By Katie Wornek, Outreach Officer and Financial Aid Expert – July 1, 2017

work-life-balanceLike many of you, I started school this week. It has been six years since I graduated from college and I’ve decided to return for my Master’s degree. These first few days of class have been so exciting! I always did love meeting my professors, cracking open a new textbook, and settling in for a challenging and informative semester.

But, I admit, I’m a little nervous about how I can manage my job, do well in school, and still maintain something resembling a personal life. Whether you’re in high school or college, I have a feeling you might share my concerns. Students today are BUSY! Here are some strategies we can use to work hard, achieve our goals, and stay sane.

Follow a routine

Try to go to bed at the same time each night and set your alarm for the same time each morning. Studies show that people with steady sleep habits are healthier and more successful than people who lack a regular routine. You should also try to develop a consistent, healthy eating schedule. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re hungry; your brain needs nutritious food throughout the day to do its best work.

Know what to prioritize and what to give up

As much as I loved having the freedom to travel, stay up late, and re-watch every season of Friends for the 80th time, being back in school is far more rewarding. Education unlocks doors to many of life’s greatest opportunities, and for that exact reason, it needs to be every student’s top priority. In order to keep up with schoolwork, perform well at your job, and make time for the most important people in your life, you will need to take a good look at how you spend the limited hours in your day. Start by making a list of all the things you do in a week and add up the time it takes you to do them. Keep the tasks that you absolutely have to do, fill in any remaining time with some things you enjoy, and then eliminate your least important tasks. It might be painful to give up binge-watching Netflix on the weekends, but at least that Sunday night sense of panic might stop creeping in!

Balance spending and saving

If you have a job and attend school, you definitely know the value of a hard day’s work. But, at the end of each pay period, if you have no money left over to show for that hard work, it’s easy to start resenting your busy schedule. On the flip side, denying yourself any spending allowance can make you feel even worse about all the tasks on your plate. This is why I like to take a balanced approach. I treat myself to a small gift every paycheck (like a new houseplant or dinner out), but I also set money aside from each paycheck to deposit into my savings account. It’s the best of both worlds; I have something to look forward to and I have peace of mind knowing that I’m responsibly planning for my future.

Get organized

Staying organized trains you to use your time more efficiently, which not only helps you avoid missing deadlines, it can also free up more time in your day! Whether you use a day planner, make to-do lists, or set reminders on your phone, it’s important to keep track of your responsibilities. Try to plan as far in advance as possible, and keep the following things in mind when crafting your schedule:

  • Homework assignments and projects
  • Shifts at work
  • Extracurricular activities
  • College scholarships, admissions, and financial aid deadlines
  • Payment due dates for bills and other costs

Stay Connected

Getting too caught up in everything you have to accomplish each day can leave you feeling like you’re taking on the world alone. That sense of isolation can take its toll on your productivity and your happiness. Make an effort to maintain old friendships and create new ones at work and at school. This could give you opportunities to form study groups, swap shifts or get a shift covered at work, and receive and provide moral support. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Know when to ask for help

We all feel stressed out at one point or another – it’s a natural part of life. But it doesn’t need to define your school experience or keep you from accomplishing everything you’re capable of.

If you’re a high school student struggling to cope with the stresses in your life, talk to a teacher, parent, mentor, or guidance counselor about what you’re feeling.

Additionally, if you’re a college student, the student services office at your school likely has resources to help you manage stress and promote your mental health (your fees pay for at least part of these services whether you use them or not, so you should take advantage of them!). You can find your information about your campus’s services here:

Balancing a busy schedule can be an overwhelming experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way; it can provide you with a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment as well as build your character if you know how to balance it effectively. I hope these tips from my college and life experience help you accomplish just that!

Katie Wornek - Step Up Utah Outreach Officer and Paying for College ExpertKatie is an Outreach Officer with UHEAA and StepUpUtah. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Political Science from the University of Utah and previously worked as a tutor with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college preparatory program. You can follow her for professional advice about preparing and paying for college on TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat (@StepUpKatie).