Student Weekly Tips: Balancing Student and Social Life

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Hello everyone!

Sometimes life can be overwhelming, with your academic, social, work, personal responsibilities clashing together, and it could lead to you feeling as if you are balancing on a unicycle on an uneven ledge, but do not fear! The student team have come together with their tips and guidance to show you that balancing student and social life is not only possible, it is also good enough to maintain.

Read about study techniques like Pomodoro, management strategies, prioritizing you workload, finding time for yourself, and more below.

How to find the right balance

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“Finding the right balance revolves around two significant things: deciding what you want, what your priorities are, and keeping an eye on the time. Prioritising what you want means deciding how you’d like to spend your free time. I am somebody who likes to move around a lot, which is why I prioritise sports clubs. Some people prefer to prioritise their academic and career growth in their spare time. Some of my friends make sure they are involved in the academic societies related to their field of study. In this way, they can join and organise events that can further their research and ambition goals. That is not to say that people who do not join those societies do not prioritise their career and ambitions. This is where the second most important part of finding the right balance comes in: time management. Personally, I may not join those societies, but I ensure that I have a certain amount of free time per week and prioritise. I dedicate some of this time to doing sports, whilst still ensuring I have enough time to go to an interesting conference or talk or interview an interesting academic. Find the time and decide.” Sara, Biotechnology

Balancing your time between your academic priorities and your social life is actually evolving. I often have to remind myself that it is okay for plans to change, and for things to be spontaneous, and because of this I usually plan to make sure my academic work and assignments take priority. This works for me to really enjoy when I do go out with my mates, and at the same time be reassured with my plans for the future. It is very easy as a university student to be swept up in either academics or social life, but there are other aspects to personal life that center around your wellbeing, which could be something like going to the gym. For me, it’s all about planning in my calendar and making sure I have enough time for the things I want to do.” — Salma, Politics and International Relations

“I am always conscious of how I spend my time. So I try to find both the short and long term benefits of what I do with my time. My priority at the University is to excel at my studies so I make my non-academic engagements ancillary to these goals. I am either engaging in societies to take the desired break from my studies to recharge and come back to it better or engage in the activities to improve upon my soft skills and experience.” — Fatimah, Law

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“For the last few years, I have built my confidence in learning how to work smarter as opposed to harder. After learning about the consequences of burnout through experiencing them, I have ever since made more of an effort to prioritise my health over work and studying where I can. Having been a member of the Pole Dancing and Burlesque Society for around six years now, I have found that putting in an hour class a week allows me to have a non-negotiable hour of fun (and fitness) without me feeling so overwhelmed with time management that I have done in the past with overcommitting to too many things. Additionally, when I can make the socials, it’s the same principle in that it’s one commitment and not too overwhelming. Keeping a routine and setting boundaries have helped a lot too. Whilst I feel I do not get everything I want done each day, the consistency of working and prioritising eating, sleeping and exercise everyday genuinely helps to keep a balance. Trusting this process and allowing for regular breaks and downtime has kept my productivity consistent and confidence up even when I have a bigger workload.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

Exploring societies

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“I have a system for deciding which societies I would like to join and why. I have found that I have two types of societies I prefer: sport societies and creative/skills-based societies. My reason for choosing those two types is because I know that, in my free time, I like to do something completely different to sitting in front of a computer screen and intaking material. I prefer more ‘hands-on’ being taught and I like to do a lot of movement in my spare time. This is why I chose to do Karate.” — Sara, Biotechnology

“Societies have been a great way for me to try different things that I might not have the means to do on my own. This could range from anything like hiking, cooking, to creative writing and running. There are also loads of sports societies that welcome newcomers and beginners. I’ll also look into if the societies require a weekly commitment, or if they have great one off events. I’ve been to a few creative writing sessions in my first year that I really enjoyed, arts and crafts, and have gone to a couple of International Society socials that have been a great way of making new friends. I would definitely recommend going for it, it’s a great opportunity that just needs you to show up and try something new. — Salma, Politics and International Relations

“Joining societies is a great way to maximise the flexibility of University life. I am particularly interested in faith, sports and languages societies. I found the loads of activities on offer enjoyable because I love meeting people from different cultures. Joining faith and cycling societies was a way to meet people outside of my normal circle.” — Fatimah, Law

