Three tips to find life balance as a student

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Life is a balancing act, and high school students need to become master acrobats in order to navigate their menagerie of tasks and roles. Between school, study, work, chores, family, friends, and maintaining a social life, there’s a lot to keep track of each week.

It’s easy to fall out of balance – the evidence shows that most working adults in Australia only get around three and a half hours of non-work-or-sleep time each day (and women get around 30 minutes less than men). If you want to see how you compare check out this article from the ABC.

What happens when you’re not in balance

It’s easy to write off life balance as a luxury or something airy fairy. But having a good balance in your life could not only make you happier and healthier, in the long run you could accomplish more and do better.

The impacts of lack of balance in your life could include:

  • Burnout
  • Loss of motivation
  • Lack of ‘thinking’ time
  • Mental health issues
  • Physical health issues


Signs you could be out of balance 

If you generally feel happy, contented, healthy, and well rested; then you’re probably already doing a pretty great job at the whole balance thing. Of course, there’ll be times when you don’t feel great like exam stress, or trying to juggle multiple assignments, working extra shifts to earn more cash, or periods of illness – that’s normal.

If you often feel tired, low, or that every day is a struggle, then it could be time to reassess your priorities and manage your time a bit better. If you don’t feel like the problem is going away, or if you have any concerns about your mental health then please see a professional.

Here’s a few things to look out for:

  • You wake up tired
  • You find it hard to get to sleep
  • You often get sick
  • You’re missing your friends/family/hobbies
  • You no longer enjoy school or study
  • You often feel anxious, stressed, or miserable
  • Boredom is an issue for you


How to get back in balance

There’s no one-size fits all solution to finding balance in your life. The amount we need to work, rest, and play depends on how you operate – in other words, you need to find the right balance for your life, not what you think you’re supposed to be doing.

If you’re not feeling in balance then there are a couple of things you can try:

Tip 1 – Work out where you are

Make a list of what really needs to get done (homework or revision), what you would like to get done (less urgent), and what you want to do (perhaps exercise or seeing friends).

For example, you might include:

  • Sleep
  • School
  • Chores – laundry, house cleaning, gardening, washing the car, taking the bins out, washing up, cooking
  • Homework / revision / other study
  • Paid work or volunteering
  • Sports and other extra-curricular commitments
  • Hobbies
  • Social – time spent with family and friends
  • Life admin – this includes things like eating your meals, essential shopping, washing yourself, paying bills, reading emails
  • Time spent on your phone or other device – you can find out your average daily screen time on an Android or Apple

You don’t have to go into that much detail, but the more you work out, the more wiggle room you might find. Then think about the number of hours you spend doing these things and jot them down.

You could use the Life Balance Worksheet to help you keep track – download it here.


Tip 2 – Work out where you want to be

Once you’ve worked out how you’re spending your time, the next step is to think about how you would like your week to look. You’ve got 168 hours in a week.

If you sleep the recommended 8 hours a day, go to school 9am-3pm 5 days a week, travel an hour for school (there and back), and allow an hour for eating & an hour for other life admin each day, that leaves you with 63 hours a week to spare. This number is just a guesstimate – work out your number then use that for the rest of the calculations.

Now you need to work out what your priorities are.

Go back to the list you made in step 1 and decide which of the optional activities you have listed is most important.

Then, on the same list, allocate hours to the things you want or need to do and tally them up. If you get to 63 (or your number of ‘spare’ hours) and there are still things on the list then you’ll need to think about what matters most – so work out which activities you don’t need as much and work out a way to do less of them.

If you find you have loads of free time left – great! You don’t have to fill every minute or schedule every hour. Or if there’s a club you’ve been itching to join, or a skill you’ve been wanting to learn, perhaps now is a good time to allocated to giving it a go.


Tip 3 – Build a plan to help you get there

When you’ve got to this point congrats that’s a huge hurdle out of the way. Now you have to make the changes in order to redress the balance and lead the life you want.

Here are some tips that could help you to achieve your end goals:

  • Use a planner, calendar, diary or app to write down your new timetable, it could help you stay in check and create new habits instead of slipping back into the old routine
  • Set goals and then break them down into manageable milestones and give them dates.
  • Incorporate time limits into your schedule. If you want to play games or go through social media, do it. Just set an alarm to remind you it’s time to hop off. Got lots of study to do? Set a timer and if you haven’t got it done, speak to your teacher about an extension or some help.
  • Speak to your family. If there’s high expectations of you at home, working out exactly what needs to be done and figuring out a schedule could really help.
  • Work out which activities on your list you can get rid of on a daily or weekly basis. If you volunteer but it’s taking up too much time, ask if you can help out on a more casual basis. If you’re doing lots of extra-curricular stuff, is it time to drop something for a bit?
  • Be flexible – some days or weeks you might have less school work or other commitments, some days you might feel more exhausted, so it’s always OK to change your schedule around
  • Take breaks
  • Get enough rest and look after your body
  • Unplug from social media and other screens from time to time (after a little while, you seriously won’t miss it)
  • Practice mindfulness which includes being grateful, being present, helping out around home or with friends, spend more time making better connections with people who make you feel good
  • Be active
  • Learn to say “no” (nicely)
  • Ask for help if you need it

Getting balance in your life is well worth it and is a great skill to use throughout life.


Tools that can help

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