I work a lot. Like many postgrad students I have to work to support my studies but with all the deadlines sometimes it’s hard to find time for anything other than working. I’m currently juggling a full time masters, a job in a hotel bar, a writing contract with a science magazine and the occasional extra shift at a museum.
Safe to say, it’s hard work. But somehow, I manage to stay on top of everything and still have time to myself when I need it. Infact, since I started my masters I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, something that happened all too often in undergad. I’m also generally happier with the standard of my work than I was when I studied for my bachelors degree.
So how do I do it and how can you do it too?
- Plan ahead.
I know it’s a cliche, but you know what? Cliches exist for a reason! The main thing that helps me is to stay organised. I have a journal dedicated to setting out my goals and assignments for each day, week and month and use an online task manager to keep track of how many things I do each day. Without them, I’d be floundering.
Do it however works best for you. Dedicate some wall space to a calandar, start a bullet journal, join habitica or just cover your workspace with sticky notes. However you do it, just stick to it. Consistency is key.
- Talk to your employer.
I have a good relationship with my boss at the hotel which means I have a pretty fixed work rota on the days when I am available. I know which days and which hours I am expected to work every week and can schedule my studying around this.
Talk to your employer to make sure they understand what you want and need and how they can help you. This open communication is also likely to point you out as being a trustworthy and reliable employee.
- Take a break.
I make sure (or my girlfeind makes sure) to take time out every now and then. If you’re starting to feel burnt out, take a step back and ask yourself why. If you need to take a break then do. Your body and mind will thank you for it and it will allow you to focus on your work better when you get back to it. Take a day off. Have a bubble bath. Play that video game you’ve been meaning to start or just go meet a friend for a chat. Do something to unwind and you’ll come back later feeling ready to tackle your next assignment.
- Learn how to say no.
It turns out theres a fine line between when I feel comfortable with how much work I’m doing to keep busy, and when it all gets too much. I have to pace myself and remember to say no to projects sometimes.
Undertsanding your limits and taking action when you’ve got too much on your plate is important and can help you put more effort in where it counts.Try not to bite off more than you can chew and learn how to say no. It’s not only ok, it’s sometimes necessary.
- Try Pomodoros.
This is kind of a cheat. I don’t do this as I don’t find this kind of thing works for me but my girlfriend says it has changed her life. Do you find it hard to start a project even though the deadline is looming? Or do you just loose focus after ten minutes and end up clicking your way into the strange side of youtube?
The pomodoro technique was developed in the 1980s as a way to break down work into manageable chunks of about twenty-five minutes with five minute breaks in between. For every four pomodoros you get a half hour break. Rinse, repeat. Twenty-five minutes isn’t long right? You can get a ton of work done in that time and before you know it you get a break! Give it a try, it might change the way you see your assignments.
In the end, your studies should come first. While that is always difficult with rising tutition fees, remember why you started your course. If it was to study something you are truly passionate about and that will help you build the career you want then it should be your main priority.Take the work you need to finance it and feed yourself but steer clear of burn out. Hopefully these tips will be of use but as always, experiment with what works for you.