Squaring the Circle: Life, Work, Study

A lot has been written about time management, productivity, and life, work balance. Some of it is ‘pop’ culture, some of it is ‘science,’ and some might be worth trying.  We all strike a balance our own way. My experience taught me to actively manage life, work, and study processes. This helps me make tangible progress towards my academic goals in the time available for study. I learned that privileging self-care increases the energy and focus necessary for all the things that are important to me. For me, identifying these particular areas as sources of productivity as well as potential spots for frustration and obstacles is the key to life, work, study balance. After all, we are not talking about just executing life, work, and study responsibilities. The conversation is really about quality and how these three areas are related. It is about managing to do all these things well, taking pleasure and satisfaction in them, and achieving a high degree of personal accomplishment and success in what ever way we measure it.

‘Manage,’ as in ‘How do you manage to do it all?’ is central to my life, work, study balance. The verb manage is from old French. Its original meaning was associated with training horses to perform specific exercises. Recognizing the need for ‘training’ at the work, life, study matrix is very empowering. Squeezing in time for things we designate ‘important’ is one thing, but staying focused, motivated, and on track is quite another. Giving close attention to managing my life, work, study processes helped me ‘find’ more time for all three. For me, managing has three steps.

Step one is knowing exactly what I need to accomplish in each arena and setting realistic goals. Step two is identifying and mitigating obstacles that can produce frustration or impede success. Step three is evaluating outcomes on a daily and weekly goal chart. Clarity about study processes makes it much easier to assign it a proportional place in a busy schedule. I learned to use part of every day specifically to think about and manage my life, work, and study agenda and how they intersect. Working this way ensures I have productive results in each area.  Happily, it yields better results in less time, reinforces learning, and makes sure I am appropriately focused on outcomes.

Focus on outcomes really helps bring perspective to life, work, and study challenges. Regularly reviewing what I accomplished, what I did not accomplish, and how it affects my long-term study goals is essential. It helps me achieve a learning goal every time I study. It also helps me understand what is realistic to expect from the skill set I have mastered so far in my courses, and helps me identify the skills I must develop further. Approaching every study session with a specific plan is satisfying and productive, especially when my time is limited. Being focused and present in available study time is also essential. Devotion to self-care helps make that possible.

Self care is incredibly important. For me, self-care includes exercise, nutrition, and connecting with interests I enjoy. A few minutes indulgence in a special interest is very refreshing. And I am quite rigid about exercise and nutrition. Following excellent advice on nutrition and hydration from a dance conservatory I attend created a huge, positive impact on my energy level and concentration. Having quality energy to focus on study, work, and other aspects of my life all comes down to self-care.

Self care also means reaching out to others who have perspectives and experience that can help. That squares the circle about getting training for the specific skills associated with high performance, managing competing responsibilities, and personal accomplishment and satisfaction. Remember, we can only do one thing at a time, others have done this before, and as student colleagues, we are in this together.

Caowrites is studying our BA English by distance learning in the USA.

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