Managing a good work/life balance at university

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We’ve all heard endlessly from teachers, lecturers and parents about how important it is to make sure you maintain a good work/life balance – so why is it that we so often feel like we’re completely swamped by work and assignments? Luckily, there are plenty steps you can take to help you keep on top of things at university. The best part is, these little changes are easy to start doing straight away and can really help you get that perfect balance instead of feeling like you’re juggling everything at once.

Organising your time

Time management is probably one of the most important factors when it comes to maintaining a good work/life balance at university – and it’s not as hard to achieve as you may think! All it really comes down to is planning your time effectively and there’s loads of ways you can do this.

The best way to start is by making a list of everything you need to do – it’s ten times easier to get organised when you can visualise the tasks. Make sure you consider your weekly university timetable and note when you have other commitments such as sports training.

From here you can divide the list of tasks you have to do to each day of the week to make sure that you have time to get everything done. Once you’ve got this sorted, you could start slotting in extra things, like when to do housework or cooking, to help give you a clearer idea of how busy you’re going to be.

Now that you know the time you’re going to be spending working you can fit in when to do all your other activities such as going to the gym, meeting up with friends, going to socials or nights out!

Your working environment

Choosing the right environment for study is key to making sure that the time you spend doing work is as productive as possible. Whether you’re living in halls or in a house, I find there’s always a temptation to take your work to the kitchen or living room as soon as you hear other people socialising. Nine out of ten times this is probably not the best choice – it always takes a lot longer to get anything done and is a lot more distracting.

The two places I would recommend for doing work is either your bedroom or the library, and which you chose really depends on your mood. Here’s a couple of pros and cons for both:

Your bedroom will be a comfortable and relaxed environment for working in, and you’re likely to have a better supply of snacks and tea (which can be very important) than you would in the library! However, you’re also more likely to take breaks and there are more potential distractions. Working in your bedroom can be very productive but it requires good discipline.

The library is a good place to sit down and really focus on the work you are doing with a great supply of resources around you and minimal distractions. However, being in the library can feel intense and tiring, and some people don’t enjoy the sheer silence.

Overall, you need to try and find which environment works best for you, whether that’s your bedroom, the library or even your favourite coffee shop. Once you’ve found a good work place you’re likely to be ten times more productive.

Top tips for managing your workload

  • Get your worst tasks out of the way – One of the biggest problems that most, if not all, students face when it comes to getting work done is procrastination. As someone who used to spend endless hours procrastinating, the best advice I can give is to do the thing you want to do least, first! This means it’s out the way, you don’t have to think about it, and it feels like a big weight off your shoulders.
  • Break tasks down – If you’re faced with a big assignment, break it down into small manageable chunks and assign one task to do each day. This really helps you to put things back into perspective, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Treat yourself – Reward yourself or have something to look forward to, whether it’s with a TV show or simply a piece of chocolate. Having something to look forward to when you’ve finished will help to keep you motivated.

Having a social life

Staying on top of work is important at university as you want to do well and get the most out of your degree. However, having a good time is just as important – after all, university is meant to be the best years of your life! Here are some ways to socialise and relax outside of your degree:

  • Societies – There are hundreds of societies which you can join at university, and these are a great way to try something new, have fun and meet new people. Immersing yourself in a society is a great way to completely take your mind off all the other stress in your life.
  • Explore your city! It might be your first time living away from home, so every now and then go and find something fun to do with a group of friends – it could be a day trip somewhere or going out for a nice meal.
  • Have some ‘me time’ –  As much as it’s great to socialise and do all these activities, every now and then having some peace and quiet will be exactly what you need. Try losing yourself in a new tv series or a good book.

One piece of advice I can give is to try and not get too obsessed with keeping on top of everything all the time, as it can become exhausting in itself. In my first year of university I got very stressed about my work and grades, and ended up compromising my social life which is now a huge regret! Try to stick to your weekly plans and study hard, but make time to enjoy yourself too. Sometimes you won’t be in the mood to do work – that’s okay, take some time off and come back to it later. Sometimes friends will suggest spontaneous plans – if you really want to go, then go and have fun. it’s just about maintaining a healthy balance. After all, you’re only human.

Written by - Jane G.

Studying medicine at Leeds University