Balancing School, Work and Life
Attending graduate school is a huge decision. Not only is it a financial investment, but it must also fit in your schedule. Many people juggle a number of responsibilities, so how can we find the perfect balance? Here are some tried and true tips to help balance school, work and life.
As soon as you receive your class schedule, allocate time for everything, including: homework, classes, exercise and even socializing. Ask students in the program about how much time per week they spend on coursework, and then add some extra time as a buffer to see how much time you’ll need to spend on school per week. Don’t forget to use summer months and online courses as an option as well.
Use Your Tools
Don’t discount the usefulness of the tools around you like planners, online calendars, etc. Even better, you can have your online calendar push reminder notifications to you. This will help keep you organized throughout the semesters.
Harness Your Momentum
Let your momentum from the first semester carry you through your graduate school career. Capitalize on the drive you had when you started and let it push you through to the end! (Make sure to evaluate your progress with a Degree Audit every six months to determine that you’re still on the right course.)
Yes, I’m including time management again. Time management is crucial when it comes to balancing many responsibilities. Luckily, there are plenty of time management techniques you can try. My favorite is the Pomodoro technique where you set a timer for 25 minutes to work on a project. When the timer rings, you put a checkmark on a piece of paper. If you have less than four checkmarks, you can take a short, 3-5 minute break (maybe grab a coffee, check Instagram, etc.) and then reset the timer. When you have more than four checkmarks, you can take a longer break before resetting the checkmark count to zero and repeating the process.
When making your school schedule, make sure to coordinate it with your work schedule. Treat schoolwork like a second job with “shifts” of homework. For example, a friend of mine who was working on her master’s coordinated her schedules so that she would use her vacation and paid time off around finals week. This way she could study without the interference of work.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Try to integrate the content you’re learning in school with projects at work. Getting an MBA? Help your workplace create a new marketing plan.
Work and Play
There will be some situations where you can’t make it to an event because of school and that’s okay. Continue to make school a priority and don’t be afraid to say “no” to plans. But, don’t completely halt your social life. Socializing is helpful, especially in times of stress.
Reset and Recharge
Make sure to take breaks to exercise, meditate, relax and have fun. Take advantage of Cleveland State University’s recreation center and fitness classes or student programming events. This is a great way to clear your mind after a busy day before tackling some important course work.
Family and Friends
You’ll probably be spending a lot of time with family and friends (especially if you take my socializing advice) so you want to make sure you have their support. Get them on the same page as you regarding graduate school so that they are more understanding when you have to skip plans. Bonus: They will also be there for you when you need to unwind after a particularly stressful week.
Graduate School is Temporary
Lastly, remind yourself that graduate school is temporary. All the work has an end point…graduation! Keep reminding yourself of this to help you push forward and finish your degree.
— Noha Bechara, M.B.A., ’18