When you think of uni students, what do you see? Leisurely days on campus, picnics on the quad and copious amounts of Mi Goreng while draped over the couch on a weekday?
During my time at uni I think I had one lunch on the quad and I don’t think I ever walked around campus at a pace less than a canter. I was constantly busy, always looking for a coffee and lived in a permanent state of being late … to everything.
I’m the first to admit that my workload was completely self-inflicted. For the first 18 months of my degree I juggled a full-time study load with two, sometimes three part-time jobs and I absolutely refused to miss an episode of Offspring. Ever. And I wasn’t alone. I found myself being constantly amazed by the workloads of other students I met who were juggling study with young families, work and internships while managing rent and living expenses on a student budget. While the juggling act can be incredibly exhausting and a daunting prospect for some, unfortunately for many students paid employment is a non-negotiable and so we pick up those juggling balls and get to work.
While it may feel like you’re playing a very serious and grown up game of ‘don’t let the balloon touch the floor’ there are ways that you can minimise stress and make your workload that little bit easier to juggle.
If you’re not a natural planner it’s a skill you’ll need to adopt as a student, especially if you plan to manage work and study. Learn to love lists, calendars and timetables by finding a platform that works for you, whether it’s your outlook calendar, a diary, an app, or a trusty old excel spreadsheet. A weekly schedule is one of the best ways to map out your time and commitments so you can clearly see how much ‘free time’ you’re left with. A good schedule will also help you to avoid missing appointments and meetings. Get creative with your layout and design, colour code, categorise, anything that will keep you focused. Timetable design actually became one of my favourite forms of procrastination!
As someone who’s worked in an office that employs a number of part-time staff one of the most common issues I’ve witnessed is the old, 'Does anyone know where Sally is? I thought he was in today?'. I can’t stress enough how important good communication is in any workplace. If you’re lucky enough to find work that suits your uni commitments, you don’t want to risk compromising your position by going M.I.A. on your boss. Keeping your supervisor and other team members informed of your working hours and exam timetable is good manners and shows you’re a considerate employee and take your job seriously.
While on the topic of communication, did you know that your lecturers are people too? Be honest about your workload and where you’re at with assessment and if you feel you’re struggling or you’re worried about conflicting commitments with work and study, ask your lecturer what options are available to you. The key with this is to keep communication going and speak up early. If your lecturers are aware of your circumstances in advance they’re more likely to work with you and offer advice than if you’re the silent student who submits an eleventh hour plea!
Offspring addictions aside, it’s essential to make time for at least one activity that you enjoy each week. Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, eating out, an exercise class or painting your nails, keep some time sacred and don’t compromise. Ever. If you’re well organised and have planned your time effectively you’ll be able to enjoy some guilt-free me-time and give your mind a chance to relax and unwind from busy work and study environments.
Nothing ruins a well laid plan quite like a meltdown. While it’s admirable (and often necessary) to juggle several responsibilities at once, it’s also important to make sure your health and wellbeing are on the same page as your ambition. Never underestimate the power of a nutritious meal or a good night’s sleep…or a really, really good belly laugh! Friends and family are often the best antidote for stress and it’s important to keep your social life alive and kicking while you conquer your study. Self-care is one ball you really can’t afford to drop!
So there you have it, my advice for surviving the juggling act! Be organised, communicate, take time for yourself and look after your health.
If you’re looking for more words of encouragement or support, head to Social Hub for honest, practical advice to help you keep those balls in the air.