After more than a year of grad school, it’s pretty clear to me that the whole “work life balance” thing is more of a dream than a reality. With an almost 30-hour per week internship and a full 9-credit course load, balance does not magicallyork-life balance as a grad student, isn’t it worth an effort?
As I sit with books piled on the table, my RA staff calls me to print something for them on my “weekend away” from campus and wonder whether or not I can manage to take the night to go visit my parents, I say YES!
Let’s get started. Bring on the balance…
Make a List of What’s Most Important to Y-O-U:
In doing so, you’ll probably find that work makes your list, at least if you’re doing something about which you’re passionate. That’s okay. Work is a part of life. Creating balance does not have to mean completely compartmentalizing work from life. To be honest, I don’t really think it’s possible, and it would likely be a futile approach. So, keep making your list. Think about the hobbies & activities (INCLUDING SLEEP) that you enjoy. Think about the people who mean something to you what the values that you hold dearest.
Determine What’s Missing
Maybe you’re not working enough and your quality of work is suffering, or maybe you’re working too much and your quality of life is suffering. Depending on where you fall on the continuum, fill in your open chunks of time with activities and plans that fill your gaps. If that means that you don’t get to the gym enough, block off some time per week to do so. If you’re finding that you can’t keep up with your course reading, then block off some of your time for that. Carving out your time on a planner or calendar may help you stick to filling your gaps with productive activities that help bring you more in balance.
Try the Pie Chart Test: Adapted From: A Balanced Life
Step 1: Draw a circle
Step 2: Divide circle into 8 to 10 equal parts
Step 3: Label each part with what’s important to you in life from your list.
Step 4: Look at each pie wedge individually and determine the level to which you feel satisfied in the given categories.
Step 5: Place a dot in the wedge depending on the extent to which you are satisfied. Place your dot closer toward the middle of circle if you are not satisfied and closer the outside border of circle if you are satisfied.
Step 6: Connect the dots.
Step 7: Cut out your circle, and reflect on how well your circle would roll smoothly or bumpy.
Step 8: Use those dips and gaps in your circle as areas on which to focus.
Carve Out Some Time:
While many of us don’t have typical 9 to 5 jobs that allow us to clearly decide when we are and are not working, it’s still important to carve out as much “YOU” time as possible. That could mean Saturdays belong to you! Or, you won’t schedule meetings after 5pm. There’s no precise amount of carved out personal time that you MUST have. It’s really what works for you.
Take a Vacation Week, Day, Hour or Minute:
If your grad program or work schedule limits the amount of time you take away, that’s ok. Beggars can’t be choosers, so take what you can get! The most important thing is that you use your time away for things that rejuvenate you whether that be a going to a relaxing Caribbean resort, spending time with the family or a staying in bed until 2pm (not that I’ve ever done that before…wink).
Sometimes we’re our own best friends, seriously. Be sure to give yourself the opportunity to just be…Whether you enjoy meditating, swimming, hiking, reading…whatever! It’s just vital to spend some quality time with yourself now and then. Doing so can help you reflect, rejuvenate and center. Put these dates with yourself on your calendar, too. There’s nothing worse than being stood up by yourself…
The Key to A Balanced Life is focusing on life as a whole:
Over-focusing on specific aspects of your life can lead to the most dramatic imbalances. Your work life, school life & personal life do not exist as islands. They’re all part of YOUR LIFE. Each element interacts, influences others elements & often forces you to make choices. Also, balance does not mean that all aspects of your life are given equal attention. Constant, perfect balance is nearly impossible and quite unrealistic given the complexity of our lives. Instead, it’s simply important to regularly reflect and determine which areas of your life need a bit more attention in order to chase the dream of balance.