Work, School, Life, and You
4 ways working students can balance the books
When I first started interning at Mighty Bear Games part-time alongside my full-time study, I had many concerns. I was constantly worrying if I could balance my commitments throughout the busy school term and not flunk any of my courses. Finding a place in your routine for both work and school can be daunting, but it is not impossible. Here are four takeaways from this experience which I think will be beneficial to almost anyone looking to embark on a similar journey.
1. Avoid Being Too Perfect
“Execution > Perfection.” – MBG, 2019
Admittedly, I tend to be a perfectionist about the things that matter most to me. However, this mindset can often hinder progress so early on that you don’t achieve anything in the first place. It is always better to start however you’re able and polish the work along the way.
However, this is not an excuse to put in minimal effort in the knowledge that, no matter what, you’ll always fall short of “perfect”. Instead, I find it helps to look at perfectionism as a motivation and not the end goal.
By the same token, it is also important to cut yourself a little slack from time to time. As working students, our schedule will be much busier compared to typical students or employees. An obsession with perfection can easily cause burnout, which will end up hindering your progress in both work and study. It is therefore most fruitful to value the amount of work you’re able to do well and celebrate these achievements along the way.
2. The Big Picture
Time is a precious commodity, and there’s never just one task at hand for a working student. I came to realise soon after starting out that proper time management and planning are crucial in ensuring a sustainable balance.
Setting time boundaries is one worthwhile approach to creating a healthy routine divided between work, school, and leisure time. At work, I typically set aside a specific amount of time to attend to my tasks and communicate this in advance to my teammates so that they can catch me if I’m needed during this period.
That said, committing to only doing work on work time and studying on school time is easier said than done, and there are a few ways to make these boundaries less rigid and restrictive. As I handle community management for Mighty Bear, which means checking in with our social followings from time to time, I usually allow myself 5 to 10 minutes during study time to pop by and check the latest buzz as a form of break. The bottom line here is that while setting and respecting the time boundaries is crucial to allow focus on specific tasks, it is always advantageous to be flexible as well.
Proper task planning has also helped me track all the tasks I have from both work and school accurately and time-efficiently. I apply the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology when approaching my tasks to ensure I do not miss any deadlines or work on too much at once. I started adopting the GTD methodology after reading this guide by Simon, our CEO, and it is a great starting point if you need help staying organised or boosting your productivity.
3. Finding Support
You are never alone in this journey, and you should never be. Seeking support from friends and family, in both school and the workplace as well as at home, has been vital in keeping my mental health in check as I continued to push myself on both fronts.
Don’t be afraid to be clear and transparent with your manager at work or your peers and the teaching team at school. I make a point of communicating with my colleagues early on if urgent assignment deadlines and examinations are overlapping and look like too much to juggle. This helps me manage the expectations of my managers and supervisors and means we’re able to work out a proper extension or handover for me if needed.
Likewise, there are times where I get distracted in the middle of class thinking about work. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your teaching team and peers to seek further clarification of the lesson content. While working on various group assignments, I also tend to communicate with my groupmates early on to give a realistic idea of my availability.
4. Taking Care of Yourself
Lastly, it is vital to set aside personal leisure time. It’s essential that each week my plans account for some time to myself doing something I enjoy, away from my hectic workload. I spend my leisure time bingeing the latest series on Netflix, trying out brand new titles from Apple Arcade, and having meals with family and friends. Taking time off to unwind is a huge mood-booster for me, with the added benefit that it makes me much more efficient while working and studying. If you would like some more tips on how best to block out and enjoy your breaks, do check out this article by Hakim, our 3D Artist.
Simultaneous working and studying may sound like a stressful prospect to many, and at first I was no different. However, being adaptable and enjoying small wins have helped me cruise through this period despite what looks on paper like a pretty scary schedule.
The crux of it all, in my opinion, is to identify ways to better manage ourselves, rather than every last second of our routine. It took some time for me to get used to my schedule’s constant back-and-forth and required efforts to try out various methods that suited me. I am still learning new things about myself and how I function, it’s helped to think of this as a continuous journey with no fixed destination – just new opportunities to improve.
If you’d like to take on some extra commitments or if you already have a hectic schedule, take it from me that this journey you embark on will be challenging yet achievable. Just remember to be patient with yourself and, above all, be bold!