Balancing your life and your studies

Balancing class, extracurricular activities, and personal life can become overwhelming for anyone. Time and energy are both limited resources.  

In this blog post, we’ll give you some valuable tips on how you can balance your life and postgraduate studies. 

Set daily goals

According to research conducted at Dominican University in California, writing down your goals increases your chances of achieving them by 42%. This also applies to your daily goals. The reason for this is simple—when you write down your daily goals, you have a visible reinforcement of what you need to do by the end of the day. As a result, setting daily goals allows you to monitor your overall progress, and you will feel responsible for completing them. 
Set aside 15 minutes every morning to organise your day with a clear head. Take a pen and a piece of paper and write down your five top goals for the day. Doing this first thing kick-starts your creativity and motivates you for the rest of the day. You will programme yourself to focus on your goals and work towards completing them. 

Have a routine

Maintaining discipline and routine might help you feel more organised and in control during times of stress. According to James Clear, best-selling author of Atomic Habits, motivation is overrated: “You need to stop waiting for motivation or inspiration to hit you and make a plan for your habits”. That is why having a routine process is so important. If you start studying every day at the same time, you’ll help your mind to set itself into “productivity mode”.  

Create a schedule

Your schedule should not just be about studying. Make a plan for your activities where you reserve time to relax, eat, sleep, socialise, study and work. When you receive your assignments and exams schedule, make sure to prepare an activity schedule based on your available hours. Map out your class times and assignment deadlines and organise them into a calendar. Then work out the time you need to do independent studies such as reading, coursework and project prep. Schedule this in your calendar with your other life commitments so you can see how everything fits in. And don’t forget to give yourself planned breaks! These breaks are vital for your self-motivation and can be used as a reward to help you get going on a project or assignment. A 10- or 15-minute break every hour or two can help you feel revigorated and increase the effectiveness of your study time. 

Deal with distractions 

Every day we all face distractions that pop up in the most unlikely places. We spend the majority of our days looking at some kind of screen: digital gadgets and social media may be a significant distraction. So, try to keep your phone on silent and far from you, to avoid the temptation to check it while studying. You can also use apps such as Self Control or Freedom to limit your social media use and increase productivity. There’s nothing wrong with digital devices, but taking a short break from your typical routine might push your mind to function in new and constructive ways. While it may be challenging to take a step back from everything, it pays off in the long run.    

A dedicated space is also important to help you get into study mode. This could be a separate study space, a library, or your local coffee shop. If you live with others, make sure they know not to disturb you when you’re studying. 

Get support from your employer

If you’re working and also undertaking a postgrad course, then check your company’s study policy and talk to your employer to see how they can best assist you during your studies. Some topics worth considering: 

  • You may be able to request adjustments to your daily workload to study more on specific days. 
  • You could investigate working from home on occasions, so that you may study through your usual commute-time. 
  • Make sure that important work activities do not interfere with academic deadlines. 
  • If you’re pursuing a work-based degree, your company will likely already be on-board. If you don’t yet have their support, explain how you plan to use the skills and expertise you will gain to become more effective in your work. 
  • Some employers may partially- or fully-fund your studies; check out any education funding schemes your company may have in place. 

Find some time to relax 

It is easy to underestimate the importance of taking breaks when you have a busy life. But over-working can cause serious effects on your health in the long term, so make sure to take some breaks now and then. Get some fresh air and light exercise, and remember to develop good sleep habits too.  

We have another blog-post: Support Services for our Postgraduate Students, that also may be of interest. 

And if you’re an NUI Galway student, please note the study advisors for your College. They can provide advice or guidance on various matters, including academic, personal, professional or financial, at various stages of your studies.