Student Stories: study and the art of balance

04-Aug-2016 16:15:08 / by Jennifer Grainger

Jennifer Grainger

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Work, life and study: how do I achieve the balance? Ha! The art of balance…if I were to compare my approach to a style of art, I’d have to call it ‘abstract’. A bit of this, a bit of that and see what sticks. Achieving the perfect combination of work, life and study is the holy grail, isn’t it? If you’ve found the secret, please let me know.

My version of ‘balance’ is messy, off-kilter at times and about seizing opportunities for study as they arise. Work and life, I can just about do, but throw in study and it all gets a bit blurred.

When I did my first two exams, fitting in study was challenging at times. Life was full, but the one thing I had in my favour was that I was in control of my own time. So what’s changed? Well, she’s about two foot tall, has just learned to walk (run at speed) and knows her 14-month-old mind!  Just over a year ago I became a parent and 5 months ago came back to work after maternity leave. Life became a juggling act. It’s all good, but life can get busy.

So, why take on an exam and add to the already jumbled mix? The perfect moment may never come, so my approach is take my chances, see what happens and run with it.

Back to the main point though – work, life and study, how do I make it work? These tips are not fool-proof, but they’re what work (mostly!) for me.


Get organised

A few weeks back, I wrote about getting started and finding a study schedule that works for you. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my dedicated study evenings and I try to stick to this. With exam day 5 weeks away, I’ve had to include some Saturday and Sunday study time too. As free time gets scarce, I find that organisation is key. A little bit of extra ‘life admin’ at the weekend pays huge dividends and helps me stick to my study schedule. An extra load of washing, making sure food is in, dinners are planned and so on. It’s not exciting but it eases the stress.


Chip, chip, chip away

Even if you feel behind, keep going. One or two pages a night is better than no pages. Chances are, once you’ve studied a couple of pages, you’ll continue on for another few, watch a webinar or take that mini-mock to see where you’re at. The student’s equivalent of ‘I’ll just run to the next lamp post’. Any other failing joggers out there? Just me? Oh, ok. Anyway…always open that book even when it’s the last thing you want to do. And if you’re not sure which supports might work best for you, check out Tom’s blog post on 3 study supports I couldn’t do without.


Ask for help

I’m lucky, I have great support in my husband and family, but sometimes I forget to ask when I need a dig-out. "I can do it all!" – eh, no I can’t.

Don’t be a fool like me. Ask for help. People are happy to, sometimes you just need to ask. Recently, I have taken to studying out of the house in a local cafe. It’s a win-win. Daddy and daughter get time together and I get to go out for a nice coffee, albeit with an insurance book, but it gives me headspace and time to concentrate on my exam in a neutral space.


Sacrifices have to be made, but only for a short while.

Weekends for me are sacred family time. Time is limited during the week, so they’re a chance to catch up with family and friends and spend time with my daughter. For the next few weeks, however, I’ll dedicate time to study at weekends. It’s hard to return to work on Monday knowing that I haven’t spent all the time that I could with my little lady, but I know my study style. I can’t study into the night like some and I don’t do last minute panic. I perform much better in exams if I take a consistent approach. So over the next few weeks, I’ll swallow the guilt and disappear for a few hours at the weekend to study. It’s not forever.


Give yourself a break

Am I as far on as I’d like to be with my study? Not at all, but life doesn’t always go to plan. Some days, I’m exhausted after work and running after a toddler. And I have support! Last week, I found myself resting my head on the kitchen table after dinner like when I was two and used to fall asleep in my food. Attractive? No. Something I should admit to? Probably not. But, is it the reality? Yes. It was a Tuesday and my usual study didn’t get done, but tomorrow’s another day and all that. My study schedule is a guide to help me, it’s not rigid and has to adapt to my life. Sometimes, you have to give yourself a break. When things like this happen, I’m confident that if I pick myself up and resist the urge to panic, I’ll get the result I want come exam day.

The art of balance, doing it all, whatever you want to call it, there’s no magic formula to fitting study in to a busy life, but there are strategies you can adopt to make it easier. We have 5 weeks to go, clear the decks, put the effort in, read that textbook(!), use the super online supports and figure out what study strategies work for you. You only want to do this once.