Published: Dec. 30, 2019

Balance, family, future, career with clock

Adding a large commitment to your already busy life can be challenging. Try these ideas to keep the important areas of life in balance.

1. Plan ahead

Discuss your educational goals with friends, family and colleagues to ensure you will have the support and time to maximize your academic success without straining your relationships and obligations. Get into the new groove at least a month before classes start. Examine upcoming work and personal obligations for the semester so that you can plan your studies effectively around these dates. Work backward in your calendar and figure out how much time you need to complete large projects.

2. Utilize your best calendar system

Either digital or paper calendars are fine. You may find that a physical calendar that you write on will help you retain information better, and you can see a longer period of time than on a digital calendar. Write down everything that is coming up in all areas of your life in one place, and color code if necessary for organization. You should be able to see all of the important areas of life at the same time so you aren’t scrambling, forgetting key dates, or accidentally overextending or double-booking yourself.

3. Set realistic goals for coursework

Work on coursework when your energy level is at its highest and for only the amount of time that you can remain focused and productive. For many individuals, this means no more than two hours in a row of studying with regular breaks and no social media distractions. Study in a place that you have established to be ideal for concentration and peak performance. If you can obtain the textbook ahead of time, start reading during those times when you envision setting aside for course work to acclimate to the routine and discover if any adjustments are necessary.

4. Allow for flexibility

Life happens. Plan for the unexpected, and leave yourself some wiggle room for upcoming deadlines. This extra time is not meant to allow for procrastination, but it will cover you if you catch a nasty flu or have an unexpected out of town trip. Stay on top of your obligations so that there is time to adjust whenever unaccounted for events occur.

5. Control that which you can control

Breaking down housework and coursework into daily goals will keep you productive without becoming overwhelmed. Plan meals a week or two in advance so you always have access to food that is healthy and relatively quick to prepare. This will help you keep your energy up since you will be less likely to grab fast food in a pinch. Be clear with others about your personal, professional and academic goals and commitments, and feel free to occasionally say “no” to stay on track.

6. Be honest about your needs

Organization and planning might not be your strongest skill set, so you might need to recruit a friend who excels in this realm to help you get started. If you are feeling overwhelmed, the best thing to do is be honest and talk to your family, employer and academic advisor about your circumstances. Finally, schedule time for exercise, meditation, music or dance, relaxation and socializing, and reward yourself when you complete a task.