With the festive holidays behind us and the university semester now in full swing, students will be seeking a proper balance of work and play. For many students, it may be difficult to rediscover the harmony they had tried so hard to establish before the winter holidays.
Julia and Ross, both fourth years, are taking different stances on where the balance lies as they both prepare their dissertations.
Julia is a self-proclaimed “workaholic,” preferring to leave fun and leisure for later. She wants to get the job done and out of the way before taking an afternoon off.
Ross still gets the work done but sometimes struggles in the early stages of a project. He says that having a break once in a while helps him concentrate better, and refreshes his outlook when he gets back to work.
What does a work-life balance mean for you?
Julia: It’s important for me to get the work out of the way first, before I relax. I struggle with letting myself rest, even if I try, until I’m satisfied enough with the work I have done that day. I have high standards for my productivity, so any form of relaxation really is a treat for me.
Ross: I still have a high standard for my work and productivity, but I realise that I work better when I’m well-rested. It’s all about planning ahead – it gives me the reassurance that I will have time to have some fun every day. However, if I find I’m falling behind, I will definitely cut down on relaxation time.
Julia: I plan ahead as well – it puts my mind at ease knowing that I’ll be able to manage everything on time. My problem is, I ask myself: ‘well, why can’t I just finish earlier?’ The prospect of that motivates me and weirdly enough calms me down rather than stresses me out.
Ross: For me, it’s not about finishing earlier, it’s about completing the work on time. I barely ever have trouble submitting work late, and there’s usually another reason for it. Finding time in the day to chill and do fun things like playing games stops me from burning out. It’s worked well so far.
Julia: I think the reason I prefer submitting work a few days earlier is that it makes me think I have more time to go over my assignment when I’ve finished it. When I feel myself burning out, I do take a break and take care of myself, but the idea of getting it over and done with fills me with joy.
Do you sacrifice anything because of work?
Ross: I don’t really sacrifice socialising if there’s something on, but I sometimes lose sleep in order to proofread my work. I get stressed if I’m alone for too long, so sacrificing my social life is a tough decision. I would only do it if I thought I’d miss a deadline.
Julia: Like you, I don’t tend to miss out on social stuff. I like knowing when a social event is on though, so that I can work harder until then and then take the time off to socialise. What I do sacrifice, is me-time. I think I could really benefit from taking at least an hour or two a day to do what I like, if I would only let myself.
Ross: Me-time is very important. It keeps me calm and gives me time to reflect on my work. Doing uni work, I find that sometimes coming back to your work after a short break can make you realise something you wouldn’t have thought of earlier. The brain needs to rest to work at its best.
Julia: While working on my creative writing dissertation, I know I work best when I’m in the flow, not after I’ve just taken a break. When I’m in the flow, I can’t really afford to take a break in case I get hit by a sudden writer’s block, which would suck.
Ross: Writer’s block sucks, yes, but coming back from a break gives you a fresh outlook. If I have ideas I don’t want to forget, I’ll write them down in my plan, or on a note to read later.
What are you prepared to do to get the life that you want?
Julia: Careers-wise, I think I’m determined enough to get what I want. But of course, the little voice in my head likes to remind me that there’s always more that I could do. I currently feel like there’s more that I could do in my dissertation, for example, in terms of pushing myself to make it sound better, even though I know I just started it and will have time to perfect it later.
Ross: Similarly, I’m determined to get what I want out of university and my career. I always want to produce the best work, and if I thought I could improve something with more work, I definitely would. I think where I struggle is the early stages of my university projects; if I dedicated more time to it, I think I’d work smoother overall.
Julia: The way I see it, I need to put all this extra work in to get to where I want to be. The thought of having a job I want makes me happy in the present moment, and thus makes me more productive. Thinking ahead to a successful future motivates me to work hard. However, I think that in order to be truly prepared for the life that I want, I need to learn to cut myself some slack.
Ross: Yeah, hard work is necessary to get where you want to be. Finding the balance now is important to keep me happy, as that is what keeps me working well. Overworking myself sometimes stresses me out, and reduces the quality of my work. Not working hard enough gets me nowhere; after all, I find happiness in success. Staying happy now will make achieving the future I want easier, and make my work better. When I see the results of my work, it motivates me – it’s a cycle.
Julia: I agree that being happy now will make reaching my desired future easier. Personally, working a lot rarely stresses me out – rather, it adds to my happiness. But I do think I need to find a better balance between work and play. I don’t want working too hard to come at the cost of my mental health; I need to let myself live a little. The idea of letting myself go like that feels a little scary, but it is something I need to learn so that I can live productively, happily and healthily.
Featured Image Credit: Habitify Blog
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