September is fast approaching and with that the promise of a new school year and renewed optimism. With the challenges of tuition, rent, and other costs, many students find it necessary to work part or full time while completing their studies. I worked the whole time I went to university, but it wasn’t until my final year that I really felt the pressure. I was working and learning full time, writing a thesis, living on my own, all while trying to maintain relationships and stay healthy. It took me almost failing a class to step back and figure out what I needed to do to survive until graduation. Don’t let it get that far! I’ve learned from my mistakes so try these steps to make back to school a fun, stress-free process.
Find a supportive workspace. This seems like an obvious back to school tip, but really think about what works for you. Though I had a great desk space, I learned that I was not able to study at home. I would get distracted making a snack or doing laundry and then six hours later it would be time for bed. I always wondered where the day went. It wasn’t until I started studying at school that I felt I was using my time effectively. I also set a schedule and established study and work priorities. It took a few years but by my last year I had found a space on campus that was perfect for me. It was always the right temperature, just the right amount of quiet, had a close water fountain, and was relatively secluded in case I needed a power nap. You should find a place that supports you in the way that you need it to – whether you need creative inspiration, knowledge, peace, collaboration, or something else. If something is missing, add it. I never had any reservations about dragging a blanket and a thermos of tea along with me so that I could feel cozy while reading in my spot on snowy days.
Put your health first. There is no question – if something has to go, don’t pick yourself. You can always find another job or take that class again. When it comes down to it, your health should always be your first choice. I developed insomnia in my third year of university. Don’t let it get that far. Find support, review your priorities, and balance. You should always be your own first priority. For me this included obvious self-care steps (sleep, exercise, eat well) and taking a small amount of time each and every day, just for me. Taking care of yourself will make you a better employee, student, friend, and person!
Time is your greatest asset. Learning where to spend your time and energy is the most important thing you can do. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Assess if your time is being spent wisely and pull back when you need to. Think about everything you commit to and decide if it is a valuable use of your time. Make sure that the events you attend and the people you are with are really worth taking a piece of your most valuable commodity. After all, no one has ever regretted taking time for themselves to refocus. Always ask the question – am I using my time wisely?
Work, life, and school “balance” is really a thing of the past. Our lives are now all about blending. Making it all fit together. Don’t let your transition back to school rule you – take control and succeed!