The subtle art of balancing full-time work with postgrad study

by Dec 3, 2021

Going back to uni to do postgraduate studies is a really exciting and fulfilling thing to do. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves learning and wants to add another element to their career journey.

For me it was a completely different experience to my undergraduate days, not only because I’d been working full-time for a number of years, but also because I was going back to do my master’s degree (part-time) while continuing to work full-time (which I found to be a very different experience to studying full-time and having a part-time job). So how do you not only get through it, but enjoy having the opportunity to study again, without losing steam?

I found it impossible to achieve ‘balance’ during semester, trying to do so just resulted in more stress as I attempted to ‘fit everything in’. So instead what I aimed for was something that was more akin to work-life-study integration. Accepting that at this time in life, my life was mainly work and study, but that it wouldn’t always be like this; and taking opportunities to still integrate some nice ‘life’ activities to give me energy and keep me going.

If you’re venturing back into the world of study in 2022 without quitting your day job, here are my top tips for making it work. 


1. Plan out assessment timelines early

The postgrad workload felt less overwhelming when I had a week-by-week plan each semester that took into account what I needed to achieve each week/weekend. If you do this early, you might find that at certain times of the semester you can afford to take a day or two off from study that won’t hinder your progress or put you under more pressure at when assessments are due.


2. Compartmentalise

I found I had to do this at work and on weekends or days I was doing uni work. When I was at work, uni work didn’t exist, and when I was doing assessments or studying for my masters I didn’t think about work.

While this has been trickier since COVID, I also found it was good to have a designated ‘work space’ (the office) and designated ‘study space’ (the library) to help compartmentalise. If possible, keep these spaces separate from your ‘living/chill out space’ (home/lounge room/bedroom), so when you come home you can fully switch off and relax.


3. Set boundaries

Both at work and socially. Get good at proposing ideas for social activities that suit your during-semester schedule. When a friend of mine was doing his masters, instead of our usual Sunday brunch (which could take up a big chunk of the day), during the busy time of semester we’d do an early Sunday brekky so he could spend the rest of the day studying.

Friends and family understand you’re juggling a lot, so I found everyone was happy to be flexible. This also applies to the digital world when you’re studying- turn off notifications to maximise your focus and allow yourself to get in the zone.


4) Prioritise sleep and exercise

There are numerous studies out there examining the benefits of a good night’s sleep and exercise on mental wellbeing. I won’t recite all of the findings, but will say exercise and sleep is something I made time for and it definitely helped me survive.


5) Give yourself days off

You can’t work and study seven days a week for months on end. Doing so will result in you burning out and being unable to finish your postgrad qualification. Even during the busy time of semester I would try to schedule some time off to recharge. Get into nature, try to take some work days off during the busy time of semester and each week do something for no reason other than it gives you joy.


Good luck! While it may feel like a slog at times, it’s definitely worth it and will open up even more opportunities for you.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels

By Lauren Robertson

By Lauren Robertson

Marketing, Communications & Events Manager