By Gladys Mae
Gladys is the Associate Director of Admissions & Student Services with over 10 years of experience at the International Career Institute.
Whether you’re a student taking courses while working part-time or a professional who’s completing a diploma to advance their career prospects, one thing is guaranteed: it’s challenging balancing work and study, but you’re not alone in the struggle. Many students who work to support themselves or their families find it difficult balancing work and study, along with their personal and social life. Although achieving any balance can seem overwhelming, it’s possible with some planning, commitment, and self-discipline.
Work and study are competing factors, but both are important parts of your life and demand your attention. This struggle leads to emotional and mental health stresses that can accelerate rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns amongst students. Your primary goal is to achieve a balance between study and work that allows you to perform your best in each whilst maintaining a sense of self. Because without a healthy balance between work and study, you’re less likely to succeed in either.
If you’re a working student, you need an effective plan to help you find and keep an appropriate and reasonable balance between your education and job responsibilities. Here are some quick tips to help you create a productive plan to find your balance.
Although some conflicts will inevitably occur between work and study, you can minimise them by planning and creating a schedule that allows for some flexibility. Accept that some factors can’t be controlled, such as class times or locations, or shifts at work. Take advantage of opportunities your employer may offer, such as job sharing or schedule input, so you can better craft your work schedule to allow time for class and study. Also consider taking online courses to save you transportation time. But remember, no schedule is set in stone, so be prepared to revise your plan to accommodate for unexpected events, work emergencies, and new assignments.
To achieve a productive balance between work and study, you need to be organised in both areas. Keep your study and work materials in separate places, as this will make it easier to find them. For your classes, arrange documents for each course in different, clearly labelled folders to avoid mix-ups and confusion. Also use a physical or digital calendar to make note of both study and work commitments. You may find color coding helpful to separate study demands from work commitments, and timely notifications from digital calendars to your tablet or smartphone can help keep you on track. Schedule time for study into your weekly planning, and start all assignments early so you have a buffer should the unexpected happen.
An essential step in creating an effective work-study balance is communication with the people in your work, school, and personal life. Make sure your employers, instructors, friends, and family know about your tight schedule where applicable. By doing so, the people in these various parts of your life will know when and where you’re available. To be an effective student, you must set aside time to study productively. Not everyone knows the demands a working student has, so don’t hesitate to point out when you are or aren’t available to work or socialise.
You know yourself best, so be honest with yourself regarding how much study and work you can realistically balance. Decide what you need to prioritise, and accept that you won’t have time to do absolutely everything you want. Piling on too much at once causes an imbalance that can negatively impact your study, employment, and personal life. Additionally, although you can still socialise with friends and family, you might need to miss an occasional night out to get more important work done.
Last minute work often results in lower grades. This is because you don’t perform your best at school or work when completing tasks the day they’re due or pulling all-nighters to study for exams. Discipline and time management are key to fighting procrastination. Break down study prep into smaller, more manageable steps or goals so the overall process is less daunting. Download productivity and task management apps to keep you on track with your studies. Avoid spending time on social media when you should be studying or working; social media is a time-killer, and although there’s a time and place for it, that time isn’t when you need to focus on an assignment or work.
When your life is suffering from imbalance, it’s often the things your body needs most that are neglected first. To do your best at both work and study, you have a healthy body and mind. Be sure to schedule time on your calendar for exercising and don’t let anything else encroach on that period. Eat nutritious foods and get enough sleep so your body and mind can perform at their best. Take a short nap on lunch breaks to boost your memory and productivity if needed. Remember, you can’t do your best if you haven’t given your body and mind the necessary food and rest.
Stress is inevitable when it comes to working and studying, and unfortunately it can have negative impacts not only on your results academically and in the workplace, but also on your wellbeing. Because of this, it’s important to use stress management strategies to help you healthily balance work and study. Simple things like breathing exercises, meditation, or going for a quick walk around the block can be highly effective. You should also consider scheduling in a day off. This will allow you to step away from your work without guilt, spend some time relaxing, and come back feeling more motivated.
Achieving a natural balance between work and study is possible, especially with a little help from your friends at the International Career Institute. Check out our online courses and choose your new career today.