Balancing College & Work Life: How To Stay Organized Between It All

Between balancing a part-time job, keeping up with university and fulfilling volunteer obligations, it is easy to lose track and fall behind. After two years, I finally found a system that works for me to stay organized and on top of my readings and work.

To begin with, before school starts I plan my schedule in a way that I’m able to pick up shifts for work and fill my requirements for my classes. This way, I’m able to map out how many days I plan on working — for instance, I only have classes for three days and the other two days I pick up shifts and find time to rest. I try to minimize the number of times I am on campus to save money on traveling, so when I am there my schedule is packed with keeping office hours for volunteer requirements, lectures and tutorials. So, instead of being on campus every day for a few short hours (which I do not prefer) I can be more productive with my time.

An effective way to stay on top of readings and assignments is to create a Google Document with a table of all your classes, and in the other column write what you have to do for each class before the following week. By following this format for the rest of your classes, you’re left with an overview of what has to be done before the start of next week, in addition to easy access on multiple devices.

Another great tip is to create a schedule for Mondays-Fridays for your classes, work shifts and volunteer obligations; so instead of having several different schedules to refer to, you have one with everything that needs to be attended to, and you can update it based on any changes that occur.

Jotting down what needs to be done the next day before you sleep was an additional tip given to me by my doctor. I was having trouble sleeping for several months and found that this helped to keep myself organized and get everything out of my head and onto paper instead — it also resulted in a significant improvement in my sleeping pattern. I use a planner for this so I have what needs to be done on a physical copy, a checklist of sorts that I can use day-to-day.

During class, I have realized that while using my laptop, I get easily distracted by lurking on social media and several shopping sites. This year, I decided to write my lecture notes in notebooks so I can focus during class and absorb the information. Most of the time, my professors will upload the slides online, and if they don’t, recording audio with permission is an excellent alternative so you have something to refer to in case you missed an important point.

Sounds like a lot right? It is, but between it all, the most important thing to realize is that it is okay — even necessary — to take breaks. Realize that you can’t have a “GO-GO-GO” mentality 24/7; our minds and bodies aren’t built to be pushed to that extent, as much as the school you attend would like you to believe you need to constantly be doing something in order to be successful. We all need biological breaks, whether it be watching Netflix, grabbing a coffee, taking a walk, or calling family. Know that if you stay organized, you can be on top of your work and have leisure time for other activities and rest.

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Photo Credit: Emma Matthews