April 1, 2021, by School of Medicine

How to balance work and study

Hi everyone! I’m Eleanor, a first year MPT student who is still settling into all aspects of university life. I’ll be sharing the most helpful advice that I have acquired over the years on how to not let your job interfere with your studies.

I’ve been working since I was 15 for various reasons (whether it was for financial reasons, work experience or gaining new skills) so I’ve had to learn through trial and error the best ways to keep on top of everything. However, regardless of why you’re working, it’s important to be able to balance your work life with your study life, not only so that you can succeed in both areas, but for your own wellbeing!

Here is how I manage my work and university life:

Plan your time

Firstly, I cannot stress how important it is to know what you are supposed to be doing and when. Make sure you have a timetable of all lectures/tutorials/labs etc. (even the asynchronous ones, I find that if I don’t write these sessions down, I tend to forget their existence). Being able to see when I have to study allows me to sign up for shifts knowing that they won’t overlap with any lessons. It’s important to factor in commuting time to your workplace or any in-person uni work as well so that you’re not late.

Other things to consider timetabling in are assignment deadlines and exams since you will want to dedicate more time to studying during these periods. If you can, let your employer know as early as possible when these deadlines/exams are so that they can prepare cover for you in advance and it is less likely to be a problem for you in the future; you won’t want the added stress of trying to find someone to cover your shift the night before an exam.

Ask for help if you are struggling

Whilst it might seem daunting to discuss this with your manager, it is vital that you tell them as soon as it becomes clear that you can’t manage to work this much with your studies. Ideally, your manager will be aware that you are a student from your application or interview, so should respect the fact that you won’t be able to work as often as other employees who aren’t students. It is essential that you nip this problem in the bud as, from experience, letting problems pile up or worsen quickly becomes overwhelming and upsetting.

You might also want to consider letting someone from your university know so that they can help you with your university workload and offer more advice about how to cope. This could be from your personal tutor or anyone who you would feel comfortable talking to about your situation.

Plan time for yourself

It’s easy to forget that your life isn’t only dictated by when you should be doing uni work versus when you should be working, but it isn’t! It is crucial to not only make sure that you have enough time to take care of yourself but also to make sure that you spend time doing what you want to do. There is an endless list of what this could include but most importantly, do what you enjoy and take the time to do this and relax. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and take time for yourself.

Be honest

Don’t tell your employer that you can do more hours than you actually can or want to do, it’s important to be upfront about what you can bring to the job and what you want to get out of it. Equally, don’t let anyone pressure you into doing more shifts than you want to do. Be clear, direct and don’t be afraid to say no! It’s a lot more difficult to go back on your word once you have already committed to doing x number of shifts and this can be an added stress in the long run.

Additionally, be honest with yourself. If you feel like work is becoming overwhelming or unmanageable take some time to reflect on what you would like to do. As stated previously, tell someone and seek help from others or take a break. Use your time off to relax, catch up on uni work and reset. It’s unfeasible to work 24/7, everyone needs time off!

If I had to condense this advice into one major point, it would be to discuss any issues or topics early! The further in advance you tell your manager/personal tutor etc. about anything, the more likely it is to be resolved effectively and the more time you will have to do so (it is also less stressful and more manageable knowing that you have more time to find a good solution). Whilst it can be difficult to balance your work and study life, you will develop key skills like time management, organisation skills, communication skills and more which will help you in your day-to-day life, as well as with job applications and interviews (see the ‘any experience is better than no experience’ section on our previous blog ‘5 top tips on how to ace your job application’ on how to incorporate these skills into future plans).

These are some lessons that have helped me over the past five years however, everyone is different and you will inevitably find what works best for you with experience (I’m still learning too!), but I hope that these points will get you started. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at mzyeo5@nottingham.ac.uk or DM the MPT Society Instagram @uon_mptsoc, where we’ll be happy to answer any questions.

By Eleanor Osman

Posted in Uncategorized