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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog
Shivani

Shivani

Harmony in Hustle: Balancing Workload and Well-Being ⟩
May 24, 2024, by Shivani

School/Life Balance

Before starting grad school, I was told how easy it can be to become caught up in the workload and sacrifice self-care and your social life. I was terrified to start grad school because I wasn’t sure what my social life was going to look like. Would I have time to see my family? Would I have time to hang out with my friends? Would I have time to go to the gym? I really wished someone would give me a direct answer to my questions, but deep down, I knew that everyone has their respective ways of managing their schedules so creating a stable school/life balance would only come through my efforts. It wasn’t until I actually started grad school that I realized that creating a school/life balance was actually possible. Having gone through 2 semesters of the Entry-Level Doctorate program, I feel as though I’ve finally gotten the hang of ensuring that I place equal importance on school and my life outside of school. Here are some things I implemented and some takeaways that I hope can be helpful for you:

1. Create a schedule for yourself: Once I started school, I realized how I thrive off of scheduling. If I plan out every aspect of my day, I’ve found that I’m more productive. At the beginning of the Fall semester, I created a Google Calendar to help develop my daily routine. Alongside inputting my class schedule, I included time for homework, free time, going to the gym, meals, and completing any chores. While this may sound extreme, knowing what I was going to be doing almost every hour of the day made prioritizing school and my life outside of the classroom a lot easier.

2. Study outside of your home environment: Within the first couple of weeks of school, I quickly recognized that I couldn’t study in my apartment. I found myself easily distracted and spent countless hours scrolling through TikTok and other social media platforms. I began experimenting with different study spaces and ultimately found that I work best at the Currie Hall academic center or a coffee shop. I discovered that working outside of my home environment allows me to separate home and school. To expand, my motivation for getting my work done is to go back home, relax, and maybe even watch my favorite TV show or movie. It isn’t a secret that grad school can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. With that in mind, working outside of my home environment allows me to be productive while preventing me from bringing any negative feelings into my home. My home is my safe space, and as a grad student, having that space makes my school/life balance easier to maintain.

3. Create your support system: An aspect of the program that I really like is the cohort system. Being placed in a group with approximately 40 students gave me the space to form genuine friendships with those around me. Within the first couple months of the semester, my closest friendships within the program were developed. We sit together at lunch, hang out after school, and also meet on our days off to study together. Having this solid support system has made each semester more memorable, fun, and less overwhelming. My friends within the program have played a significant role in developing my school/life balance, as we make time to do things outside of studying. To expand, study sessions also consist of various occupations, such as taking walks, trying new coffee shops, or rewarding ourselves with food/dessert. Integrating fun within our group study sessions has not only allowed us to enhance our productivity, but has also allowed us to create memorable moments. I’m so lucky to have been able to find friends who not only support and challenge me academically but also are there for me in almost every other aspect of my life. While grad school can be tough at times, don’t forget that these may be some of the best moments of your life, so be sure to make the most of it!

My friends in the program

Shoutout to my beautiful friends in the program!

There are so many other takeaways I’ve gathered throughout my grad school experience thus far. To not make this a novel, I will keep it short and say that I’ve learned that it’s okay to take breaks and to prioritize yourself at times. A question I’ve asked myself multiple times is — How are you going to emphasize occupational balance as a future OT if you can’t implement it yourself? My advice to you would be: Don’t be so hard on yourself, take things one day at a time, implement the tactics that work best for you, and soak in every moment of this experience because it only comes once.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I’m here for you, and we are on this ride together 😊 ! Fight On <3