Five Tips to Achieve Your Optimal Work-School-Life Balance

Three students studying

As a graduate student, you can manage a healthy personal and professional life at the same time.

The dilemma of pursuing a master’s degree while working may weigh heavily on your mind. Here are some of the solutions that students and alumni at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies have employed in order to manage a healthy personal and professional life at the same time.

1. Reinforce your personal support system

When you choose to make a life change such as going back to school, it will affect your partner and your family, not just you. Especially if you’re caring for one or more elders or children, speak with your partner before you even apply for your program. Can he or she take on more responsibility at home? If the burden is too heavy for your partner, who among your relatives or close friends can pitch in?

Enrolling in a graduate program is a wonderful way to advance your career. Make sure your partner and your family understand this objective, support your decision, and are willing to lend an extra hand at home.

2. Lean on your professional contacts

Talk with your employer to adjust work expectations. Mention that your studies will ultimately help you add value at the office so that your manager and colleagues are motivated to accommodate your new schedule. Inquire about flextime, delegating responsibilities, or working from home.

3. Shuffle your priorities

One saying goes, “You can have it all, but not all at once.” Consider which of your endeavors will be the highest priority during each semester. Many students structure their course load to fit their work schedule. Devising a strategy for handling work and school will ease these pressures and enhance your performance in both areas.

4. Take advantage of online options if possible

To help overcome scheduling conflicts with classes because of work, check the availability of online programs and individual online classes. The online format removes geographic location and commute time from the equation.

5. Cut yourself some slack

Even though you may be under stress, maintain your well-being, too. Though you may have to pull the occasional all-nighter, manage your time in order to get eight hours of sleep each night and a couple of hours of exercise each week. Every once in a while, reward yourself for a job well done. Indulge in a dinner at a nice restaurant or a day trip out of town.

A rigorous education demands your time and energy, but it shouldn’t deplete your health, your professional life, or your family life. Have conversations with the stakeholders in your life early and often; discuss how you can help each other and what external support you may need. Occasionally, take a break and unwind.

Remember, graduate school is temporary, and the end goal is to advance your career. Let that inspire you to restructure your time as necessary, tackle new challenges, and remain devoted to your future.

Learn more about Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.