(Spoiler alert: not very well)
Whenever I used to tell people that I had three jobs alongside my degree as well as my blog, they used to be impressed. They used to admire my work ethic, think that I was some kind of super human, and all-but worship at my feet. Did I feel like I ever deserved such high regard? Nope. In fact, I used to tell people that I had ‘a part-time job’ instead of three because I felt like a fake and a phoney with three separate zero hour contracts under my belt. Some weeks I’d work 0 hours and some weeks I’d work 25, it literally just depended on what was available and my university timetable. And those weeks that I’d work 0 hours were when I felt like a fake. And those weeks that I’d work 25 hours I was too exhausted to even think about it.
So yeah, even though at times I had a bit of guilt thinking that my zero hour contracts didn’t count as ‘real jobs’, I should’ve given myself more credit. The truth is, I did balance it. And I balanced it rather well all the way up until my second term of third year when things got a bit too intense and I had to drop a job and reign back on my blog a little (sorry about that, a gal’s gotta get her degree). So, here are a few things that this very normal girl who is certainly not super-woman learnt whilst some weeks not leaving the house and other weeks barely being at home.
Never ever ever work past 7pm
As a night-owl, I found this one super difficult at first. I felt like I could produce ‘better’ work in the evening and couldn’t see an issue with working until 4am. The issue, dear reader, is that you are driving yourself into the ground.
It is not physically possible to work every hour of the waking day, and it’s not healthy either. I regard myself as a fairly hard-working person, and I felt like a let down to my generation of lunch-break-workers and all-nighter-pullers at first. But then I realised that there is absolutely no need to work until that time. In fact, I was hindering my own progress and ability by doing so.
By working until 4am, I was having to re-read and re-edit and re-draft everything more times than ever before. And I was having to do this whilst absolutely shattered, uninspired and, frankly, wanting to do nothing other than sleep.
So I started being stricter with myself. I started not allowing myself to work past 7pm. 7pm was my cut off. And, at 7pm, I’d cook, watch some tv, maybe read a book (for pleasure, not for uni) and most importantly, get a decent night’s sleep.
I learnt that I was way more productive in one hour during the day than I was in three hours in late night/early morning and, without having this realisation quite early on, I do worry that I might have ran myself into the ground very quickly.
Don’t do work from your bed
It took me a little longer to work this one out, but it’s along a similar lines to the one above.
I found that when I was having a ‘lazy day’ and working from my bed, I struggled to sleep that night. This was a vicious cycle, though, because then I’d be more tired the next day and decide to work from my bed again. And, before long, I started to associate my bed with work, instead of with sleep.
Instead of climbing into bed in an evening in a sleepy daze, I was simply switching my laptop from a word document to Netflix for a few hours before turning it off and trying to sleep, with all of the stress and worry from the day still completely on my mind.
And, as soon as I switched to working at my desk instead of working from my bed, I saw a massive difference.
Take at least one day/afternoon a week off
I know that this one can be a little hard because everyone has different working schedules and not everyone thinks that they can afford to take time off (especially when studying) but, honestly, you need it. Do yourself a favour and get out and about for a day or even an afternoon. In my first and second years, I had pretty much every weekend off and I absolutely loved them. There was nothing better than heading into Monday feeling completely absolutely refreshed and revived, and I quickly learnt that kinda timetable worked best for me.
Dedicate time to doing what makes you feel good
I am strict with myself with going to the gym because it helps my mental health, a lot. I go three times a week (at least) and force myself to stick to it because I always enjoy it when I’m there. But, sometimes, I will skip a few sessions if I am worried about work and think that I could be using my time more wisely.
However, every single time without fail, I regret it. My mental health takes a plummet, I struggle to do the work I thought I was prioritising, and I end up in a rather bad mental state.
So I’ve learnt that I need to take time to go to the gym, and that I’m actually more productive if I do.
And I’m sure that there’s something like this for everyone. So, no matter what it is, take the time for yourself and take the time to do it because looking after yourself is not ever a waste of time.
Rest more on quieter weeks
Sounds obvious. But, I’m so guilty of having a quieter week at work(s) and, so, replacing that time with more time studying and, so, making myself just as busy as I was the week before. We all need a rest, we all need time out, so take it and don’t feel guilty for it.
Admit when it’s time to reign something back
We have been brought up in a society that is always telling us to do everything.
Study. Work hard. Get a job. Travel. Get a house. Work harder.
And, sometimes, we bite off more than we can chew, and it can be really hard to admit to ourselves when it’s time to give up on something that we have been so desperately clinging onto. I was determined to vlog my third year. I was determined to keep posting on my blog twice a week no matter how much other work I had. And, my stubbornness led me down a path of exhaustion and I felt like I had failed.
But, I realised, I just had to reign a few things back. So, I stopped vlogging and started posting on my blog only when I had the time. And, it took such a massive weight off of me.
See, when I was doing those things, I was so used to doing them that I didn’t realise how much of my time they were taking up. Yet, as soon as I stopped, I felt like I had so much more time to play with and dedicate to the other areas of my life that were lacking.
In the end, we are all different people. Everyone does everything differently, and some of us manage things better than others. I’m sure there are many people who could’ve managed my life a lot more efficiently than me these last few years, but I got here in the end and I learnt a lot on the way.