Before Christmas, I wrote a survival guide on how to avoid burnout when you either had multiple short deadlines or just needed to make it to the Christmas holidays. This post will instead explore some of the long term strategies that you can employ to make sure that you have a healthy relationship with your workload.
At the beginning of term once you’ve organised your timetable, try and go through to work out how much work you need to do at a minimum each week. For me last year for example, I had ten contact hours plus around 7 hours of societies every week. I knew that for my ten contact hours, I needed to do around 6 hours of work each week.
Next, it’s time to find the gaps. I was happy to wake up at 6am and work in the mornings (although I am aware that this isn’t most people’s cup of tea) and also stay at uni when I had a break lasting between one and four hours. This meant that I could squeeze in a lot of work in the mornings and during the uni day, leaving my evenings free to hang out with friends.
Once you’ve found the gaps, make sure that you write out a timetable and try to do the same work for the same subject each week. I have found that this gives me more of a structure and makes me less likely to procrastinate the time away. If I think of Monday mornings between 6 and 8 as time to read history articles, then I stick to it more rigidly than if I simply think of it as all-purpose work time. One thing to note here, is that whilst it’s important to schedule the time for your subjects, it’s also good to leave one or two hours overflow in case you get a particularly tricky assignment one week.
When you have a big essay due, plan at least a month in advance and work in time each week to work on it. Start off by working out how long it takes you roughly to write an essay – including all the reading – (for me around 24 hours) then add an extra five hours onto that for safety and start dividing up your time in those gaps that you found at the start of term. I would recommend setting aside a minimum of five hours each week, increasing as the deadline gets closer. This may mean temporarily cutting back on your social time with friends, but it will be well worth it when you finish your essay ahead of schedule and aren’t desperately typing up your bibliography with 20 minutes to spare.
If you stick to these tips, you should be able to maintain a healthy work life balance. If however you find yourself feeling down or anxious, struggling to remain motivated, procrastinating for longer is reasonable and consistently missing deadlines, you might need more support. Speaking to your personal tutor (or a trusted representative of your department) should be one of your first ports of call. They should be able to point you towards the university’s many support options. Amongst whish are: The University Health Service, SAMHS and the DDSS, all of which contain dedicated professionals who will give you the help you need.
I hope these tips will help you to balance your workload in the future!