Balancing Your Work and Personal Life

I’ll be the first person to admit it: sometimes, balancing your work and personal life can seem like running a three ring circus on an hour of sleep with hungry tigers, and disgruntled elephants, and clowns who never finished clown school.

It’ll start fairly innocently: I’ll decide to visit some of my upperclassman friends who I see less often than others because they live off campus. It’s common courtesy, I reason–how am I supposed to maintain the relationship if we never interact? I’ll tuck my laptop in my bag and walk on over, determined to get homework done while I catch up. I”ll arrive after being welcomed warmly and settle down with their dog in my lap, assuring myself that I’ll get to work once all the pleasantries are out of the way. Once a certain amount of time has elapsed, though, I’ll feel myself getting sleepily content with sitting and socializing. It’s be rude to whip out my laptop now, I’ll tell myself. I’m a guest; I should be polite and engage them!

And another afternoon will slip away, the balance between work and my personal life once again thrown into chaos. The way I see it, this can be remedied by one of two ways that are opposites of each other.

If you’re more organized than I am, rigorous schedule making will be your best friend. The more tightly you plan your schedule and stick to it, the harder it will be to deviate and muddy the waters. If I plan to dedicate the day working on an essay, I’ll often let myself take a five minute break for every page I complete. It motivates me while still keeping me on track, which is a tricky homeostasis to maintain. I’ve seen a lot of my friends make the mistake of being too hard on themselves and not allowing any slack. This will just make you tired and counterproductive and bitter–if you take time to refresh yourself, you’ll get more done.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, letting yourself go a bit as opposed to being rigid can have its benefits. Something I’ve found immensely helpful is almost combining the two. It sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. If you can strike the right balance between the two by infusing the right amount of your personal life with work, it won’t feel like work. Example A: for a history class, I had to write about an integral part of European folklore. I happen to loathe history, so I wasn’t looking forward to it. I thought about what I liked, what would make the assignment more enjoyable, and it came to me: unicorns! My favorite book has always been The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, so I wrote about the unicorn as a cultural mainstay, combining my work and personal life. The lines are not always so easy to blend, but when they are, great things come of them.

What are your favorite tips for balancing your work and personal life?