I am always worried when I see a student juggling a full course load, an internship, extracurriculars, and personal life.
It reminds me of what I experienced in my junior year of college: burnout. I was exhausted, unmotivated, stressed… I just felt tired all the time. So here’s my advice for working students: don’t fall into that trap!
Here are some actions you can take to improve your work-school-life balance.
1. Determine How Many Hours You Can Spend at Work
A lot of students commit to an unbearable workload right from the start.
That’s a rookie mistake!
If you don’t know what lies ahead of you, there is a good chance you will both fail your classes and perform poorly at work. So here’s my advice: you should increase your work schedule incrementally.
For first-timers, use this method to determine if your workload is bearable or unbearable:
- Ask yourself the following question: how many hours a week do I need to study to pass my exams? Keep in mind that most students need to work at least 40 hours a week to keep up with their assignments.
- Once you know your studying hours, it becomes easier to determine how much time you have left for your job. For example, a college student who studies 30 hours a week can easily take on a part-time job with a workload of 15 hours a week.
- Make sure that your studying hours and work hours do not exceed 55 hours a week!
Disclaimer: it is not recommended to work during the first half of your freshman year. Once you are accustomed to academia, you will have a good sense of what it takes to pass your classes. Then, it becomes easier to plan your class and work schedule.
2. Build a Support System
Your parents and friends usually understand that balancing work and school is a challenging task.
Here’s how you can build a support system to make your school life and personal life easier:
- Ask your partner, family, or friends to take on domestic tasks such as cleaning, administrative tasks, and cooking.
- Classmates can also offer some sort of support: moral support. Since they struggle as much as you are, they can also reassure you that you’re not alone. Don’t forget that many college students are in the same situation as you.
- You can also negotiate household duties with your roommate to free up time during the exam period.
3. Avoid Distractions and Stay Focused
It is important to make the most out of your study hours.
Here are some tips to avoid distractions and stay focused while you are studying:
- Shut down your smartphone – it is so easy to get distracted by a call or a Facebook notification.
- Change subjects – if you are studying the same subject repeatedly, your attention span will go way down.
- Don’t listen to music with lyrics – otherwise, you will lose your focus.
- Chose the right place to study – Most people like a quiet place that is neither too cold nor too warm.
4. Plan Your Busy Schedule
When it comes to juggling both school and work at the same time, time management is key!
Here are my advice if you don’t have enough free time:
- Request for a leave of absence when you study for your finals.
- Take advantage of your flexibility to reduce the number of commutes between your workplace, school, and home.
- It goes without saying that you can use your gap hours to study. Losing an hour here and there quickly adds up!
And you’re all set!
5. Don’t Forget to Get Enough Sleep!
Sleep quality is essential for your mental health.
If you don’t have enough time to sleep, you’re doing it wrong! Sleep deprivation decreases your concentration and productivity (source). There are also long-lasting effects of sleep deprivation on mental health.
Skipping your sleep hours to spend more time on your math problems is not worth it!
6. Let Your Employer Know That You Are a Student
The sooner you let your employer know that you are a college student, the sooner he will be willing to make accommodations.
Most employers understand that students need to take time off to study for their finals!
7. Deal With Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of being a college student.
However, many working students feel overwhelmed by their busy schedules.
Too much stress has negative effects such as sleepiness, loss of interest, and irritability. It is therefore imperative to keep your stress in check. Here are some tips for coping with stress (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention):
- Take regular breaks from studying (at least 5 minutes every hour).
- Take time to connect with your friends and family.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Try to eat healthily and exercise regularly.
It is recommended to consult a professional psychologist if your stress levels become unbearable. More on this subject: How to keep stress in check – American Psychology Association.
8. Consider Online Classes
In recent years, universities have published thousands of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). It allows the students to work from home.
That’s a great way to reduce the number of commutes and save some precious time.
9. Don’t Be a Perfectionist
College students will learn it one way or another: even with proper planning, it is sometimes impossible to perfectly complete all assignments on time.
School schedules are cruel for perfectionists!
There’s nothing wrong with striving to do the best you can; the key is in knowing your limitations. Aiming for unrealistic goals can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression
Here are some keys to becoming a high-achiever instead of a perfectionist:
- Set standards that are high but achievable.
- Enjoy the process, not just the outcome.
- View mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.
- React positively to constructive feedback.
10. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Poor health can have a negative impact on your school-life balance.
Please, take some time to maintain your physical and mental health. At least, make sure that you:
- Stay physically active.
- Take regular breaks.
- Eat healthily.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Stay connected to your friends and family.
- Reasons to Work Part-Time as a Student – if you do not understand why balancing work and school is worth it.
- Motivational Quotes That Will Help You Study Harder – in case your productivity suffers from your work-life balance.
Whether you are studying at a college or high school, holding on to a job carries significant risks to your academic performance. Getting a job isn’t a decision you should take lightly.