There are probably a million articles on the Internet and a million people who urge you to balance your life. We all know it, too. The hard part is putting in practice, especially when we seem to live in an either/or society, where decisions seem extreme. To top it off, I think our minds naturally tend towards choosing one option, instead of finding a way to do both. To throw in a metaphor, you can walk the fence and get both views instead of picking one road.

This applies to everything. The first thing is work/life/study balance, but also about how you divide your time. Sometimes I think: I must finish this chapter of a reading even if it takes me the whole day, and I end up falling behind on another subject, or I think I have to finish one assignment before starting the next, when really I could be making good progress on both, and not feeling stressed about the one I still have to start. It applies to sleep – do you really need to finish the last few pages of something if it will cost you an extra half hour of sleep? We really tend to make ourselves take decisions to an extreme. I realized I do this at almost every level of my thinking.

Here are a few areas to reconsider if you’re really balancing:

Practical areas:

  • Work/uni

For some reason, I automatically thought university work would be so extreme I wouldn’t be able to have a part-time job and still commit to my studies. Then I met somebody with children, who commutes two hours to get to class, and had a part-time job, too. If someone in that situation can balance work, family, and uni, it meant I could feasibly work towards my financial goals and also my studies.

  • Personal time/ practical commitments

During exams, I cut out time for exercise and reading, thinking it would be better spent preparing. But doing so put me in a constantly stressed state of mind and deprived me of something that was important to me. If I’d balanced both, I wouldn’t have felt so drained during the exam period.

  • Hobbies/ practical commitments

I know quite a few people who gave up playing an instrument, sport, or a passion, so they could focus on their grades in first year instead. Obviously, it depends on the situation, but at the end of the year they often told me they regretted doing so and picked it up again in second year. Realistically, being a student doesn’t take up your entire identity, nor can it really take up the 16 hours of a day. We’re holistic – cutting out the other, equally meaningful versions of ourselves means we might not enjoy being students as much as we could. When you make a sacrifice, it doesn’t need to be extreme.

Day-to-day decisions:

Once I started tuning into balance in my everyday life, I would pause before I came to a conclusion and consider if there was an alternative where I might be able to enjoy both.

  • I had two courses that clash. Instead of deleting one, I realized I could apply for a concession and attend one class one week, and the other class the next, and catch up online. It’s not ideal, but this way, I can take both courses.

Structuring Your Day

Giving yourself time to do things you enjoy, even if briefly, and turning the executive part of the brain off.

This could be as simple as taking the long way home, swinging on a swing or really paying attention to a song you enjoy, with your eyes closed.

How much weight you give to someone’s opinion or a particular worry/consideration

Sometimes we overemphasize one thing, when really, balancing it against all the other things that you are doing right can put it into perspective. It’s not always necessary to completely sacrifice one for the sake of the other. 🙂