Juggling School, Work, Family… and Finding Balance – Part 1

jugglingWhen I was 8 or 9 I remember watching a performer describe how he learned to juggle. He began his demonstration with just one ball. He tossed it high in the air, caught it with his other hand, and then passed it back to first hand. He explained that after your hands were used to that motion, you added another ball. So he began tossing two balls. He informed us that it wasn’t really juggling until you were using more balls than you had hands, and then he added that third ball—of course, after that he gradually added more and more balls until he was juggling like 10 of them.

I’ve decided, as I’ve grown older and wiser, that life’s pretty much the same as this juggling act. We start off as kids with just one or two things, and eventually we end up with a whole bag full of balls that we’re trying to keep in the air. Think about all the hats you might be wearing: wife, military spouse (this technically falls under “wife” but it brings its own set of challenges so I think we can call it out separately), mother, daughter, employee as well as more individual things like PTA member, church committee chair, blogger, book club member, etc. Add the coming holiday season on top of that and you’re BUSY!

So, if you’ve made the decision to go back to school (or are already back in school), how do you add one more ball and keep everything in balance? We’ve collected a few tips for you on maintaining that elusive work/life balance as a student.

Set Priorities and Realistic Goals
Not everything can get done all at once. It’s important to prioritize your tasks and responsibilities and focus on the most important ones first. Setting realistic goals—and writing them down—can help keep your priorities in line, and making realistic goals across all of the areas you’re managing, not just school, will make it easier to see how everything stacks up against your other responsibilities.

Decide what you’d like to get done today, in the next week, in the next month and then prioritize all of those smaller tasks so that you can hit your big goals. This works particularly well with school deadlines, but you can carry it across all of your other responsibilities as well. However, be kind to yourself. Don’t set your goals so high that you can’t achieve them because you’ll quickly get discouraged and lose motivation.

Believe In Yourself and Remember What You’re Working Toward
The decision to return to school is rarely made lightly when you’re already juggling other responsibilities. Whether you’re looking to improve your career possibilities, increase your earning potential, achieve a lifelong dream, or provide a positive example for your children, it’s important to remember your motivation all along the way.

Print out a picture or some visualization of your goal and post it up in your study area. Write yourself a note about why you’re in school and put it with your books. Find a way to remember what you’re working toward.

And don’t forget that others in situations similar to yours have accomplished feats like this—and you can too!

Simplify Where You Can
When you’re juggling 10 balls there’s not too much room for anything else. Take this opportunity to simplify life where you can. Maybe you can relax a little on your strict vacuuming schedule or say no to making that extra batch of cookies for the church auction or hosting an event.

Be honest with yourself and acknowledge your feelings—if there’s an area of your life that you used to enjoy but now doesn’t offer the same return on your investment, put it on the shelf until life has calmed down a little.

Take Care of Yourself
Even though things are busy, it pays to take a little time for yourself. Things like a healthy diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep ensure that you have the energy to accomplish everything as well as helping to relieve and prevent stress. Taking breaks and taking the time to enjoy life can also help manage your stress level so you don’t become overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities.

Finding and maintaining a healthy work/life balance is tricky at best, but it is possible—even when you’re a student in addition to all of your other responsibilities.

One last suggestion is to get inspiration from others who have successfully gone back to school while they were managing work and family responsibilities. You can read stories from people in all walks of life at CareerStep.com/student-reviews. And check back next month! We’ll have Part 2 of our work/life balancing strategies!

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