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Work/Life Balance Strategies

Zoë shares some tips for balancing academics with free time as a Carl.

Zoë shares some tips for balancing academics with free time as a Carl.

First of all, I do not claim to have the science of the perfect work/life balance entirely figured out. In fact, it’s a constant work in progress. However, as a junior in college, I’ve developed some helpful strategies to keep myself on track academically while also prioritizing time for relaxation and recreation. 

Carls tend to lead quite busy lives, filling their schedules with classes, student employment, extracurriculars, and socializing. While there’s no secret formula for creating a sustainable schedule since everyone has different responsibilities, I’ve managed to come up with one that works for me.

Google Calendar

Frankly, I could not live without it during the school year. While I schedule classes, recurring extracurricular meetings, and work shifts into my calendar at the beginning of the term, I am perpetually adding homework assignments, deadline reminders, meals with friends, office hours, etc. during the week. To have a digital calendar with an easy-to-understand interface is an invaluable resource for me, and I am more reliant on this scheduling tool than I’d like to admit!

google calendar
As you can see from an example of what a week of my Google Calendar looked like last fall term, I do love a good color coding scheme.

Assignments List

At the beginning of every term, I draft a list of all the assignments, projects, and exams that must be completed for every class. Then, throughout the term I cross out the tasks, one by one. While it is rather daunting to lay out every single academic task that I must accomplish within the 10-week trimester, it puts me at ease to have a reference sheet that I can use to gauge what assignments are coming up and how close I am to finishing. 

term to-do list
My “Winter 2022 Course To-Do List”

While I only implemented this strategy this school year, I have made a lot of use out of it so far. I check the list periodically throughout the term, and it serves as a comforting resource to show if am generally on top of things.

Cozy Homework Rituals

Though it might sound silly, little things like drinking tea in the Libe and grabbing a coffee in downtown Northfield are effective motivators for completing homework assignments. In the winter I love feeling cozy and warm, so hot drinks like coffee and tea are appealing to me.

tea collection
Our growing collection of teas to choose from every day.

Using the hot water dispenser in the Libe to sample a different tea variety for study sessions throughout the week is a lovely routine my roommate and I have indulged in, as is grabbing an oat milk latte from Good Blue Monday, a coffee shop downtown, before settling in for some Sunday morning homework at the Weitz.

Student Employment

While I’ve already written an in-depth blog post about work study at Carleton, I want to reiterate how much I love incorporating it into my daily routine. Not only am I paid for my work, but I get to have a great time while I’m at it! As a tour guide, I interact with prospective students and their families, showing them around campus. As the Blog Editor for the Admissions Blog (what you’re reading now!), I get to read my peers’ blog posts, publish them, and also write my own. 

Working in Admissions is an awesome gig! Here is a photo of my co-workers and me with our supervisors from last summer.

For me, my work study jobs triple as steady sources of income, enjoyable activities, and consistent responsibilities to structure my day. Nearly 80% of Carls have student jobs, which attests to the popularity of having work study positions and the ease with which it fits into most students’ busy schedules.

Class Schedule Preferences

At Carleton, enrolling in 3 academic classes per trimester is the norm. For all other terms except this one, I have taken 2 classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 1 class on Tuesday and Thursday. This is probably my ideal schedule, because M, W, and F classes are shorter and tend to assign less homework than T, TH classes. 

After a couple of terms at Carleton, you’ll find you prefer some class schedules over others. For me, it’s been a bit of a doozy adjusting to taking only 1 class on M, W, F, and 2 classes on T and TH. This just means that I have a fair amount to do between T and TH classes, and my week tends to be front loaded with work. Heading into Week 4 of winter term, however, I’m finding my rhythm!

Free Time Fun

I cannot underscore the importance of making time for fun activities enough! While most of my free time is during the weekend, even throughout the school week I try to remind myself to take occasional breaks. For me, this often consists of getting leisurely meals with friends and going on long walks. Recently, on the weekends I have enjoyed some movie nights—featuring The Alpinist, The Rescue (a phenomenal documentary by our coolest alum, Jimmy Chin), La La Land (my favorite movie), and The Sound of Music (my roommate’s favorite movie). 

On the trails in the Arb with my friends!

Nordic skiing has also become a favorite activity of mine. I had the pleasure of trying it out for the first time last week, and I went again this weekend. While it gets very cold, the best solution in my mind is to take advantage of the weather and engage in some activities you can’t do when it isn’t winter. Skiing, ice skating, and sledding are great options.

In Sum

And so there they are, a summary of some of the techniques I’ve been implementing over the last two years (and most recently) at Carleton in order to keep up with my assignments while also setting aside time for relaxation and fun. There’s no doubt that Carleton academics can be pretty rigorous and challenging, but with the right schedule and the right strategies, you’re in for a super enriching and enjoyable experience.

Zoë is a junior Sociology-Anthropology major who loves traveling and studying abroad, taking photos, and luxuriating in long walks in the glorious Arb. At Carleton, some of Zoë’s favorite pastimes include frequenting the various coffee shops in downtown Northfield, playing cello in the orchestra, participating in club soccer, and spending time with friends. Meet the other bloggers!