Work/Life/School Balance: You’re Kidding, Right?

Recently I came across a book titled SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. I’ve no doubt it’s an excellent book written by a very competent author (Laura Stack) who probably accomplishes more in one balanced day than the rest of us do in a week.
However, as anyone who’s spent time combining work, college classes, and, often, parenthood can testify, when it comes to managing school, a job, and everything else that falls under the heading of “life,” balance is rarely part of the picture. The thing is, that’s okay. By choosing to pursue your degree, and commit to the effort that that decision requires, you’ve already demonstrated that you’re an amazing individual. If you’re also juggling a job and/or family responsibilities, you’ve automatically ascended to hero status. (And if one of those family responsibilities is a teenager, you’ve just qualified for sainthood….)
So you have nothing else to prove to anyone at this point, and can instead focus on how to navigate your multiple roles in ways that keep you as sane and calm as possible. The following suggestions may not qualify you as super-competent, but they’re guaranteed to lower your stress level and up your self-acceptance factor.
What can you drop without the world falling apart? No one will die if the sheets aren’t changed every week, the kids live on pizza for two years, and you gain five (okay, ten) pounds. Consider dust bunnies to be a sign of mental health. Skip the mass holiday card mailings while you’re in school; you can catch up once you’re through the program. Lighten up, cut yourself some slack, and for the time being only jump in on those items that are truly life-threatening.
Make the most of your student status. As a student, you have great excuses for saying “no” – an assignment that’s due, a online class that’s scheduled, a committee project that requires a 6-hour conference call, a meeting with your instructor…. The list is endless, and tailor-made to help you help you either stay focused on your “must-do” list or give you some much-needed, precious downtime. Remember: “no” is not only a complete sentence, it’s an important life skill.
Lose the guilt. Getting your degree means two things: 1) you’re making a huge effort to improve your life (as well as those around you) and 2) those lives around you are probably going to be more concerned about the fact that they’re now responsible for their own laundry than that you’re an amazing role model. Assume this is very understandable human behavior, and then ignore it. You have serious goals to meet, and learning independence is good for kids, spouses, parents, and siblings. In-laws, too.
Applaud yourself. Yep, when you’re trying to achieve work/life/school balance, it’s important to eat as healthy as you can, fit in regular exercise, and get enough sleep. Think of it more as a balancing act, perhaps. But whether or not you’re able to accomplish these feats on any given day, you are still amazingly worthy of applause. You’ve committed to a very challenging goal, and every day you do the best you can to move closer to it. To paraphrase author John Barth, you are the hero of your own life story. And as that hero, you get to make the choices that will keep you from losing your balance. Trust us: you’re worth it.
About the Author: Acclaimed Career Coach, Kim Dority is a frequent presenter for Bryant & Stratton College Online. Dority is an information specialist, consultant, career coach, published author and adjunct professor at the University of Denver in Colorado. She has written extensively on career development for students and new graduates and is a frequent presenter, lecturer and panelist on career-related topics. Kim’s areas of expertise include professional branding, career transitions and career sustainability.

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