprah Winfrey once said, “You CAN have it all. Just not all at once.” And she’s absolutely right – it takes a serious balance to go from living in poverty in a rural Mississippi town to being a highly successful media mogul with a net worth of $1.7 billion USD and a Presidential Medal of Freedom under her belt.
Like everything in life, moderation is key. This applies to your work life balance.
In order to moderate your life properly, one of the things you’re going to have to teach yourself is how to “flip the switch” between your work brain and your personal brain. When you’re enjoying time with family and friends or engaging in some self-care time, be present in that moment and don’t stress yourself out over work and school tasks you need to get done. If you’re out and about, there’s nothing you can do about that work at that time, and the more you worry about it, the less you’ll enjoy your much-needed personal or social time.
The same goes for work and school. When you’re working on something, studying, or focusing in class, turn off your personal brain and focus on your work. Your personal matters aren’t going to change during the time you’re in class or in a study session, so be present and engaged with the material and deal with your personal matters after the fact. This way, you’re focused and motivated to get that work done in a timely manner instead of letting it pile up while you worry about everything else going on in your life.
Tips to Achieve a Better Work Life Balance
So, how exactly do you go about setting up an ideal balance in your life? Here are some helpful tips you can follow to learn how to better prioritize your responsibilities and avoid letting that stress overwhelm you.
● Make sure your goals are realistic. Don’t try to completely overhaul your life all at once. If you set goals you can’t achieve, when you aren’t able to accomplish them, you’ll start to feel like you’re failing.
● Prioritize your physical health. Get enough sleep, eat a nutritious diet, stay hydrated, and give yourself time for physical activity or exercise. It’s easy to forget to take care of your physical health when all of the work you have to do gets in the way, but a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. If your body doesn’t have the right fuel and energy it needs to carry you through your day, you’re not going to be able to keep up with an ideal balance.
● Reward yourself. Make sure you acknowledge yourself when you’ve done a good job or have been productive. Give yourself rewards for sticking to your schedule, or for accomplishing those major tasks. This helps you encourage yourself to continue on the right path and stick to that schedule or plan.
● Play to your own strengths. You don’t need to be everything to everyone, and it’s important to recognize the areas where you excel and which areas need a little more focus.
● Turn off the technology. We live in a digitalized world where technology rules the kingdom, but we can become overly dependent on our gadgets and this can get in the way of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. When you’re done working, shut your computer off. At night when it’s time to go to bed, turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode if you use it for your alarm.
Group of friends sitting outside enjoying their social life together in the outdoors
Balancing Part Time Work With School
Some students work part-time jobs while in school, and when you add a job to the mix, the lines between a good life balance of work, studying, and personal time can start to get a little blurred.
A stud published by Maclean’s a few years back surveyed full-time graduate and undergraduate students in Montreal. This study found that over 40% of undergraduate students work more than 20 hours a week in Quebec alone, and 56% of undergraduate students across Canada work at least 18 hours a week. At least one third of those students report that working has had a negative impact on their school performance, while 30% of those students say they feel they will take longer to finish school due to work.
A lot of websites or resources on this subject might tell you to utilize your break time at work to fit more studying in. However, the reality is that most students work part-time jobs that don’t always offer a 1-hour lunch break or even a half hour break, especially if the shift isn’t that long. If you only have 15 minutes to sit down and relax during a stressful shift, the last thing you should do is worry about the pile of schoolwork or studying you have to do. Your break time is for you to rest briefly and decompress a little bit before going back to the grind. This is just as important as that extra study time for your mental health and stress levels.
Trying to cram in some reading in a short 15-minute break won’t do much for you. The better option is to utilize commute time if you need to take public transit or commute to work in another way. For example, if you have a 45 minute bus ride to work, you can fit in some study time and bring your materials with you.
However, with the right system in place, you won’t have to worry about cramming all of that studying or schoolwork in at work and can enjoy your break time without the stress. It all boils down to a good time management routine.
