“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” – Dolly Parton
With only days to go until spring break, most people are gearing up for a week of relaxation and fun. It’s important to recharge your mind and body to finish the semester strong! Or maybe you find yourself like me — the thought of spending a week unplugged from school comes with as much anxiety as it does anticipation. I am an admitted compulsive email checker. I constantly find myself checking my emails —whether I’m at practice, out with friends or right before I go to bed. If I go more than a few hours without checking my email, calendar and Canvas deadlines, I find myself in an anxious state and usually don’t feel relief until I’ve met all my deadlines. I’ve heard the term “work/life balance” thrown around vaguely, but this year I’ve challenged myself to really dive into the meaning and implement it in my daily life so that I can get the rest I need over spring break and enjoy a week without school and work stress. According to Business News Daily, the work/life balance is “the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.”
Some common reasons for college students having a poor work/life balance are:
- Overemphasis on good grades
- Heavier than average course load
- Anxiety about post-graduate plans
- Covid-19’s effect on working and schooling from home
There are many other reasons that could lead to a poor work/life balance, but if you find that you resonated with any or all of these points, this may be a good time to evaluate if you have unhealthy work habits that impede your work/life balance. I will be breaking down three common unhealthy habits and how to change them, along with the most helpful tips for maintaining a healthy work/life balance. I challenge you to implement some of these tips and tricks in your life so that you too can break the cycle of compulsive email-checking and learn how to take meaningful breaks. Let’s look at some unhealthy habits and the ways in which we can change them into healthy work habits that contribute to a positive work/life balance.
1. Unhealthy habit: Working from home without a routine
Working from home without a routine can blur the lines between work life and home life. This goes for school, too. Many of us are guilty of hopping onto that 8 a.m. Zoom before even rolling out of bed, which is not a healthy habit for actually retaining content and getting the most out of a course. Establishing a routine, no matter how simple, can keep you on track throughout the day and on the road to success. Something you could try is getting up at the same time every day, regardless of when your first class is or when you are called into work. Establish tasks that you have to do before your class/work that are simple yet add structure to your day. These could include, but are not limited to, brushing your teeth, making your bed, showering, going for a walk, making breakfast, taking care of your pet or anything else that will positively benefit your lifestyle. Keep these tasks simple — if you normally wake up at 7:58 a.m. for your 8:00 a.m. class, it might not be the best idea to pledge to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and run a mile every morning. Creating goals that are a stark deviation from your current lifestyle often leads to an inability to stick to those goals in the long term. For each class or shift, have a specific mini routine that leaves you feeling energized and in the mindset to tackle that class or shift with your full attention and effort.
2. Unhealthy habit: Checking emails/Canvas sporadically and anywhere
For me personally, my emails are my biggest challenge when it comes to creating a healthy work/life balance. I constantly feel like if I don’t check my emails, I will miss out on something extremely important. The simplest way to combat this is to set windows throughout the day to check your emails and avoid checking them outside of those windows (unless you are expecting a time-sensitive message). Everyone’s schedules are different, but what I’ve found works best for me is checking Canvas and emails about four times a day. In the morning, I check both Canvas and emails once I get out of bed and take care of myself. This lets me prioritize myself for a few minutes and then sort out what assignments and tasks I need to accomplish for the day. I then check my emails once about halfway through the workday to get caught up on any sudden changes. I then check my emails and Canvas before the end of the workday, around 4:30 p.m. to tie up any loose ends for the day. If I have a particularly difficult week in school where I know I have a lot of deadlines, I will check Canvas one more time after dinner to make sure I don’t have any assignments I overlooked. Checking after dinner can give me enough time to complete an assignment if I did miss one, or enough time to enjoy my night without anticipating that final Canvas check. This schedule may not work for everyone, so I encourage you to experiment with different schedules and formulate a plan that will benefit you!
3. Unhealthy habit: Biting off more than you can chew for the benefit of others
This last habit applies slightly more to those with jobs and/or involvement in extracurriculars, but it can be applied to a wide range of responsibilities, and everyone can find some benefit in saying no sometimes. Have you ever found yourself blindly agreeing to anything thrown your way? This could include being put on an extra project at work, a leadership position in an organization, lunch with a friend, a volunteer opportunity or really anything. Sometimes we instantly say yes to please others without really evaluating if we can commit to the task at hand. Often, this leads to catering to others at our own expense. There have been times where I’ve put too much on my plate, and during those times I feel burnt out. The late nights, extra coffee and extra stress lead to enjoying my free time less and less, and I’m sure many of you resonate with that. A golden key to a proper work/life balance is: Thoroughly evaluate whether or not you can take on this new responsibility while still maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Ask yourself questions like “Will I need to make drastic changes to my daily routine to uphold this responsibility?” and “Do I feel overwhelmed with the workload I already have?” If that obligation needs an immediate answer and doesn’t offer time for evaluation, more times than not it might be a commitment you are not ready for or that may not benefit you in the long run. If you are being loaded with an additional responsibility, try asking “can I try this out for a week or two and see if this is something I will be able to realistically commit to?” This can help give you a trial to make sure that whatever new endeavors you take on positively impact you and will be manageable long-term.
I hope you were able to not only reflect on your work/life balance and habits that can contribute to/detract from a healthy balance, but hopefully pick up some helpful tips you can implement in your life! Have a safe, healthy and restful spring break!
Written by: Ashley Baresich