Tips for Balancing School and Work

We are officially two weeks into the new semester and I already feel overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s the intensity of the classes I’m taking, but I feel I need to put a plan in motion so I don’t fall behind. One of the goals for January is to complete all school readings on time – I’m trying my hardest! Here are the steps I’m going to take which will help me organize my thoughts, time and productivity:

1. PLAN YOUR ACADEMIC WEEK

This may seem obvious, but in your planner or online calendar, note the assignments or discussions that are due on each date. Wait! Don’t stop there.

Now you have to decide the steps it takes to complete these tasks. If they’re simple ones that take 15 minutes to complete, pencil them in at a convenient time. If they have multiple components and take longer to complete, break it down into realistic sections and time segments, and schedule in throughout the week. Don’t schedule 6 hours to finish 50% of the assignment when you know at least 4 hours will consist of procrastination. Keep in mind Step 4 when planning your academic week.

2. WORK AT WORK

If you’re lucky enough to have an office job (subjective) where you can sneak time in to work on homework, I say go for it! There’s no reason to sit there and do nothing if there’s no actual work to do. This is a great time to either plan your week or complete simple and short tasks.

Keep in mind because you are at work, you should be able to snap out of it (homework) and start working should there be any interruptions. That’s why I suggest only working on simpler tasks that don’t require as much focus than others. As a responsible employee, your priority is to do the work you’re hired to do, so try not to put schoolwork during work before actual work!

3. ACTION-REWARD METHOD

When you’re working on those longer and sometimes dreadful assignments, it’s usually hard to push through unless you’re very excited to be working on it. I like to use the ‘action-reward method’ where I reward myself with X if I complete one section of the assignment. If you haven’t already, break it down into manageable sections. This basically means short enough that you won’t lose your mind, but substantial enough that it actually counts towards completing the whole assignment. Now, decide on the reward. Mine usually involves either food or an episode of a TV show. However, those episodes (usually 40 minutes long) are only reserved for when I complete quite a big chunk of the assignment. I don’t deserve to watch if I don’t put in the work!

4. PLAN FOR ME TIME

I can’t stress how important ‘me time’ is. Everybody can have different understandings to this. ‘Me time’ for me is just purely alone time. For others it could be a combination of alone time and hanging out with others, or just a general conception of what we can call ‘chilling’ if that works. When I reward myself with an episode of a TV show (see Step 3) for completing an assigned task, I count that as ‘me time’ as I’m not doing anything except enjoying the show. Some weeks that is enough to keep me sane, but some weeks I require much more ‘me time’ if I’ve overworked myself! I gauge this by looking at the difficulty of my week’s assignments paired with how long it will take to complete them (with lots of effort put in – not half-assed work!).

This can be hard to plan if the rest of the time you’re not spending working on schoolwork is spent at work. Try seeing if you’re able to cut one shift a week to use for ‘me time’ or find ways at work to distance yourself and relax. For my lunch breaks, I used to go on walks (usually along the waterfront) and just admire everything surrounding me, not thinking about work or school. This time is usually good for getting my creativity vibes on, which helps me brainstorm ideas or have a fresher, healthier mindset.

5. DETERMINE YOUR FINANCIAL NEEDS

Linking with Step 4, if you can’t find time to yourself after exploring all options, work on how much you actually need to work per week to live the lifestyle you want. Is working full-time or overtime (when it’s not essential for you to do so) worth it if you’re burnt out most of the time and your grades are slipping? Cut back on hours if possible. If not, talk to your boss and see if your work is flexible. Can you work from home, job share or defer some of your pay? If all of the above don’t work for you, do not fret. It’s terrible and exhausting, the feeling of being overworked when you have full-time studies at the same time, but explore all your options. Can you move back home? Can you potentially try for a different job that’s lesser hours but more pay? Explore your options and see what could work. Talk to those you trust and gain their insight into the situation.

I’m not saying following these steps is easy. I’ve been trying for a very long time, and I’ve slipped up multiple weeks…or months. However, having an organized plan that is realistic is helpful for a few reasons:

1. Your assignment is divided into workable segments.

2. Because you needed to divide the assignment, you had to read through and understand what it is you have to do. Now, you have a clear understanding of the tasks at hand and therefore, should complete the segments more efficiently than if you hadn’t.

3. It’s easier to reorganize your work (segments) into an order that flows or makes sense.

4. All you have to do now is put it together, edit, finalize and submit!

The featured image at the top is of the Productivity Planner! If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen my stories on how useful it’s proven to be in these first weeks of January. It helps me take my weekly planning further into daily plans, which allows me focus one day at a time and not be distracted by all the other tasks I’ve yet to do. DM me on Instagram or comment below if you’d like to know more about it!

Do you follow any of the steps I listed above already? What works and doesn’t? Let me know below!

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