Having an internship or job while also going to school is a lot to handle. If you are in need of money but nervous about dedicating the time to a job and losing focus in school, you’re not alone. For most people, finding the delicate balance of school and work is a challenge, but it can be easily resolved by adopting a few productive routines.
Make a schedule, set goals and stick to them. Planners, mobile calendars, sticky notes– whatever it is that helps you stay on track—do it. When you get your syllabi at the beginning of the semester, write in all your dates of papers, tests and quizzes so that they don’t sneak up on you. Especially if you prefer visuals, using a calendar can help evaluate your workload for the week and plan your study time. When you schedule time to study and work on projects, consider the time of day you are planning things. If you check out mentally at 4 o’clock and you are not a night owl, planning on cramming for a midterm at 8 o’clock the night before is not the best idea.
Make the most of your commute. This one may sound silly, but if you drive or take public transportation to work, this is prime time to get things done. Tackling one small assignment like assigned reading or brainstorming essay topics can be a productive use of this time. If you drive and don’t have your hands free, consider buying your book(s) in audio form so that you can listen to them during your commute.
Plan ahead for time consuming projects and schoolwork. Most employers will understand if you have a busy time coming up and need to move your hours a bit. The key is being an effective communicator and planning ahead. Consider asking your manager if you can change your shift or hours to better fit around your finals schedule. Working 8 hours the day before your final is never a recipe for success.
Checklists are key to prioritizing your time. There is no feeling more satisfying than crossing items off a checklist. Write down items in order of priorities and set deadlines to finish them. I like to make lists at the beginning of the week as well as one each day but this may be too much for some people. While it is very easy to write down everything you have to do, keep a realistic expectation of what you can finish in a day. When it comes to checklists, it’s all about figuring out which is the best method that works for you.
Don’t forget to have a life. In the midst of balancing school and work, we often forget to schedule a social life—but you absolutely need to make time to have a life. Cut yourself some slack and don’t forget to take breaks. If you think you can’t find the time for this then make time for it– schedule it! Whether it is rewarding yourself after getting good grades on tests or going out with your coworkers, make time to kick back and blow off some steam. You are not meant to work yourself around the clock.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to how many actives you like to take on. Working and going to school can teach you a lot about time management and help you pay off some debt as well. However, jobs are not permanent, and if you get to a point where you realize you cannot work and go to school simultaneously, then let go of your job. School comes first. You don’t and shouldn’t have to work yourself throughout college to the point of burning out. In the end, experience is great, but it’s not worth your sanity.