Student enjoying their personal life in front of a beautiful sunset
Time Management is Key
You may have read this far and started feeling the stress of wondering how you’re going to make time for all of these things without falling behind on your work or studies. The key to making everything work is proper time management.
There are 4 key steps to developing a great time management routine:
1. Prioritizing your tasks
2. Creating a weekly schedule
3. Running a time audit on yourself
4. Understand yourself and maximize your own work habits
We will go into more detail on these things in the sections below, but it’s important to note that developing a good time management routine is something that takes time to get used to. You’re not going to wake up and suddenly become a master at time management overnight, but if you start to form the right habits now, you’ll be on track for achieving the ideal balance for the rest of your life.
1. Prioritizing Your Tasks
Break down your goals and tasks by priority. But don’t forget to prioritize things that aren’t work and school, too. Those are just as important for your wellbeing and mental health. A great way to do this is by using the 4-Square Method.
The 4-Square Method works like this: create a 2 by 2 grid, either on paper or on a computer program, with two rows of two squares. On the left axis, label one square “important” and one “not important.” Then, on the top axis, label one square “urgent” and one square “not urgent.” Number each square from 1 to 4 moving clockwise. Now, the squares should correlate so that each of your numbered squares are in the following categories:
1. Urgent and important
2. Not urgent and important
3. Urgent and not important
4. Not urgent and not important
Once all of this is created, list out your tasks, chores, or other duties in each square based on how urgent and important they are. Each task will then have a corresponding number, and all you have to do is place them in order from 1 to 4 in your schedule. For example, paying your rent on the first of the month would be a 1, and your essay that’s due in two weeks might be a 2 because it’s not as urgent but still important to do soon.
2. Creating a Weekly Schedule
When creating your schedule, make sure to include your social time or events in your personal life along with your study time, schoolwork, and work hours. Your personal life is just as important, and when you include it in your weekly schedule you can plan your tasks around those events so you always make sure you have a balance. It might seem silly to add “coffee date with Brenda” right beside “study for finals” but it’s a very helpful way to give yourself free time for those important social interactions and make sure you can still get all of your work done.
On that note, when you’re planning out your weekly tasks in your schedule, break them down in chunks. For example, if you have a big essay due soon that’s worth 50% of your grade, break it down so that you have little pieces at a time within your to-do list. Plan to draft your outline one day, then your body paragraphs another day, and so on. Not only will this be easier to manage, but it will also give you more things to check off your list, which gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
Male student doing his work while relaxing on the couch
3. Run a Time Audit on Yourself
Once your tasks are prioritized and your schedule is made, it’s time to put it into action. At the beginning, there might be a period of adjustment as you learn to work within your planned structure.
Have you ever found yourself at the end of the week with a pile of unfinished tasks wondering where all of your time went? Losing track of time is an easy way to fall behind and lose that work and life balance quickly.
If you find yourself starting to fall behind on your planned out lists and feeling the stress sink in, run a time audit on yourself. Most of the time, any issues in time management can be solved when you begin to think realistically about how much time you’re spending on different tasks and either changing your work habits or accommodating for the real amount of time a task will take in your schedule.
Use a free time tracking website like Toggl to time yourself while you work on tasks. Do this for an entire week, keeping track of how long you take to complete each thing in your schedule, and examine the results. Look for any gaps where you can see wasted time. For example, you may notice that you spent 5 hours on something that should have only taken you 1 hour maximum. Once you can see these gaps, you can start to see opportunities and learn better ways you can maximize your time to fit in the fun stuff along with the work stuff.
4. Understand Your Own Work Habits
A good time management routine will be successful as long as you are realistic with yourself and understand how you personally operate. You know yourself better than anyone else, and you are the only person who can be realistic with how you spend your time. Once you understand your own work habits, you can maximize them to make sure you stay on track with your schedule and have enough time for the things you really enjoy.
