Nailing The Work-Study-Social Life Balance

Once you start university, it can be difficult to balance work and social commitments. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy work-study balance and minimising stress.

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Ah, lifestyle balance – the Holy Grail of student existence. Some say it can’t be done. Others say that even if you attain it, madness will be your only reward.

While we know all too well what struggles lie ahead for those tenacious few who seek it, we also believe that it can be achieved. To aid you in your quest, we’ve prepared a few handy tactics for keeping yourself on the straight and narrow.

Read on, and Godspeed!

Every day, do one thing

To some people, the very act of writing “two hours studying” in a planner can trigger a wave of procrastination so strong it sweeps them off their feet and all the way to exams. For those people (me), breaking things into tasks rather than blocks of time might be a less daunting method. This is also a useful tool for anyone struggling to stay on top of various commitments.

Say you have an essay due in three weeks, some chapters to read and a bunch of friends you said you’d catch up with, and you still haven’t looked at your roster. First, list all of your commitments. They might be things like social life, work, relaxation, Literature 101 and Physiology (assuming you’re doing a very diverse course). Next, list an action you can take for each commitment today. Your list might look like this:

Social – catch up with Anna

Work – transcribe roster into phone diary

Lit. – find three references for essay

Physio. – read chapter three

Relaxation – watch one episode of Friends in sweatpants

Make a new list for tomorrow

Keep your lists relatively small – chances are you’ll need the breathing room in case you forget something. This method might seem simple, but sticking to it should see you moving all of your projects forward, little by little, day by day. Most of the time, that’s all you really need.

Eat at home, but not alone

Somehow, many of us are convinced that catching up involves going out to a café or restaurant, dropping some cash on a forgettable meal, and being acutely aware of just how many people can hear our private conversation. But if you want to maximise your catch-up time, it might be better to swap the café for your kitchen.

Inviting friends over to cook a meal with you is an awesome way to sneak in some socialising. Not only is it a great strategy for avoiding unhealthy snacking, but it’s also cheaper, more social, and usually more relaxing than trying to talk to your buddies in a noisy club or overcrowded restaurant. You’ll have much more fun cooking (or ruining) a meal together than you would sitting in a café getting bloated and broke from endless lattes.


Time, as people are so fond of saying, is money. But many of us forget that money is also time, meaning that every $20 you don’t spend is another hour you don’t have to work! This is an important piece of the puzzle; it’s just about impossible to manage your time without also thinking about money.

First, work out how much money you need to live each week (and, ideally, include at least minimal savings in that number), and make a commitment to stick to that amount. Next, work out how many hours you need to work to meet that number. As far as possible, aim to earn a little over that, but no more. It’s easy to get sucked into a workaholic lifestyle (especially if you don’t budget), but as long as you’re meeting your needs and saving a little besides, you’re doing great.

Look after yourself

It’s so easy to think that the key to lifestyle balance is to always do more, more, more. But the truth is, the only place that’ll get you is burnt out and washed up. Our minds and bodies have limits, and nothing will disrupt your balance more spectacularly than ignoring those limits. Neither your friends, your lecturers nor your boss want to see you waste away into a Gollum-like shadow of your former self.

Prioritise your eight hours’ sleep. Give your body only premium fuel: whole, unprocessed fruit, veg, and meat. Schedule in time to relax and exercise. Stretch between study periods.

And for the love of God, limit your internet browsing! (But remember to check Hijacked – loyalty is part of a healthy lifestyle, too, you know.)

Business major, journalism minor and sometime voice-actor, Joel Svensson pretends to be smart at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

(Lead image: Fe IlyaFlickr Creative Commons license)