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My Top Tips for Balancing University, Work, Volunteering and Relaxing

Up until September I wouldn’t have said that I was a very busy person. But, starting University again, I suddenly realised I had a lot on that needed balancing. For full context of exactly how busy I am: I work in a bakery between 12 and 51 hours a week, I attend university (which is not just two hours a week as some would think), I'm a HerCampus writer and I am also a Beaver Scout Leader, which, contrary to popular belief, is not just an hour a week, especially now during the pandemic.

Below I have compiled a list of things that have helped me to be more productive over the past few months.

 

1)Accept that your best laid out plans may fall flat at short notice

 

Even if you have all the intentions in the world of being productive on a specific day, things can (and often do) throw a spanner in the works, which means you have to go back and restructure or change things. Although this could, and can be annoying, you will be fine. Just figure out what you can do instead with the time you have.

 

For example, this past Monday I had an amazing study day planned out around a lecture and Beavers. And then I got called into work, this meant I spent the morning before the lecture in a mass panic trying to find cover for myself to allow Beavers to still go ahead and rescheduling all my other tasks that I had planned for the day for another day.

 

2) Make To-Do lists and structure your time 

 

Since I don’t work contracted hours and they can vary so much, I have found that I cannot have the same ‘game plan’ for balancing everything each week. This is where to-do lists have been a saviour in helping me.

 

I create a master to-do list which contains everything I have to do during a week in terms of commitments and tasks and then, all the things I would like to do during the week. Once that is done, I will figure out the order of priority and start to structure my week around that.

 

It is also ok to totally remove tasks from your list if you realise you realistically cannot dedicate time to an activity during the week.

 

I usually do this before the start of the week and try to figure out what days off I want.

 

Also, I don’t often stick to these plans due to unplanned changes, but by having the to-do list, I can reorganise my life quickly and easily.

 

3) Overwhelmed? Start with a small task

 

If, like me, when you have a lot to do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and starting to panic , step back, take a deep breath and pick a small task. Send an email, clear your desk, ring someone, check a book, whatever works do that. Being able to tick something off can be a godsend for your productivity and stop that panic. Plus, you will have done something you may have been putting off for a few days.

 

4) You are allowed to have time off

 

I know you have loads of things to do, how can you justify having time off? This is a question I have fought with years, and I think this year I have finally cracked it. Time off is essential to ensuring you are giving yourself  time to do the things that you want.

 

I have made a habit of ensuring I have at least one day where I don’t do anything at all, either academic or volunteer based. Usually this is Saturday as I tend to be exhausted after work. Especially during this time of the year.

 

If the idea of having a whole day off is overwhelming or even too much for you then start by taking half a day off or even just a few hours!

 

Try to stick to your planned time off and don’t do what I did at undergrad and end up taking the whole of reading week off university and doing nothing to almost instantly regret the Sunday before teaching started again.

 

It is also ok to change your days off, if you have found you are having a bad day, take a step back and allow yourself to do it another day if you can.

 

5) Know your limits

 

Although it is ok to go slightly beyond your limits occasionally, I would not recommend doing it all the time as you may experience burnout. Burnout is not nice and can take a long time to come out of. Therefore, if you are starting to feel yourself heading that way, do take a step back and do something you enjoy, allow yourself to recharge before restarting.

 

So there you have it a few tips that I have found have helped me to get better at structuring my time. It is all a matter of trying things out to see what works for you.

 

Words By: Katy Colbert

Edited By: Yasmine Moro Virion 

A 'mature' second-year English Postgraduate student. When my head isn't in books for university, I can usually be found selling pasties, running my local Beaver scout colony, drinking a stupid amount of coffee or adding books to my ever-increasing to-read pile, you know, instead of reading them.
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