Hi everyone. Gosh what a week, I’ve had a few sleepless nights this week because I just haven’t gotten the balance of fun and work right.
Last Tuesday I was tossing and turning and I couldn’t switch off from studying to get a good rest. I finally gave in and went downstairs to make some notes for my ‘to do’ list so I could forget about it and get back to my beauty sleep.
I didn’t stick to my usual study routine, feeling rather disorganised. Everything was just a little out of whack and well to be honest I was stressed about being behind on my readings and my house was a mess.
Work life balance is a phrase we hear a lot, but it applies to study life too. Lots of us as students are managing so many things at once. Study, work, family, romantic relationships, fun, community activities, sports and of course that much needed down time that helps us keep everything in perspective.
I work hard to balance all the things that fill out my life. I am a single mum of two kids, working, studying, and managing their social calendars as well as my own. It is really important to get the balance right, and when I don’t, it reminds me just how important it is to stop, breath and get back to being kinder to myself so that I can enjoy all those things again.
So here are a few ways I keep the balance right.
Many of us work casual and even full time hours while we study. More than ever with the increasing costs of living, working for students is a necessity in order to have the things we need. But that is what work is, it doesn’t define who we are, it is a means to live. Work is important, but it doesn’t need to be our sole focus. I am really fortunate that work is flexible around my study, and I am well aware that many of you have difficult rosters to coordinate with study. Work is the thing we do so we can afford to develop and enjoy ourselves, so leave it at work and remember to have a little fun too.
I treat study as a career. I keep hours, as in office hours that are dedicated to getting my online content, reading and research done while allocating time to developing any assessments. I know not to book in social or in my case my kids social events during these set times.
To give myself the best chance of actually absorbing the content, I don’t do it all at once. Breaking it down into time for online content, reading time, revision time and research time helps me process the information better. But the study times are in my diary, and I keep to them so that I don’t fall behind and then spend my down time catching up on study.
Study can also be social if that’s what works for you. In my first year, I had a great group of students in one of my subjects that loved getting together to study. We would go over the weeks content and test each other by working our way through the learning outcomes for that week. One guy was amazing at writing up study cards, and he taught me something that I still do for each subject.
Each week I write down the expected learning outcomes for the topic, and answer them on study cards so that I can look at them frequently, and avoid the end of semester cramming. Buy hey cramming might be the way you achieve best, so you really need to find what works best for you.
Who doesn’t like to have fun! I love spending time dancing with my kids, baking with them, going out to see local live bands, going on the odd date or two. I even enjoy a dodgy reality TV show.
Whatever does it for you, do it! Fun is important, it keeps everything else in perspective. Hanging out with some of my closest friends or family allows me to recharge.
Health and Wellbeing
Are you looking after yourself and eating well? Ok so you don’t have to run out and join a gym, or punish your body straight up with a gruelling boot camp session… just get moving. I love walking! Walking helps me process the day.
One of my friends can’t function until she get up and goes for her walk, but me, I love an end of the day stroll. I look around me, chat to other walkers, chase my kids on their scooters. It really helps me relax and regain focus to finish my day well. Whatever your form of exercise is… make it one of the things you do to keep your week balanced and keep it achievable so that you stick at it.
I love this one! Sleep and relaxation is really important. We just don’t function well if we are sleep deprived. A few weeks ago I found myself walking in my front door a few minustes shy of 4am. It was a fun night out, but it took me a couple of days to recover and get back to my normal self. If I did this all the time I know other areas of my life would suffer and lets face it … no one wants to hang around grumpy! So go to bed earlier or put your feet up and read a novel.
This year I have also downloaded an app on my phone from ‘Smiling Minds’, that helps me with meditation. I find that my using ‘mindfulness’ meditation, I can bring the focus back to the present, and I feel more calm and focussed. It is a great skill to have and my kids are loving it too. With the app on your phone, you can do a short mediation in your car to give you some ‘down time’ or even on the tram or train. There are also some great places around campus where you can lie under a tree or in the sun and rest your thoughts.
Take a look at your week and write down all the time you spend doing each of these different things. If one of them seems to demand more of your time and other things are being neglected, challenge yourself to make a few changes to bring back the balance, and look after yourself.
If you need help regaining some life balance, La Trobe has some great services available to help you get started. Book an appointment with a Student Development Adviser, or if you need to, book in to see a counsellor or try one of their free workshops.
I’d love to hear what you do to keep the balance. Add your comment and we can all learn from each other.
Have a happy and healthy week everyone!