Student Ambassador Blog | Kaitlyn
Work, Work, Work, Work…. Balance in Grad School
With everything in life, I like to be all in. Thus, when I entered graduate school I knew that I wanted to dedicate every possible ounce of myself to the experience of being an OT student (because hey, you’re only an OT student for so long!). With the responsibility of being an involved student, however, also comes the responsibility of taking time for yourself and embracing the concept of: WORK-LIFE BALANCE. It is absolutely essential to our health and well-being, especially in graduate school.
Work-life balance is still a work in progress for me, and I think it is something that will continue to be a work in progress, as life itself is so fluid. Here are a few basic things that I’ve learned along the way—via classes at USC and also through personal experience—that have helped me have a decently balanced life thus far:
1. Time management is key. I personally keep a color-coded planner that I can write in and also a Google calendar synced to my iPhone. I quite literally do not know how I would live my life without the two because they both keep me in check. For both, I make sure I write things down by the hour because it allows me to see the breakdown of my day and where there is time for what. I also color code by classes (pink), work (blue), social (purple), and school-affiliated events events (orange) so that I can see exactly how balanced my week is. By color-coding, I can also see if I’m maybe working myself too hard and need to wedge out a time to see my family or friends (it also just makes the calendar more aesthetically appealing to be honest).
2. Prioritize your schoolwork and work on it when you have free parts in your day (even if they’re small!). It may be 30 minutes before meeting a friend for dinner or 2 hours in between events. I am always surprised at how much I can accomplish even in 10 minutes.
3. Invest time in things that matter to you. Basically: engage in your meaningful occupations! For me, that’s a lot of things: it means going to a new coffee shop, going to OTAC events to advocate for the profession, taking pictures, spending time with people in the program (i.e. at our OT/PT tailgates and football games), reading a good book, going on a hike, exploring different places around LA, and so on. I just make sure that whatever it is, it is something I genuinely find enjoyment in and contributes to the betterment of myself.
4. See people you actually want to see. It’s true that life can get busy in grad school. What I’ve found, however, is that there is always time for the people you care about when you make the effort. Therefore, I make sure that a lot of my free time is spent with my family and friends even if I can only spare a few hours in my week. A few hours is better than nothing. On a serious note though, nothing releases oxytocin and reduces stress like having a “Frozen” sing-along with my 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew.
5. Take time for yourself. This concept is something I am constantly grappling with because I love being on the go at all times and also have an embarrassing case of “fomo” (fear of missing out). Most recently, I’ve been spending about 15 minutes each night writing at least 3 things I am grateful for everyday in my gratitude journal. Writing in my gratitude journal has been the perfect form of taking time for myself because it allows me to be able to spend time with my thoughts while also ending my day on a positive note. Even though it’s only 15 minutes, it’s still better than nothing!
As previously mentioned before, work-life balance is a work in progress! Some weeks are more balanced than others and work-life balance means different things to different people, but what is important is that you’re striving for YOUR best quality of life along the way. Good luck and happy balancing!