The Delicate Work/Life Balance: How to Stay Busy and Stay on Schedule

By: Defne Inceoglu

As I write this article for you, fresh, incoming graduate students, I stare into the scary prospect of life-after-my-degree. During my time in undergrad and in grad school, I liked to do this thing where I would inundate myself with work. Being a ‘yes person’ for projects and opportunities quickly turned my life into a constant state of work, work, work. Now, as I sit around and work very little (Thanks, COVID!) I feel inclined to give some tips on how I survived working 2+ jobs, completed course work, researched and wrote a thesis, maintained close friendships, and kept my life in check.

ORGANIZE

Organization is the most important word I’m sure you will hear when it comes to grad school. “Stay organized!” they all say. What does ORGANIZATION even mean in the context of projects, relationships, and work? It can look like different things, but organization for me is a reliable calendar (digital or otherwise), push notifications and to do lists. Input every last thing that is happening in your life: assignments, hangouts, group work, you-time, workouts, etc. Assign a time and a day to everything you have to do. This is a bit tedious, but it will save your life. You will never forget or let slip anything if you keep everything recorded and documented.

PRIORITIZE

One way I would organize my week would be to assign certain days with priorities. This step was so important in keeping my life organized. Each day would be broken down into blocks – blocks for class, school work, going to the gym or running, working at the Inforum or other commitments and I would pencil in social time. Each day would get larger chunks of commitment depending on deadlines or importance. So, if I had an essay due, I would carve out a few hours each day dedicated to this.

My calendar looking particularly full and hectic in early January of 2020. I literally even booked in my hangouts with other people in my calendar!

I found that by allotting time to each thing I had to do, I alleviated the anxiety around being overwhelmed. Rather than think about everything all at once, I could concentrate on one thing at a time within its given window.

Now, this is not possible all of the time. Things happen. Your heath, interpersonal conflicts, procrastination, boredom… these things factor in and can destabilize a schedule. This is OK! Remember:

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

So, you’re hectic and busy. How the heck can you take time for yourself amongst all of this? Well, you don’t have a choice. Sometimes your body will basically force you to, by signalling advice to you that sounds like: “hey, maybe you should eat!” or “wow, you’re really tired. Naptime?” I’m also pleading with you all to please listen to your body. If you need a break just take it.

My mantra has always been: “you’re not NOT going to get it done”. I’ve repeated that phrase to myself a million times, and in other iLife articles too.

Give yourself a break! You deserve it. Even if you need to ignore your calendar for a day to binge watch the new season Stranger Things, you do you. You will be refreshed and ready to take on anything you need to do for the rest of the week.

TAKE TIME FOR OTHERS

I found that grad school is as much social as is it academic. Things may be different now because of COVID of course, but doing group work and getting to know your classmates is a given. Making friends will happen! I found that taking breaks to discuss the work or the program, or just hanging out with friends I made in MMSt became a huge help in reorganizing and reprioritizing things in my head.

It is also important to reach out to your loved ones when you can. Of course this may be a given to most, but honestly the 10 PM FaceTime calls with my mom were lifesavers. Look to your loved ones for support – grad school is stressful, don’t keep it all in.

ASK FOR HELP

I used to be someone who would be so stuck on doing everything myself. I didn’t need help, I thought. Oh, how I was mistaken. Collaboration is so crucial to getting work done, and getting it done well. Collaboration can look like a lot of things: asking a friend to look over an essay, or a cover letter, asking for an extension from a professor or asking for a co-worker to proof read your work. You’re not alone in this, so don’t hesitate to reach out to others, it will alleviate stress and anxiety around your own performance abilities.

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