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The Myth of Total Work/Life/Study Balance
“You can have it all!” – fact or fiction?
Work. Study. Life. Three things we all juggle throughout our lifetime. Can we balance our commitments so that we can have the best of all three, at the same time? It’s unlikely, but that’s OK.
To achieve anything really great, the truth is you’ll have to live out of balance for a while. If you try to do everything to the max, all at once, nothing will really gain momentum.
Work 80 hours a week and your career might be on the fast track, but health and family will suffer. Study full time and then try to work more than 10-15 hours a week and you’ll find your learning is compromised. You might not be failing your courses, but your results won’t be a good as they could be.
“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” – Oprah Winfrey
Awareness is the key
So you can’t have everything right now. You can have the things that are truly important to you, if you know what they are and prioritise them.
So what’s really important in your life? Things like your:
You only have 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week, so choose wisely!
Fortunately, study is often a temporary situation. At university, there are two semesters that run 14 to 20 weeks. That’s 7 to 10 months of the year in total, for 3-5 years of full time study. Even if you’re working full time as well, you’ll have time throughout the year to bring other aspects of life back into balance.
Vocational courses are usually much less demanding, with a 10-20 hour commitment each week, over 1-2 years. Online study gives you the flexibility slip those hours into your normal work-life balance.
Adding study to work-life balance makes the equation much trickier. If it is important to you or will improve your circumstances, then it is definitely worth pursuing. As Alain de Botton said, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Things we suggest you don’t skimp on (for too long)
Planning a little downtime each day or week is very important. Taking a moment to breathe and clear your head can help your perform better in the important areas of your life. Without rest, concentration and memory can suffer – not ideal for work or study! You’re also likely to get moody and irritable, not the best frame of mind to cope with the demands of work, life and study.
Rest also includes sleep. People who sleep less than 6 hours or more than 9 have been found to have an increased chance of early death. Having everything is great but you have to be around to enjoy it. Around 7-8 hours sleep is ideal for most people.
Learn more about sleep and health @ Harvard Medical School
Friends and family
You might love your work but it doesn’t necessarily love you back. Your friends and family do. Maintaining healthy relationships will pay dividends throughout your life. You can be there to support them in their times of need and they’ll reciprocate in kind.
Our body is our vessel through life. A healthy body makes so many things easier – we have the energy to work hard and have fun in our time off. When you lose your health, you can’t always get it back. Eating well, sleeping enough and exercising are all key components of maintaining and healthy mind and body.
Double-up to fit more in
The good news is you can combine activities to get more out of your day. Rest time doesn’t have to mean lying down and staring at the roof. It might mean playing with your kids, having a chat with family and friends or working on your hobby. Exercise is a great time to rest your tired brain and mentally sort out your day. Your brain actually functions better when you exercise, as it gets more blood and oxygen. The endorphins you release during exercise help you unwind and de-stress too. Incorporate exercise into your work day if you can – try these tips on How to Workout at Work for more ideas.
It’s not going to be forever
Balance doesn’t mean everything is perfect; just that we’ve accepted the compromises we’ll have to make to achieve our goals. Your current work/life/study balance isn’t permanent – you might accept that aspects of life will have to be put on hold in the short term to achieve your study or work goals.
When you’re young, career, study and recreation might be at the top of the list. When you have children, other parts of your life will probably come second to your kid’s needs. After the kids have grown up and you’ve got time on your hands, hobbies, volunteering and travel might be your top priorities.