I have been up since 3:30 AM. You read that right; to add to that, I am not going to bed anytime in the near future. This has been my reality for a couple weeks now. I work at 5 AM and have to walk a little over a mile to work. Working while in college is no joke. I work as a shift supervisor at a coffee shop you know well (but I will not mention for now), hence the early shifts. Before that, I worked full-time as a trainer at another job. This is all while taking classes full-time and participating in on-campus organizations, and, of course, writing for my lovely readers through this internship. Honestly, those who watch me from the outside looking in most likely think I have it all together. How could I not, right? I don’t exactly feel like I do all the time. Imagine a waitress balancing five plates up both arms, a bowl held in the air by one foot, and a tray on her head. That’s me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Before we begin, let me draw your attention to the fact that this article is about balancing part-time jobs–this is my own suggestion from someone who has done both. Should you wish to work full-time, then this can work for you as well. Here are my tips:
1. Have a set day off every week
It is important to have at least one day a week that you will always have off. I found this helpful because it was my day of rest, the day I knew I could get stuff done without worrying about work. This also helped me in planning my homework cause I knew that if I were falling behind, that would be the day that I caught up and allowed myself rest. I recommend choosing a day where you also do not have class so that you can be genuinely “off”. Before I tried this, I was always stressed just hoping for a day off and wondering when it would be. Each week my schedule was different and this made planning projects and homework more difficult on me. If you don’t want to choose a day that you are off of school, choose a day that is particularly busy for you. For example, if you know that you have three classes on Wednesdays, take off Tuesday so that you can have adequate time to prepare for the next day. It is really about your preference here and what would make you feel the least stressed and most prepared for school.
2. Be realistic with yourself
This was something I greatly struggled with because I am a people pleaser. My manager wanted me to work more, I knew the money would be decent and I didn’t know how to say no. I felt pressure to become full-time and so I did, with the condition that I wrote my schedule every week. I was running myself ragged. I had a full day and by the time I got home at 11 PM, I still had homework to do. I would then stay up until 2 AM doing homework, waking back up at 7 AM to finish and go to class. Then the cycle would begin again. Social life? Who was she? I didn’t know her. The lesson I learned was, to be honest with myself. Yes, I made a full-time job work, but what did I give up to do so? Sleep, a social life, and not even all of my homework was getting done. Even if you can do something, you have to ask yourself if you should.
3. Start small
When beginning a new part-time job, or adjusting to the start of a new semester while working, start with a smaller amount of hours in order to get comfortable with having a job and classes at the same time. Start at 15 to 20 hours a week and if you are adjusting well and feel that you could do more, then add 5 hours or so, then adjust to that and see how that feels. Jumping straight into your part-time job with a lot of hours could be overwhelming and you may find yourself falling behind. I know we all want to make that money, but we also have to get that degree.
4. Plan ahead
If you don’t have a planner yet, but just accepted a new part-time job, go to Target and get a planner. The best way to ensure that you stay on track with school and your job is by ensuring you are one step ahead of both of them. When you are able to receive your schedule each week, write it into your planner. Then write down important dates, projects, tests, and homework for the next couple weeks into your planner. See when you will have the most time to prioritize your homework and what days you may have a full schedule. The purpose of going a couple weeks out in your planning is to stay ahead on preparing for tests or projects that could take longer and would require more of your time.
5. Do homework and projects ahead of time
Procrastination no longer works when you have a part-time job. Leaving your work until the last minute could lead to possibly not getting it done, or hurrying to finish and not being able to do it to the best of your ability. It can be really tempting to come home after work and nap and relax for thirty minutes. However, every time I do this it turns into much longer than thirty minutes and I’ve wasted time that could have been better used getting stuff done. Trust me, after my early morning shifts, nothing feels better than wrapping myself up like a burrito and taking a three-hour nap. But we have to have more discipline than that, sometimes you have to push through and just start working on it.
6. Set availability that leaves time for school activities
School and work should not be your only excuses to leave your dorm or apartment, have some other activities you participate in. You are here to go to college, which means you should take advantage of everything FSU has to offer you. Join clubs, volunteer with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or Dance Marathon, attend seminars and networking opportunities. There are so many things to be a part of at Florida State, please do not let your job control you or make you feel like you have to bend to it in order to keep it. At times, I felt as though I would be irritating my manager if I asked for a weekend off to volunteer. I felt bad for wanting Wednesdays off every week to attend my ministry group. In the end, you have to do what is best for you, if it doesn’t work out then you can always find another job. My best advice is to never let a job take away from your schooling.
7. Don’t be afraid to cut hours
Oh no, it’s that time, it’s time for midterms. What do you do? Work the 25 hours this week and get no sleep trying to cram your studying in? No. Cut your hours back when you need to. If you know some weeks are going to be more difficult, ask for once less shift or shorter shifts throughout the week. You live in a college town where most of the people working at the places around here are students, the managers know how to work around a busy student schedule. In fact, they are much more understanding of it than you might first believe. If you think you started off with too many hours, ask to change your availability so that you are working less. Never be afraid to cut your hours. We like a nice paycheck, but we all have our limits.
8. Social life
You may be wondering where your social life is going to fit into having a job while ensuring you still do well in school. Just like anything else, this is something you have to set aside time for. Sadly, it may require more planning rather than a spur of the moment, a late-night drive to IHOP. This is another reason to choose to work part-time; when choosing your hours, you should consider how much free time you want to have as well, not just how much time you will need for homework.