How to adjust to a work-life balance on your placement year

Katie OliverKatie Oliver, Second Year, UK Placements

We all know that the biggest adjustment of them all is not the extra money in the bank account, the wearing of presentable clothes every Monday-Friday or the vastly increased amount of coffee consumed daily. The biggest adjustment for us University students undertaking a placement year is learning how to cope with having much less free time and flexibility. During my first two years at University, I barely even knew when it was the weekend, let alone yearning for them to come around. As soon as I started full time work, I noticed a dramatic difference of constantly feeling like I didn’t have any time to do anything!

My first few weeks were exhausting and my evenings, unproductive. However, being over half way through my year in industry, I feel like I have finally (mostly) adjusted to this new schedule and have found a work-life balance that doesn’t leave me always incredibly tired or extremely behind on my life admin. Fellow placement students, I’m sure you feel the same and second year students, I’m sure you’re dreading this loss in free time. Here are my top tips on how to adjust from a University student to conquering a work-life balance;

Get into a routine of waking up earlier

Many people would say this area is a student’s downfall. Of course, after going from 3 to 4 days a week at University, starting at different times each day that usually weren’t 9am, it’s going to be a shock to the system having to get up early every single day. However, I’ve found that getting up earlier can be such an advantage when you’re struggling for time. Personally, I’m somebody who loves going to the gym however, when you have 101 things on your to-do list and you don’t get home from the gym until 7:30pm each night, it can be a little stressful and time restraining. I’ve found that getting up just half an hour to an hour earlier in the morning and getting myself to the gym can be such a help in keeping on top of your work-life balance. It leaves my evenings completely free to get any life admin done, make social arrangements with friends or just have some more me time. Not to mention, it also makes you feel 10x more awake and productive when you get to work after a successful morning workout. Whether you use your extra time in the mornings to go to the gym, work on your University assignments, get a food shop done or simply have some chill time, it’s definitely a great way to get some more hours into your day.

Plan things for the weekend

Going from the social atmosphere that is University life, constantly surrounded by friends or peers of some sort, to having limited time to make any social plans can be a big change. Evenings are limited once our basic human needs of eating and sleeping have been factored in, which can leave us feeling a bit deflated and rushed off our feet. One of the best ways I found to combat this is having things to look forward to once 5:30pm on a Friday comes around. Knowing I have fun, social things planned at the weekend means my evenings feel well used for more essential things or having time to chill. Since weekends are essentially the only good chunk of free time you get once you’re working full time, it feels so good to make the most of them and refresh yourself of the trials and tribulations that come along with work. Having nothing to look forward to will definitely make you feel like your work-life balance is completely off and you’ll find it much harder to adjust to the working lifestyle.

Use your lunch breaks wisely

Whilst you’re employed, you most likely will get around an hour given to you for your lunch break. This hour of your day can be extremely useful when you feel strapped for time and have a mountain of errands piling up on the to-do list. I regularly use my lunch break to pop down to Tesco for some extra food, stock up on any needed toiletries or even get some University work done in the office. Getting these bits of life admin done during your work day takes a weight off your shoulders in the evening and saves these jobs eating into your own free time. You’ll feel 100% more on top of things when you use all the time you have as efficiently as possible.

Realise that you ARE going to have longer days

I’ve heard many people say that they really want to get back into the gym but don’t want to go after work because ‘it’s late’. The reality is, working a full-time job means your days will be longer. Whether you get up an hour or so earlier to fit things in before work or use your time after work to get them done, it is going to eat into your day and working that 9 till 5 life is always going to mean a lot of busier days than your typical University timetable. Once you eventually settle into these longer days and accept that they have to happen if you want to keep up with your hobbies and plans, you’ll feel a lot better about balancing out your work and life commitments. There’s no benefit to complaining how much you miss your University freedom because at the end of the day, placement year is the best time to try and adjust to this working life before it becomes the rest of your life after graduation. Personally, I have found I feel 10x more productive since I’ve been working rather than often wasting days at University sat around doing, quite honestly, not a lot.