Those of you who have been reading my blog closely for some time now know that I am a working Master’s student and blogger. Most of the week, I work as a re-entry counselor at the Federal Employment Agency, advising women and men who are looking to reconnect with the job market after parental leave or caregiver leave for a relative, and who may want to reorient themselves professionally.
The game with the balance of study and job
After changing my major to a master’s degree in literature and linguistics, I was looking for a social commitment that would meet my moral and ethical requirements and at the same time bring me one step closer to my heart’s desire for the advancement of women and anti-discrimination. In the summer of 2016, I was then elected Equal Opportunities Officer for almost 45,000 students at RWTH Aachen University and, as part of this role, I am allowed to participate as a full member of the Equal Opportunities Office.
When I report on my activities and studies, the feedback is always the same:
“How do you balance your job, volunteering, blogging and studying?”.
This question is justified and the answer is quite simple: good time management, a lot of love for the job and great supervisors.
Fun and passion are the decisive factors
My week is strictly planned and each task area is assigned a specific time slot. Of course, sometimes these overlap, the important thing here is to grant “equal rights for all” so that no one area gets out of hand. So if I should have trainings in the professional area which influence my voluntary work, there is (fortunately) the possibility to balance the time again by flextime models. I then make use of these, for example, during certain series of events that I help to organize as part of my office. The same applies to studies. Of course, one must not assume here that this means a walk on the side. Once everyone else is off work, you read texts and prepare for events. On the weekends, you’re working on papers or researching blog articles, and while everyone else is planning their vacations for summer and sun, you’re squinting in the direction of deadlines and exams.
Sometimes it’s exhausting and you’re often in a very stressful phase when you’re sick, for example, and have to catch up on work or university material, but for me there’s always one dominant credo in everything I do: Sei mit Spaß und Leidenschaft dabei, egal was du tust! Click To Tweet
Success through mindfulness
However, I also have to admit to this: I have really great and understanding supervisors and lecturers on all sides. In this context, the principle of diversity is always highly valued, taken into account and also promoted. No matter whether I have questions or get into trouble organizationally, so far every challenge could be discussed, clarified and mastered to everyone’s satisfaction. For this at this point, thank you very much!
Contrary to what some people believe, I also create mindfulness moments for myself and reach for magazines like Flow, ma vie or Noveaux, for example, and do a little digital detox on the weekend. Even if it sounds a little strange, even a basic cleaning of the apartment can have a calming effect, as it allows you to devote yourself to a completely mundane activity, accompanied by pick-me-up music.
Moments with my loved ones are sacred to me (even if rare) and are only moved or postponed in exceptional cases (e.g. illness). In the future, I would also like to devote more time to cooking(inspired by my detox experience) and sports.
How to become an organizational talent
I would love to share with you some more helpful tips to better organize your work week:
- Divide your tasks into small work packages; these not only help you keep track of things, but also make it easier to set priorities.
- Include targeted breaks in your planning and make use of them! This is not just about pure food intake, but about a walk, a coffee or tea break, or a lively exchange with friends and colleagues.
- Use programs and tools, such as Evernote, OneNote or MS Project (free for students of partner universities!). These don’t do the thinking for you, but make it easier to structure your week. You prefer handwritten to-do lists? Great! Be sure to date your tasks because if there is a date behind it, it is a goal and not a wish.
- Apply the SMART principle, which means that your tasks should be Specific, Measurable, Appropriate(Appealing), Realistic, and (as mentioned earlier) Scheduled. Formulate exactly what you want to achieve and always check your goals for short term, medium term and long term periods you need to achieve them.
- Share your planning with others. It may be possible to help you at certain points and to process a work package more quickly. In my studies, this always means “obliging” my two favorite beta readers to sweep over my papers with sharpened pencils and give me a good telling-off if I’ve had another philosophy (too long and convoluted sentences) or grammar clown for breakfast.
- Don’t keep talking about how stressed you are. These days, it seems almost fatal not to stay in stress mode. My tip: Breathe in and out, concentrate briefly and get as much done as you can – but no more (we are not machines, after all). Most of the stress we cause ourselves or let others talk us into it, who are constantly incredibly “busy” and thus convey to us that we have to be as well.
- My last and probably most important recommendation: try not to be perfect. Believe me, you won’t succeed because there will always be someone or something that will cause you to stumble. I once read that you should approach every workday as if it were your last: motivated to complete everything still outstanding and relaxed enough to go home with a smile at the end of the day.
Did you also work during your studies, complete a dual study program or study part-time? How have you structured your time and ensured a balance between your professional and private “roles”? Share your experience with the FemalExperts community!
About the author
Kinga Bartczak advises, coaches and writes on female empowerment, new work culture, organizational development, systemic coaching and personal branding. She is also the managing director of UnternehmerRebellen GmbH and publisher of the FemalExperts magazine .