We are once again living those stressful times when many try to combine studying and working as the last courses of the academic year have to be wrapped up while summer jobs are already beginning. At AVP we have four student employees who work part-time throughout the year while studying. For this blog, we gathered our best advice for anyone looking to combine studying and working — and not drown while doing it.
Tip 1: Acknowledge why you do both
When there is a lot to do, managing your time always means prioritizing and compromising. If one tries to do everything with full energy, it quickly becomes too much. “That’s why it’s important to know why you are working alongside your studies,” points out Juho, AVP’s Producer and master’s student at Aalto ARTS in Sound Design. “People work because of so many reasons: some just need the extra money while others look for new skills and contacts.” Indeed, if you are just doing it for the money, then you should focus most of your energy on your studies. But if you are passionate about learning at work, then it might be reasonable to not aim for straight A’s all the time.
It’s important to know why you are working alongside your studies.
Our Visual Designer Amy, who also is a master’s student at Aalto ARTS majoring in visual communication design adds that it is good to realize what kind of energy both work and studies require. “I look to find a balance in how I use my creative energy to not exhaust it. Work is more concrete and applied to real things while my studies are more theory-based, abstract and dreamy. It has been very useful to acknowledge these two scenarios and take advantage of them.”
Tip 2: Focus on one thing at a time
When I first started my job as AVP’s Marketing Coordinator, I felt that one of the biggest challenges was being constantly in between things: While working, I was stressing about the upcoming essay questions. While studying, my mind kept going to the next day’s Instagram post texts. One thing I have found useful is to block certain hours or even full days in advance as either working or studying. I find it easier to focus when I know that there is a time for both, and I will address the tasks when it’s their time. I also keep my work and personal to-do lists separate, so that for example while studying the unfinished tasks from work don’t tempt me to ditch those textbooks.
“I also struggle with focusing on one thing,” Amy says, “and sometimes my thoughts resemble a ping pong match. It is very time-consuming. For me, it has been helpful to write everything down. This way when I get an idea for a school project while working, I know that I won’t forget it and I can return to the idea later during study hours.”
Tip 3: Schedule in advance for work, studies and surprising events
Chatting with my student employee colleagues, one thing that came up from everyone is time management. “I think that for student employees, good time management and organizing skills are essential,” says My, our Global Partnerships Coordinator and a master’s student at Aalto BIZ, majoring in Management and International Business. “I’d suggest always trying to schedule a week or even two weeks ahead to make sure that you reserve the right amount of time for working and studying — keeping in mind those intensive final-exam weeks. And stick to that schedule as much as you can, no working in ‘study slots’ and vice versa.” I too have found that scheduling like this helps in looking out for a healthy work-study balance. If I don’t mark my study times into my calendar in advance, I will always end up having work meetings here and there, breaking up my potential slots for studying.
“When scheduling your week, my tip for others — and for myself too — is to factor in enough slack for things that come up during the week. Otherwise, even small changes at work or studies make the whole schedule wire up too tight,” Juho adds to the topic.
When scheduling your week, factor in enough slack for things that come up during the week.
Tip 4: Don’t try to remember everything on your own
For me, the more stressed I get, the more forgetful I get — and knowing this, the more stressed I get worrying I have forgotten something. The vicious circle is ready. That is why especially during busier times I make sure to write everything down. At AVP, many of us use a program called Todoist for effective to-do lists that make it easy to stay on track with both of today’s tasks and what is coming up later. Consider looking out for a tool or method that helps you remember things. It might be an app with color-coded reminders or just a good old notebook with handwritten notes.
My is a fellow fan of Todoist and writing things down. “My solution to those busier times is to spend 15 minutes every morning or the night before to note down tasks to be completed. Remember not to be too ambitious! Then tick those off at the end of the day and take a moment to be proud of yourself. I find it really important because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed thinking about the mountain piles of work and to overlook the great progress you have made every day.”
Tip 5: Hold yourself accountable
If you feel like the biggest hurdle you need to get over is getting started, we hear you. Especially during the past year time seems to move differently when just staying at home and getting the momentum going can be a challenge. For this, Amy has recently learned a new tip to share: timing yourself while working. “I consider how long I think the task needs or how long would be a reasonable time to work on it and then I set a timer. This way I have like a small deadline I’m running towards and it helps with getting things done, breaking bigger projects into manageable chunks, and just holding myself accountable.” I might just try this next week myself!
Tip 6: Always prioritize your well-being
When working and studying it can feel you’re never done with either. That’s why the most important tip we all want to give is to take care of yourself — both with small daily actions and also longer holidays every now and then. I often get caught up in the long to-do lists and think: “Just one more week, then it’ll get easier.” But we all know that it never is just one more week. That’s why our own well-being should always be the number one priority. If we lose sight of that, we can’t reach any other goals at work or studies either, no matter how well we master the previous tips.
Our own well-being should always be the number one priority.
Juho agrees and adds: “It is important to not schedule all of your free time full of activities. If your free time goes only into recovering from work and studies and you don’t have any energy left to enjoy it, life gets quite bleak.”
“Do reach out for help from your friends or co-workers whenever you need anything or to share the workload — you are not in this alone!” encourages My.
Even though it’s not always easy to combine work and study, we all really do enjoy it. It is amazing to get to apply what I learn in my marketing studies straight into the real world at work. “Yes, it has been very fruitful for me to have these two environments to play in. I get to both experiment and apply,” Amy agrees. “And, of course, you get money, which is nice!” she adds laughing.