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Written by Mariam Elhoda
on January 10, 2018

We hear a lot about the importance of finding a balance between work and our personal life, but never about how university students can adapt a work-life balance while studying. No doubt, every university student struggles to cope with the pressures of work, uni, gym and maintaining a social life. While it feels almost impossible to find that balance, all it takes is making small changes to your daily routine, as long as you are motivated to prioritising and using your time productively.

Here are some of the tips that I took to maintaining a work-study-life balance.

1)   Use your commute productively

We often think of commuting simply as a waste of time, spending an average of 2 hours of commuting per day. However, time spent commuting doesn’t have to equal time lost. Instead, this time can be used to get the small things done. Assuming most university students travel by bus and train, students can use their travel time to catch up on readings, respond to emails or simply use this time to read their favourite novel.

Here are some of the activities I like to complete while travelling into university or work:

  • Brain training exercises via the Lumosity app
  • Read articles on LinkedIn and keeping a lookout for networking opportunities
  • Read my novel or catch up on university readings

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2)   Create a to-do list (one-week in-advance)

If you’ve tried creating a to-do list before and it hasn’t worked for you, then consider changing your approach. Often to-do lists fail because the assumption is that a to-do list is best written the night before or first thing in the morning. I disagree with this assumption and recommend writing a to-do list one week in advance.

Realistically, your goal for each day is to focus and complete the tasks for one subject. While leaving a time gap to complete portions of your assignments and upcoming quizzes, so that the workload doesn’t accumulate later.

Next, you should rely heavily on your subject outlines, so that you can plan in advance, you should aim to complete the required work at least one day before the lecture and tutorial so that you are familiar with the content that will be discussed which can be found in the subject outline. By completing the set work before going to class, this will help you understand the content that will be discussed and acts as a way of studying in advance for the subject.

Essentially, if you create a realistic and achievable to-do list, you’ll find that you can make the time to do the things you love, go to the gym and even attend social events without worrying about all the work you should do.

3)   Break your Netflix and social media addiction

If your excuse is to use social media and Netflix during your break because you truly believe you deserve it even though you probably did the bare minimum then you’re wrong. Not because you didn’t deserve it, but because social media and Netflix are more of an addiction than a de-stressor. Turning to these mediums during break time is a bad habit and something you don’t want to add to your regime and lose control over. Therefore, if you haven’t already, then I suggest trying to break this habit and limit yourself to how much time your spending either on Netflix and/or social media.

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And let’s be honest, time passes quite quickly when spent on Netflix and social media. When really, this time could have otherwise been used to go to the gym (that we apparently have no time for) or even spend time doing some of our hobbies.

4)   Find a mentor and ask them for advice

Generally, a great mentor is someone who shares similar passions, works in your aspiring industry, having experienced similar setbacks and ultimately achieved personal and professional success. Therefore, it is highly likely that your mentor struggled with the golden work-study-life balance during their younger years and had already learnt some worthwhile lessons along the way.

Skip through all those crazy journeys and hard work – jump to the prize! Kindly ask your mentor to provide some guidance on what makes the perfect balance and whether or not your priorities need to change as you advance into the end stages of your degree. Even ten minutes of their insight (or two simple paragraphs over email) can sometimes be all you need in leading you down the right direction.

5)   Be mindful of your physical and mental health

Your body is a wonderful maze and it can be difficult to navigate so never ignore the signs and hints it gives! There are many indicators and red lights when you become all about work and study and not so much about life, aka rest, and one of them is your body.

Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Random headaches and a general ‘buzzing’ feeling in your head
  • Dizziness from a short period of focusing
  • Forgetting to eat! Lunch is no good when you are six hours later because you were in class
  • Consistently getting less than six-eight hours of sleep
  • Do you get tired easily? (I know… who doesn’t get tired as a university student? By ‘tired’ I mean more tired than usual when you are doing the same things as before. When it happens, you’ll know!)
  • When you finally get a day off, you want to do nothing but stay at home and when family and friends try to engage you, you get moody

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