Balance is often described as a feeling of harmony.
Sometimes we notice when balance is not ideal because we see symptoms which could include poor sleep, poor concentration, feeling overwhelmed or irritable and perhaps lonely.
How we manage our time also plays a significant role in finding a good balance in our lives when faced with competing academic and personal commitments. If we struggle to manage time effectively, we often feel more stressed and struggle to achieve goals.
Strategies often suggested
- Plan your day and prioritize activities.
- Establish a timetable that works for you and stick to it.
- Avoid procrastination.
- Know your peak study times.
- Learn to deal with interruptions.
- Allow time for social and self-care activities as well as work commitments.
- Learn how to say no to things
- Make a list of your days activities to help establish what’s manageable
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that slow down our progress when thinking about creating balance or managing time differently in our lives.
I’m stressed, I don’t think balancing my time will help me and I don’t have time to think about it!
Unmanaged stress can make you feel like you’re always running without getting anywhere. Managing stress and taking time to do this allows for you to have some perspective and for your ‘rested brain’ to work out what needs to be done.
In fact evidence suggests that time away from study, that is not so structured, can improve performance, concentration and memory.
I’ve committed to too many things and don’t want to let people down
Sometimes we commit to too many things. At some point, it becomes impossible to balance as there is simply not enough time to do all the things we want. This sometimes leads us to sacrifice sleep, exercise or time out. Like the safety announcement on a flight, we need to apply our own oxygen mask first. This means learning to say no, being honest with ourselves about what we’re capable of and defining what ‘balance’ looks like for us.
If I don’t get my study-life balance right, I will never be okay
There is not just one way to do something. It is your life and you need to determine what works for you, and this may change over time.
Sometimes we need to prioritise study over other parts of our lives for brief periods of time. For example, it’s OK to cut back on some activities when exams loom. We don’t always find the perfect balance or ideal time management plan. It’s a work in progress that involves getting to know yourself, what you need and how to prioritise.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Create a time management plan and play to your strengths
At the start of each semester, write out a plan. Ask “Is my plan realistic and achievable, what challenges will I face?” Know key university dates and when your assignments are due. Plan how to adjust daily routines when dealing with high-pressure periods. Talk to others such as seeking advice from course coordinators and peer academic support programs.
When determining how you will plan out your study, work out how, when and where you study best. You can then plan around this to ensure you have a balance of other activities.
Manage your time to include non-study activities
Particularly important when trying to boost wellbeing are exercise, connection with others and sleep. Instead of randomly looking for ways to relax, try some known wellbeing measures and incorporate down time into your weekly plan. This animation about putting your 'eggs in baskets' is a simple way to conceptualise work/life balance.
Additionally, making time to eat well and keep up a sound sleep routine will not only help you concentrate and focus, it’s a good way to monitor your progress with sustaining a healthy work life balance!
Credits: Idea by Cate Howell, rendering by James Gleeson-McCoy.
Allow for some flexibility
What works one day may need to change the next. Varying your routine is good for brain development and for helping you avoid boredom. Allowing for a few experiments to see what works, is a good idea.