Maximize your own productivity with the following tips and tricks:
● Plan for your peak time of day. If you know you work better at night than in the morning, arrange your to-do list so your highest priority and most urgent tasks are done at night.
● Choose the right environment that works for you. Some people work best when they’re surrounded by noise, like in a coffee shop, while others need absolute silence to focus.
● Be honest with yourself. Are you knowingly spending too much time each day watching TikTok videos and putting off your schoolwork? Understanding where to draw the line is an important part of getting to know how you personally operate and how to set rules for yourself to stay on track.
● Check in with yourself at the end of the day. How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished that day? Where are some areas you can identify to improve or seek out new learning opportunities to be more productive in the future? Analyze what went wrong that day so you can avoid making the same mistakes tomorrow.
Female college student living her life on vacation using her personal time
Where Self-Care Fits in
A big aspect of a healthy and ideal balance in your life is a good self-care routine. Self care is an extremely important way to make sure you give yourself the things you need to take care of yourself in every aspect of the word.
Give yourself time to decompress after a long day or week and recharge your batteries. Keep up with your personal care and hygiene, get enough physical activity, and give yourself the opportunities you need to feel fulfilled and, most importantly, happy.
Self-care looks different for everyone because we all get happiness from different things, so it’s important to know what works for you. If you need some inspiration for self-care options that work for you and your lifestyle, check out our list of 250 self-care ideas that appeal to a range of personality types and interests.
Upgrade Your Study Habits
As a busy student trying to find the ideal balance, you know that studying is still a huge priority in your life. However, when you drag out those study sessions and spend hour after hour cramped in your room studying, you can begin to lose track of that healthy balance. Being stuck at your computer all day is also not healthy for your body and can lead to more stress.
The good news is that if you learn how to study efficiently, you won’t need to cram hours upon hours holed up in your room spending every waking moment of your time on school. All you have to do is form good study habits as early as possible to avoid those last-minute all nighters and cram sessions fueled by Red Bull and ramen.
A great study technique that will help you maintain a great balance is spaced repetition. With spaced repetition, you essentially study your materials in smaller chunks spaced out over time instead of all at once. For example, if you’re learning English, it’s more effective to spend 20-30 minutes a day practicing than 2-3 hours one day a week because of the way our brains work. If you only review something once a week, your brain will be less likely to retain the information because you aren’t regularly absorbing it.
Spaced repetition basically trains your brain the same way positive affirmations do, using the science of repetitive thought to make material and information stick in your brain. This is actually more effective than studying for long periods of time and going over a ton of notes at once. It’s also a lot easier to fit your study time in with a good life balance this way, so your schedule will be a lot more appealing.
For more information on study techniques and helpful hacks you can try to improve your study sessions and avoid wasting extra time, check out our blog on how to study effectively.
Establishing Boundaries and Learning to Say No
It’s important to understand that there are going to be times where you may have to make some sacrifices. You can’t balance a thriving social life and a productive work life if you constantly only choose one or the other. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries for yourself.
A great example of this is during midterms or final exam season. If finals week is coming up but your friends who aren’t taking finals want to go out every night, you’re going to have to pick and choose which nights are doable for you based on how much studying you have to do and how prepared you are. If you continue to go out every night and let your study materials pile up, you’re going to face that burnout sooner than later – and it will show up in your final grade.
You are going to have to say no once in a while when you know you have a list of high priority tasks on your desk and only a short period of time to complete them. However, know that this is only temporary. During finals week, you may have to focus more on your school life and less on your personal life, but this isn’t going to happen for the rest of your life. This is a temporary sacrifice during finals week because this is a high priority time for your academic career. Once that week is over, you can go out and make up all of the social time you missed and not have to worry about your grades.
Female college student facing burnout as she studies late at night in bed
Improve Your Work Life Balance With a Custom Essay Writing Service
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Let a professional write your next assignment for you so you can enjoy your personal life without stressing about your grades or feeling the burnout of trying to fit it all in. Order now with just one click, or get a free quote from our team.
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