The Balancing Act…
Finding a healthy balance between uni work and other commitments can be difficult for some, particularly when they have caring responsibilities, employed roles or even just hectic social lives. Scheduling can be helpful to ensure that time is proportioned appropriately, but this only provides a certain level of control. There are some things that can’t be planned for and often flexibility is required even for the most organised people. Another common predicament is being physically present in one ‘role’ but having your mind elsewhere, worrying about loved ones or mentally recapping revision notes over and over again. This is very common and can seem a daunting prospect to tackle, but there are small ways that you can manage the balance to ensure that the best ‘you’ is given to every aspect of life.
Whether you are looking to further your career, focus your studies, or more effectively manage your CPD, I’ve devised a few tips and tricks that should help focus you and enable you to move forward. Everyone will use different techniques, but I have found these beneficial:
Make it work for you.
We are all unique and the methods we use to help us stay organised or carry out daily tasks differ from person to person. What might work for your friends will not necessarily be the best option for you. Think about techniques you have used to get to where you are now. Have they been effective? Is there anything you would choose to do differently to get better results?
Find what makes you tick.
There is no point aiming for a target we have no enthusiasm for. It might seem logical to follow the usual progression and ‘work your way up’ but is it really what you want? Sometimes, by being brave and considering our options, we branch out and actually end up with a great deal more personal and professional gain from doing so.
Grab every moment.
Could you use your time more efficiently? Think about the way you spend your time and any possible points that could be utilised to get work done. Those few minutes here and there could be used to catch up on your reading or fold the washing so you have less to do later! Even travel time can be used to listen to audiobooks or mentally map your next assignment.
No matter how determined you are, there are simply some challenges that are just not going to be as easy as you want them to be. That doesn’t mean you should avoid them, just be open to the fact that there will be some hurdles you may have to overcome to reach your target. The good news is that everyone is in the same boat. Think about it from another perspective….if someone had woken up one morning and decided to perform a heart transplant would you trust them over a doctor who had slogged their way through years of intensive medical training? Hard work is an important factor in the learning process.
Write it down.
If a thought, worry or task pops into your mind, that you feel is important, get it down on paper. A written record leaves your mind free to give full attention to the task you are currently focusing on. I even keep a piece of scrap paper and pen by my bed to scribble thoughts down in the night that may stop me sleeping.
(If you're not a ‘paper’ person use your phone! Beware….notepads on phones are great but you need to actually remember to look at them. Try setting reminders instead or voice memos to ensure you look at your records)
Time the tasks.
Realistically work out the amount of time you need for a task and schedule this into your timetable. If needed, break it down into manageable chunks but ensure you set a time limit so you don’t get carried away and can remain focused. This also helps to keep you motivated by providing limits for each task.
Celebrate your achievements.
Even if they may seem small, the more we recognise our accomplishments, the longer our enthusiasm and motivation stick around for. You don’t have to have a party every time you submit an assignment, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a good excuse for cake!
Accept the limitations.
You may be ready to take over the world today but someone or something is making you wait. This is normal and you should be aware of waiting times relating to certain tasks, but rather than stopping until something happens, utilise the time by starting work on another challenge on your list.
Look at your overall goal then consider the smaller tasks that need to be completed to get there. These are actions that you can do now and it is these that we should be of focusing on. I like to call these 'digestives'....not only as an excuse to eat biscuits whilst completing them but as a reminder that trying to achieve things in one go is a choking hazard....bite size chunks are much more realistic and safe option! Doing things this way allows us to makes small adaptions along the way so the overall result could be better than you initially anticipated.
Hopefully, these will have inspired you to evaluate your organisation methods. I do think the most important point to emphasise though is to remind you that you are human. Sometimes we make mistakes, we fail to meet targets and things don't go the way we want them to. As frustrating as this may seem, this is life and although it may be hard to believe, things could be worse.