The balancing act: 9-5 and a Master’s.

Photography: Thought Catalog

Photography: Thought Catalog

Written by Zoe Brindley

What you will find below is an honest retelling of balancing full time work with a Master’s course completed at night. When I sat down to write on my topic of navigating my last four years, I figured a candid re-telling of my experience would be more valuable to others considering doing the same.

I would not consider myself a model student, but I do have a few truths and learnings to share.

Get your study done at the office.

It’s Friday night, your essay is due Sunday midnight and the clock is ticking. You had three weeks to prepare; methodically gathering your research, making time with your tutor to review your planning and plenty of time to write those five thousand words. But you’re still agonising over your introduction because you didn’t do any of the above (guilty).

After putting in 40+ hours at work during the week, studying after work feels like the last thing you want to do. If appropriate at your workplace, I’d recommend staying back in the office an extra hour or two on the nights you don’t have class to make a start on all of your assignments, plan, catch up on your reading; whatever you need to do. Staying back at the office saves you the mental game of trying to study when you get home, or trying to get to the library to study.

Why not order UberEats on those late nights?

Have a vent when you need it. 

Pursuing this combination of work and study often had me feeling quite isolated as friends were mostly doing one or the other, but it does not have to be this way. If you’re feeling the pressure, share how you feel with a friend, family member or colleague. Talking your stress through will have a profound effect on not only your mental health, but how effective you are with your study and work. 

Sometimes that night of study is better replaced with a glass of red with a friend and an early night.  

Reach out to tutors, lecturers or support services at your institution.

One of the things I’ve done very differently in my Postgraduate study is never hesitating to reach out to my university for support. Tutors and lecturers appreciate honesty, so if you’re struggling to balance your commitments to work and study just say so. Not every tutor will be the same, but generally university staff really respect the fact that you’re taking on a lot and want to be on your side. 

Where necessary and timely, seek out additional time for assignments to take a load off. There is no shame in that.

Be kind to yourself.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that self-care is the key to success and happiness. Making time for things that will recharge you is just as necessary as those nights spent at the office. Getting plenty of sleep, writing your feelings down, going for a walk outside without any social media for an hour; there are so many ways to reconnect with yourself that will get you back on track when you’re struggling. 

You chose additional study because you want to nurture your growth and development, so it’s important to remember this mentality when you’re feeling overwhelmed and overworked. 

My masters experience is coming to an end this semester. Whilst I won’t miss late nights at the office, I am grateful for the hours I’ve put into myself and the lessons I’ve learned; even those nights spent writing 3000-word essays in the space of a few hours.