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“I found that joining a society actually encouraged me to prioritise my social life more. As someone who can be very introverted, looking into one or two societies then sticking to one at a minimum has been extremely helpful in improving my mood and confidence. I found the best way to find out about these was at the freshers’ fairs. However, just having a scroll through the Students’ Union’s website is really helpful to find specific societies’ social media channels which are extremely helpful in getting a feel for the activity and events in a society.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

Finding your focus time to study

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“Finding your focus time can be more important than generally finding the time for studying. Look at your learning process and when you are motivated and energized to study. For me it’s usually the day after the lecture that I would revise my notes and make a little summary, and this helps me recall all the information that I’ve learned from that lecture. I’ll also leave the readings for a time when I know the information from the lecture is still fresh and I can tie it in with the readings well.” Salma, Politics and International Relations

Scheduling is the best thing you can do when studying. It might be better to study one hour every day a week, then seven hours right before an exam. Overwhelming yourself with last minute work can be exhausting and is something we all accidentally do, but it’s much easier to schedule. Find the best time when you can study and adapt your schedule around it. For example, if you find it easier to study in the evening, maybe set out a time such as 9pm to 10pm where you quickly go over your assignments/notes etc.” Nuura, Architecture

“Since I am studying full time, I try to treat my degree like a job by dedicating the time between 9am to 5pm on three or more weekdays to studying. This includes my lectures and group discussions with colleagues. I ensure that I don’t take more than two days’ worth of time away from my study on a weekly basis. Within these two days I do part-time jobs and spend time engaging in societies’ activities. This has worked for me because I struggle to study at night so I maximise my use of day time. This way, I get to take the weekend off to rest and recharge fully for the following week. I am often on the lookout for societies activities schedules over the weekend.” Fatimah, Law

“I am very guilty for overcommitting to things. I have since learned to cut down on this but also allow myself permission to cancel anything I need to at the beginning of each week where it can be cancelled. Where I can, I try to keep 2–3 days spare for my research given how intensive PhD research can be. This allows me to use a couple of other days to schedule any other commitments I may have.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

Techniques that will help you focus on your work

Woman brainstorming on whiteboard with post it notes and marker
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“There are two key management strategies I implemented to help me focus. Namely: task-time tracking and pre-session brainstorming. Task-time tracking is a strategy whereby I write down what the time and task I completed during that time. This allows me to know how long I spend on something, which aids future time management planning. A negative effect of this strategy is that it can be a bit disheartening seeing tasks take too long, especially when you do a lot of research and writing. Sometimes it may seem like no progress is being made when you are collecting knowledge — the work that goes on can be hidden as your mind is making important connections between topics. I counteract this through framing my research and readings in a positive light. Maintaining a task focus is key to the functioning of this strategy. My second strategy is pre-session brainstorming. Every time I go to study or go to a lecture, I spend a little bit of time making a note of why I am here and what I want to achieve. I know this can be difficult to implement. As I like arriving at venues/lectures early, what I do is make sure to use that pre-lecture time to do my brainstorming session.” — Sara, Biotechnology

Kitchen timer
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

“I usually want to have a goal in mind, or perhaps a timeline of the work I’m hoping to achieve and in what time I want to do so. I’ll usually make a to-do list for the day, and I’ll be as realistic as possible and keep in mind how long it takes me to complete the task, it really helps to prioritise my workload and be able to manage time well. I’ll frequently use the Pomodoro technique, and usually adjust it to the time needed, could be 50 minutes study-10 minute break, or 40 minutes reading- 5 minute break, it really is up to you. I like to use the LifeAt Spaces site for the scenery and timer available. There are lots of other blog posts about our study techniques that you can read if you scroll further down LPN weekly tips tab.” Salma, Politics and International Relations

Rachel is also a fan of the Pomodoro technique, “You will be amazed at how much focused work you get done and you can also get apps specifically for this technique to help. Additionally, I make sure to look away from my screen or get outside for a quick break and wander (or even just open a window) so I can get some fresh air and better focus.— Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

Thank you for reading! We hope you’ve found our tips helpful and are feeling well equipped to balance your student and social life.

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Library Student Team

Library Student Team

The University of Manchester Library Student Team