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SkillsTalk

7 tips to balance work, study and family life

By Katie Quirk | 31 March 2021


As a mother of a three year old (with another baby on the way) and a one-woman-show running my own small boutique PR consultancy, I can honestly tell you the daily juggle is real.

However, no matter how full my plate seems to be, it always seems possible to add more to the top of the pile.

It makes sense that Australian journalist, Annabel Crabb once quipped: “the obligation for working mothers is a very precise one - the feeling that one ought to work as if they don’t have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”

I believe it’s a sentiment felt acutely by a lot of working parents; how is it possible to find the holy grail of work-life balance when, more often than not, it feels there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything and please everyone?

In addition to see-sawing career and family obligations there are many of us out there who are also pursuing additional study opportunities, usually to help us either progress in our current roles or to carve out a new pathway entirely.

So how in the name of not losing your sanity does one do it?

Here are seven tips to help you balance work, study and family life.

Choose a life-aligned course

First and foremost, it’s vital to choose a course or area of study that compliments your lifestyle and isn’t going to drive you to the brink of burnout and mental combustion because you simply cannot commit the time and energy required to complete it successfully. 

It’s never too late to learn so it is worth assessing what is genuinely possible to undertake now versus those endeavours that might be better suited to when your nest (and schedule) is much more empty.

Seek support

My high school’s Latin motto was Nemo Sibi Nascitur, which translates to “no one is born for self alone” meaning we all have a commitment to supporting and helping others. 

Whether it’s asking older kids to pick up the slack where reasonable, working out a different approach to shared parenting responsibilities or enquiring with friends or family members if they have availability to share care, putting your hand up and asking for help doesn’t mean you’re failing; it’s a huge component to finding success. 

Tapping into time management

man writing in diary

Achieving work-life-family balance isn’t necessarily about working harder, it’s about working smarter. When waking hours are precious and time is of the essence, suddenly the management of your minutes becomes more important than ever. 

Embracing the beauty of a weekly planner or calendar can help outline your priorities and provide you with more clarity about how each day is broken up and what needs to be done. 

Flying by the seat of your pants isn’t really a viable option and will only lead to more stress and pressure.

Embrace productivity, avoid procrastination

Channeling productivity and canning procrastination is largely about placing tasks in a hierarchy of importance; into columns of what can wait and what absolutely cannot. 

When it comes to work and study, much of that activity functions on deadlines. 

In my experience, it’s worth investing in a large monthly calendar that lives at your desk so you can always keep an eye on what’s due when and structure your time accordingly.

And don’t forget to “eat the frog first”.

I know it sounds a bit icky but this commonly used metaphor is the perfect way to describe getting that one thing on your to do list that you would put off forever if you could, done first. 

Set clear and realistic goals

Sitting down and setting clear and realistic goals is a good way to stay balanced and in check. 

These notes could be anything from how many hours per week you are going to designate towards study to how long you’re aiming to take to complete a course or area of study. 

Various research surveys have proven this habit may increase productivity in the form of goals accomplished so be sure not to overlook its importance.

Encourage clear communication and self-imposed boundaries

couple sitting down and having a discussion

The last thing you want to happen when trying to balance work, life and study is a breakdown in communication between yourself and loved ones (especially partners and children). 

Miscommunications can cause undue strain on relationships and only exacerbate any internal conflicts you’re experiencing. 

It might be helpful to call a weekly meeting (perhaps on a Sunday) to discuss the week ahead and what your schedule is going to look like so there are no surprises and everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

And don’t be afraid to set boundaries - for yourself and your family. 

For example, between the hours of X and X you are not available to answer work calls or check emails because that is time you have designated to spend with your children.

On the flipside, make it clear to your family that there are certain times of day that you need to work uninterrupted.  

Be kind to yourself

As a mum, I know this is probably one of the hardest guidelines to follow because the feeling of guilt can be unrelenting when you’re trying to be everything to everyone. 

Remember to be kind to yourself and acknowledge that finding what works for you and your family is a process that is continually evolving.

Some days will be easier and other times, you will just want to chuck in the towel. It’s a natural part of the journey.

Instead of getting overwhelmed or self-sabotaging, take a deep breath and try to remind yourself of all the ways you are succeeding. 

How learning online can help with work life balance

There are a plethora of reasons why online learning is conducive to encouraging better balance between achieving and maintaining more desirable family, work and study outcomes.

These include, but are not limited to:
  • Self-paced learning - online learning allows you to study in your own time rather than towards a pre-defined completion date
  • Flexibility - you can tailor your schedule to best suit you; if you have young children you may prefer to sit down to do course work after they’re in bed at night - online study makes this possible
  • Affordability - with a family to support, your disposable income might not be what it once was; online courses can be undertaken at the fraction of the cost of traditional degrees
  • Virtual proximity - with online learning, you don’t need to factor in commute times or even change out of your pyjamas to attend physical classes
  • Comfortable learning environment - educators supporting students learning online are well aware many of them are balancing work and family life; this creates an understanding, comfortable learning environment

Looking for more motivation to achieve your goals?

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