Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current Arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an Arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.
The transition from the classroom to the office presents many challenges and opportunities. One of the changes I found the most difficult was leaving work at work. It was a surprise transitioning from school, where writing reports and completing assignments during the evenings was your average night, to work, where your nights are generally free. After all, prior to starting my co-op, all I’d known was to go home and try and memorize as much of my textbooks as humanly possible each night.
How many recent graduates can say they’ve carried this work ethic over to their new careers? For many of us, taking work home seems like a way to get ahead and distinguish yourself from others. However, it’s impossible to give more time to your work without taking time away from your family and personal life. On top of that, as humans, we need to take time to recharge and take time away from work — it’s good both for our productivity and for our health.
Having gone through the transition firsthand, here are some tips to achieve a good work-life balance:
- Not having hard deadlines for projects at work makes it hard to gauge when you should be completing them. This is especially true when you’re first starting out in a company or when you’re tackling a project for the first time. Create self-imposed deadlines and try to meet them. For example, if a project takes an estimated 80 hours to complete, you will need approximately 10 business days to complete it. If you’re new don’t be afraid to ask how long it usually takes to complete a project — but don’t forget that experience can also determine how fast you work.
- This should go without needing to be said, but use your time at work efficiently. Avoid getting distracted by your personal phone and try booking many of your meetings on the same day. My most efficient days were generally Mondays or Fridays when I hardly ever had meetings to break up my day. Being more efficient with your time at work generally means less work to bring home.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum: avoid becoming distracted by work devices or email accounts while at home. While technology has made our lives more mobile and accessible, it has also made work only a click or phone call away. Unless you’re being paid to be on-call, get in the habit of turning your work phone off at home and don’t open up work email accounts on your personal phone or computers. Part of the challenge is distancing yourself.
- Finally, make a personal schedule and stick to it. Protect your time. Book in time for yourself and plan to do something. Getting involved in activities like rec leagues and clubs are excellent ways of scheduling in activities. I found that signing up for rec baseball and hockey with friends committed me to those times and gave me something to look forward to on those evenings.
Being a co-op student may compel you to bring work home so that you can complete it as soon as possible. However, your employers know you’re not a machine and that you too have family, friends and other interests outside of work. Unlike school where you have a few hours of classes and need time to study, learning to schedule your day into work hours is essential to giving yourself a chance to rest and recharge. In the end you and your work will benefit from this.