The stresses of daily life and university can often make maintaining a good work-life balance challenging. With midterm and Christmas deadlines approaching it can be tempting to put our social lives on hold and remain glued to a laptop screen until they are over.
This can seem like a good idea, and in some cases, it feels as though it is the only option. However, placing the focus entirely on study can leave you feeling burnt out, drained and unable to do the best that you can. Mental Health UK describes burnout as, “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.”
Being in this state can actually slow down your productivity and work pace. By allowing yourself time to relax and unwind, you can combat these negative consequences of burnout. It seems rather convoluted, however, in essence this means that by doing less work you will get more work done. So, having a good work-life balance not only gives you time to do the things you love outside of work. It also makes your work or study time more effective and helps you to appreciate the benefits of leisure time.
There is no set plan or structure to achieve this. Maintaining a work-life balance is not a set goal to attain. Instead, it is a changing balance. Learning to give yourself both time to relax and socialise but also achieve your Uni goals is a key skill to success. Sometimes you will need more time to socialise or more alone time and other times you might need to do slightly more work. The key is to have all of these elements loosely scheduled into the week so that you can adjust as required.
Here are some ways to help build a good work-life balance:
Setting priorities is essential. Make a list of everything that takes up time in your week. From this list you can see which of the things are important to you and which are an unnecessary burden. Choosing to focus your energy on things that matter to you and cut out unnecessary stress will give you drive and energy.
Simplify schedule/ set limits
Along with setting your priorities, it is helpful to simplify your schedule when struggling to maintain a work-life balance. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by how much you have to do in the week, set limits. Only do a set amount of work before taking a break. Couple this with a solid routine of eight hours sleep and daily exercise for maximum benefits.
Leisure activities includes everything you enjoy that isn’t Uni or work related. This could be anything from hobbies, sports or even going on nights out. Giving space for passions and hobbies has a massive positive impact on mental wellbeing. They can act as a complete distraction from work and can be an outlet for built up stress.
Socialising and spending time with friends is important. But, it is equally important to spend time by yourself. Take some time to focus on your needs and just switch off for a while. Maybe have a ‘digital detox’ where you switch off your devices at the same time. With so much of our post-lockdown Uni experience being online, giving yourself a break from screens can also help make that important distinction between work and leisure time.
Detach from work
It is important to leave your work alone during leisure time. Don’t do it, look at it or even think about it. Having time to completely detach from studies allows you to rejuvenate and reenergise for study time.
An easy way to help with this is to work outside of your bedroom. Now that coffee shops and libraries are open again, it is easier to work in spaces other than your room. This allows you to completely switch off and relax in your bedroom as it is not associated with the stresses of Uni work.
Maintaining a good work-life balance is a continuous and ever-changing process. It is normal to sometimes have to dedicate more time towards one area of your life over another. The goal is to maintain a sustainable lifestyle that is fulfilling and doesn’t leaving you feeling burnt out. So, throughout essay and exam seasons, whist it is important to put a little bit more than the usual amount of time into studying, maintaining the steps above (even if to a lesser extent) will overall boost productivity and avoid the dreaded burnout.