Tips for Creating a School-Life or Work-Life Balance

by Emily Mcdonald

As fall begins, we can often feel pressure to put in extra time at school or work in the hope that we will succeed. Whether that be putting in extra hours on campus to study for midterms or extra hours at the office so that we can get the promotion we have been working hard for. It seems like there is this pressure from society that we have to put in the extra hours in order to be successful. This is highlighted by celebrities or Tik Tok influencers telling us that we need to get off our asses and just work, and terms that are often praised such as hustling, grinding, or never quitting. The basic message is, if you want to make it, you have to keep hustling. 

On top of working and studying those extra hours, it is still expected that we maintain our personal lives. We need to hang out with friends, family, and our significant others; participate in hobbies, exercise, practice self-care, never mind finding time to get the sleep we are told we need.. It seems like the only reasonable answer to all of this is to have more hours in a day. Taking this all on at once can lead to more stress or eventually burnout; this is why creating a work-life or school-life balance is essential. Here are some tips for creating that balance:

Check-in with Yourself, Maybe Even Reprioritize

Check-in and see how you are doing, are you stressed? Easily irritated? More tired? Have you noticed that you have stopped taking care of yourself? These are all signs that you may need to reset your work-life balance. This is an opportunity to  reprioritize how you spend your time, identify what you should make a priority and cut down on things that are less of a priority. You can ask yourself questions like “what am I willing to sacrifice, and if so, for how long?” and “is it necessary to prioritize work over something else?” Go old school, take out a pen and pencil and put it all into perspective. 

Schedule Your Time

It can be easier to see all of your priorities and accomplish them if you can see what a typical day, week, or month will look like. Putting them into a schedule that you can then see can be very beneficial. This does not mean you need to schedule everything down to the hour. However, identifying your responsibilities as well as those things that are important to you and in a schedule allows you not to forget while also building healthy habits. Make sure that the things that are important to you are not just work/school and household chores but things you enjoy doing – hobbies, spending time with family and friends, or sleeping. We have found at Approach, that a one page, two week planner is really helpful to see it all at a glance. 

Learn to Say “No”

If you are a people pleaser, it can be tough to say no, especially if it is your boss or a family member that is asking you to give more time and energy. In order to create a more balanced lifestyle you will have to become comfortable saying no more often. It is important to say no so that you do not sacrifice yourself for the benefit of the things that should exist to allow yourself to, well, be yourself. One of the easiest ways to say no is to reference your schedule. Not sure if you can swing it, tell them you will check your schedule first. This allows for a brief pause before impulsively saying “yes”, when you know you should say “no,” – because of that jazzercise tournament you have been training months for.  

Make Time for Yourself

Just because you have a small break in your schedule does not mean you need to fill it with something, such as hanging out with friends. Blank space is good space in a schedule. Sometimes you need that free time for yourself to do things that will help reduce your stress and reset. This could be going to an exercise class or watching TV – doing whatever you need.

Set Micro Goals

Setting manageable daily goals can help us feel a sense of accomplishment and reduce stress. If you have a large project, breaking it down into smaller micro goals allows us to feel less stress while also preventing us from procrastinating because the larger goal seems overwhelming. You can also create a small reward when you accomplish those goals, such as going for a coffee, snuggling with the dog, or a walk with your friends or partner. 

Identify When Your Work/School Day Ends

Identify when you will leave the office/school before you start your day. This will help you focus on the goals you need to achieve while preventing procrastination. To further help that time stick, let someone know, such as a co-worker or friend at school.

Take Small Breaks

In addition, taking small breaks throughout the day can help keep your head clear and your stress levels down. Ideally, those breaks would be void of anything school/work related. This means not talking about school/work if you are having a conversation with someone or leaving campus/work for a few minutes.

Dividing Chores

Divide and conquer your chores at home, whether that be dividing between your family members but also dividing throughout the days so that one day is not all dedicated to cleaning.

Get Active

Being active has been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression. Try to incorporate some kind of physical activity, such as going to the gym, doing yoga, or going for a walk outside. Do whatever feels right for your mind and body. The goal here is not to increase stress, but to decrease stress, so keep it fun.

Get Support

Chatting with people such as friends, family, or a therapist can help reduce our stress levels and help us maintain that balance. It can also be a source of fun which will help prevent burnout. We are able to help you with that work life balance, particularly when you find yourself at what might appear to be a dead end. 

Take it Slow

Creating a work-life balance takes time to perfect. Try implanting one of the tips from above and increase from there. There is no universal work-life or school-life balance; it is going to look different for everyone and can take some trial and error to perfect, so do not be discouraged. If you are feeling discouraged, myself and others at Approach can help. You don’t have to figure this out on your own, and sometimes the cause behind finding balance is deep seated. We can help you sort that out, and help you find joy in life.