How to Balance Uni, Work and Life
Ahh, university. That full time commitment that doesn’t pay for itself. While it would be great if students could just focus on their studies, that isn’t really the case. When you work part time in order to finance your studies, you end up spending a lot of hours per week in between the two.
But, but! University is supposed to be the time of your life, when you go partying every Tuesday night until four in the morning… right? The reality is that there isn’t enough time in anyone’s week to be a straight-A student, work a full time job and also be the Queen or King of the social scene - at least not if you ever want to sleep.
Balancing the uni-work-life triangle is an essential part of the university experience. It takes organisation, effort and compromise, but getting the balance right will ensure that your time at university is fulfilling in all three areas. With the correct approach, you’ll find that things just might fall into place.
Schedule your life
At O-Week, your university will probably give you a year wall planner. These giant write-on wall planners are great for scheduling - or you could use the calendar app on your phone. The main point is that putting your life on a schedule makes it obey your rules, rather than the other way around.
University deadlines are notorious for coming out of the blue, causing you to drop everything and spend three days in the library. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your course dates as soon as you get them. Go through and add all assignment due dates, tests, tutorials, labs and so on to your schedule so you can keep track of them as they come. Then, block out enough study and work time to make sure you can keep up.
This doesn’t work if you don’t stick to your plan. But if you do, the benefits are enormous. You’ll find it a lot easier to fit in work shifts, parties and weekends away when you can see visually that you can afford to take the time away from your studies - you still know you are going to spend enough time to keep your grades up. And when you’re socialising, you can stop feeling guilty about not being in the library.
Find a good job, negotiate a good schedule
Students working part-time jobs are often stuck with rosters that change all the time, which stops you from being able to get into a routine with your life. Plus, a lot of the time your employer will want you to work in peak socialising hours, like weekend nights, since that’s when hospitality places are busy.
It’s super important to negotiate with your employer to get yourself semi-regular shifts. Part of this is compromise. If you want a regular two shifts a week, one of them might have to be Saturday night. The upside of this is that it will make the rest of your life slot into place easily, especially on the ‘life’ part of the triangle - it’s impossible to commit to regular sports games, music practices and the like when you never know if you’re going to be working.
If your employer refuses to compromise with you so you can organise your life better, look for a new job. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to keep your job because at least you have one - if you found a job in one restaurant or retail store, another one will hire you just the same.
Don’t let your life lag behind
Since you have to show up at work and if you don’t at uni you fail, it’s no wonder that it’s the “rest of life” side of the triangle that often ends up getting cancelled, which can cause you to spend a lot of time in the restaurant and the library and not a lot of time with your friends and family.
That’s a recipe for disaster. If you’re not giving yourself any time to have fun and just be yourself, your mental health can easily take a dip. It’s not just about fun either, it’s about making sure you’re effective at work and uni - a burned out student is not an efficient one. Social engagements you consider important - good parties, gigs of artists you really like - should be treated as importantly as an exam or a big shift at work.
One part of the life side is keeping healthy - making sure you sleep enough, exercise at least a little, eat good food and so on. Being healthy makes you more effective in every area of your life and stops you missing time to illness. It also helps you to be happy, and we all want you to be happy. Really!
Work smarter, not harder
When you strike the right balance in your scheduling, it feels like everything becomes easier all at once. If you take time out for yourself, you’ll be happier and healthier. That in turn makes you a better student, and allows you to get your grades with less time spent in the library.
When you’re feeling good, you’ll have the confidence to approach your employer and improve your work schedule. Or, you might just approach working with a more positive mindset, which will make it seem like less of an ordeal.
I can’t stress the importance of scheduling enough. If you do it, and you stick to it, you’ll reap the benefits. And when you achieve the balance, all you’ll be thinking is “why didn’t I figure this out sooner?”
By Jack Buckley, Wellington