Unless you’re rich, it’s likely that you’re having to work in one way or another while going to school. Whether it’s work-study, a part-time job, a full-time job, you’re having to split your time and it’s rough. You go from one trench into another, and home isn’t even a solace because you’re having to set aside time for study, paper writing, etc. on top of household responsibilities. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done AND find slivers of rest and happiness. Or so it seems. Once you get a routine down, finding that balance is easier than you think. You might need to adjust it here and there, but here’s what I found worked for me:
Use Commute Time to Your Benefit
As an undergrad, I got a retail job at the mall that was next to my campus. I didn’t get housing and didn’t qualify for enough work-study to make rent, so I had to look elsewhere. I saved a lot of time because I could just run across the street to make it to either my next shift or class. So if you can find something close by, that’s a huge help because that commuting time can be put towards relaxing or studying later.
I missed that in grad school, where I had to get more creative. This time I was an hour and a half from campus, but instead of driving, I used public transit so that otherwise wasted time I could use more productively. In total that was three dedicated hours round trip that I could spend doing the reading for class or finishing up work. Doing this really helped me balance my time between studying and relaxing, plus it’s good for the environment.
Work around School, not School around Work
It’s not the same thing, and I know because I’ve had to do both. As an undergrad, my retail job worked out that I could volunteer for hours that worked around my classes. If I had a majority of morning classes, I would take closing shifts most of the semester so that I’d have a couple hours break in the afternoon to eat and get a leg up on some homework. If I had to take a night class then I asked for a morning shift for that day. Usually, it would work out since most of the staff were also college students, so it wasn’t unusual for us to request specific shifts.
For grad school, it was a mixed bag of both. My job relied on my availability for any given day, so if I had classes then I just let them know those days I wasn’t available. However because unlike retail, this job had a regular 8-hour workday, I ended up signing up for classes around those hours. And because I was commuting I also had to factor in travel time to class time to figure out just how much of my day I had to dedicate to school. This ended up with me taking A LOT of night classes, which honestly wasn’t unusual as most of my classmates were doing the same.
Schedule in Downtime
You might not like the idea of actually penciling in downtime, but you’d be surprised how time can get away from you. One minute you’re telling yourself you’ll just finish this last thing and before you know it, you’ve finished three assignments and run a marathon.
Yes, school and work are important and I’m not telling you to procrastinate (please don’t that’s just a slippery slope) but take a couple of hours for yourself every night. This could be watching a movie, Facetimeing with friends, or hitting up your Animal Crossings island. You’ll only burn yourself out if you don’t take a break. It’s all about balance.
Weekends Are For You
If you absolutely can’t help yourself during the week and just keep hacking at your work, then take the weekends for yourself. It’ll be tempting to try to get ahead of your work, which yes is nice, but if you’re always trying to stay ahead you’ll never stop. Your mind needs to rest as much as your body. Go out with your friends, have brunch, go to a bookstore, go on a walk with your dog. Your work will still be there when you get back, and you’ll be able to look at it with stress-free eyes. Find the balance that works best for you.
Ask for Help
You are not an island. Ask your co-workers and classmates for help. Start a text chain with your classmates where you can all ask questions about the material you’re covering. Chances are they all need help with something and you can all help each other. If you’re running late to class because you’re waiting for your turn at the copier, ask a co-worker if they wouldn’t mind making the copies for you and return the favor at a later time. There’s no shame in asking for help, and people are often more willing to help than you’d think.
Eat and Sleep Well
These things make a difference. It’ll be tempting to skip meals and sleep and just be fueled by iced coffee and desperation. Resist. Have breakfast, have lunch, have dinner, and get your eight hours. The times I’ve been most stressed between school and work are the times I’ve tried to be more Unsleeping Iced Coffee than functioning human beings.
Set yourself a bedtime, turn off your phone, and stare into the void until it gives way to dreamland. You don’t have to give up your iced coffee (I would never) but have a bagel with cream cheese with it at the very least. Pack snacks into your bag so if you don’t have time to sit down for lunch you’ve got something more than just your third iced coffee to fuel you. If you’ve got a night class, see if any of your classmates want to have dinner after class. If you’re more of a loner, those meal times are also good reading times. Read that article for your next class, or write that work report you didn’t get to. It’s all about time management and self-care, that’s the real balance.
How do you balance school and work? Let me know in the comments below!
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I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!