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Work-life-study balance in the IT sector

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Most of us have been there, sometimes out of survival necessity, sometimes for extra pocket money, sometimes for extra experience in the field, we have searched for a part-time job while studying. But, have you ever considered getting a full-time job while studying full-time in a foreign country? Is it even possible to Work life study balance? Well, it is if you have good time management skills and motivation. I am living proof of that. A Macedonian pursuing a full-time master’s degree in Poland while working remotely for an Estonian company – quite international I must say. So how do I manage the keep the balance between work, life, and study?

However, it might not be possible to work full-time in a non-flexible, non-remote company, from 9-5 and still study full-time, because you cannot be in two places at once unless you are reading this in the distant future, where time travel is possible, but in this case, time management is not really necessary. 

Try to work remotely (check out this cool article from Cristian) or at least find a full-time job with a very flexible schedule when you are studying full-time. So, let us start with the things that you need to consider when trying to manage a full-time job when studying full-time.

Understand why are you doing this and keep your motivation high

Let me just say that it will not be easy. You will experience difficult days when doing this and you need to have some kind of fuel and motivation that drives you forward. Understand why you started this in the first place, what your motivation was, and what you plan to achieve at the end of this. 

For me, the motivation is getting a better education (because, arguably, the university where I did my bachelor’s is not high standard) while working in a very cool company (such as Producement). So far, my fuel has kept me motivated to finish what I started and, even though some days are more difficult than others, I manage to move forward.

Communication is key in managing the balance between work, life, and study

When you are working remotely, you must know how to communicate well with your teammates. When you are working and studying, this becomes much more important. Not only do you have to communicate with your teammates but also try to communicate with your professors/lecturers in your university so that they might explain the curriculum better. Also, you might focus on one-to-one sessions with some professors if you are facing difficulties, or when you need to skip some lectures (let’s face it, this is gonna happen sooner or later) when work deadlines are tight.

Planning, scheduling and prioritizing

Time management consists mainly of planning, scheduling, prioritizing. This way, plan everything super early in order to avoid missed deadlines and headaches. Try to use Google calendar as much as possible so that you don’t forget anything. While you might get the occasional times where you need to do something immediate and urgent, always plan to finish your assignments as early as possible. If you do your assignments early, you will have more time to finish everything before the deadline and avoid any penalties at school.

Also, try to prioritize tasks as much as possible. Try to think about how long it will take to complete a task and plan accordingly.

NOTE: this proved to be quite difficult during the current coronavirus crisis as the semester organization in most universities changed and things are done with stricter deadlines.

Study early, study often

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. To avoid being overworked when the dreaded exam session arrives, study as early as possible. This might mean putting in some more study hours, but the key to the whole work-study balance is not getting overworked (and studying the whole material one night before the exam while doing that just makes you even more overwhelmed).

Work on your school premises

Working remotely and flexibly means that you can work from wherever you want. Do you have a few hours break between lectures? Grab something to eat/drink and work from the school cafeteria. Need to attend a meeting/pair programming session? Find a cool quiet place on the campus and do that.

Keep in mind that you will need to have a stable internet connection at all times so it is wise to invest in some internet cards because the internet might not be stable everywhere on the school campus.

Do some physical activities/sports 

While this might seem counterintuitive if you don’t want to waste time, time is not wasted when you are doing sports or any physical activity. The thing is, when working and studying your mind generates a lot of mental stress. Mental stress is combated with physical activity. Try to do some group sports as well because this will improve your social life. This is very beneficial in the long run and it keeps your motivation high.

Also, if you are really short on time, do a home-workout. There are many applications that promote home-workouts so you really don’t have to spend too much time on this. 

Have one day off for yourself to rest

Working on its own can be difficult at times, studying on its own can be difficult at times, working and studying combined IS difficult at times. There is no denying that you will face difficulties often so you need to get as much rest as possible. Try to get one day of rest per week, at least every two weeks. This is essential when you are trying to recharge yourself so don’t do anything related to work or school on that day. I try to do this every second Saturday or Sunday. 

Also, don’t forget to treat yourself. Treating yourself can be very beneficial in the long term and it also helps in the process of recharging and resting.

Make sure your paperwork is in order

Last but not least, you should have the correct paperwork when trying to work and study at the same time. So if you are working B2B try opening a business and do your taxes accordingly.

This is especially important when you are working and studying in a foreign country. Poland is pretty cool in this aspect because it allows international (also non-EU!) students to work without a work permit while studying and after graduation so this was not a huge issue for me. I advise against working illegally in a foreign country because if you get caught, you will immediately lose both battles, both working and studying and you will need to pay a huge fine – all in all, it is not a good situation.

Conclusion: your work = your education

Working and studying full-time is very demanding, but definitely very rewarding. Consider that there are many benefits to this, ranging from extra pocket money to academic as well as professional experience. Also, you can apply the knowledge you gain at the university to your workplace and the experience you gain working on projects for your workplace can be applied to projects done for your school.