Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Overextended people can make time with careful scheduling
Exhausted: I've been through the wringer lately and all I want to do is stare at the wall. Instead, I've got mounds of work that I can't possibly get done (co-workers got laid off and aren't being replaced), and I've got to get some schoolwork done, and somehow find time for family. I feel like something has got to give.
I don't want to drop out of school, but it's the only thing that can go. I can't quit work, and I don't want to spend even less time with family. How do people do this?
Carolyn: They either find a way to do it, or they hit their limit and quit something.
In between are, usually, a lot of smaller adjustments. Can I do triage on my work so that pile becomes realistic? Can I set aside a small block of weekend time for work/school so that it doesn't leach all the joy from my family time? Can I start scheduling a night/early morning away from everything so I can come back recharged?
If you do this and arrive back at the something's-gotta-give point, frame it as a liberation vs. a sacrifice. