Balancing Work and Social Life at University

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By Emma, Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

Having a good work/life balance is no new idea, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. When I started university, I thought that saying no to opportunities and events would give me more time to study, but it ended up having the opposite effect. Instead of studying, I ended up procrastinating because I had no time to enjoy university life. I also didn’t end up meeting as many people as I would have if I’d have said yes to the events I wanted to go to.

In my second year, I didn’t have a lot of social opportunities due to the pandemic, and it made me appreciate having those opportunities more. This year I set out to say yes to as much as possible. Although it can seem overwhelming to have a lot planned, I found that my time management improved overall, and I end up studying more when I spend more time with friends. It seems counter-intuitive, but it truly works.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything to have a good work/life balance but saying yes to all the things you want to do (within reason) allows you to have things to look forward to and break up monotony in your life. Make sure to actively note what is important to you. This might be playing a sport, going for lunch with your friends, or simply reading by yourself. I think that it is easy to think of time spent doing work as inherently good and time doing things we enjoy as inherently unproductive, but this is simply not the case.

Especially at university, where your studying is focused on independent learning, taking care of your mental health is incredibly important. Having a set time every day when you completely stop studying allows you to take regular breaks. Joining societies at university is also a great way of making sure you have regularly scheduled activities to do, and there are plenty of options at UoB.

It’s also good to acknowledge when you’re struggling to focus and complete tasks. Spontaneous plans are just as valuable, and I’ve found that most of the time my friends are just as willing to have an unplanned break. One of the greatest benefits of university is having a lot of flexibility in when you work, so if you need a break, take one!

That all being said, it is important to note that time spent watching a TV show or a movie is also not a bad use of your time. Whatever helps you unwind and relax is time well spent!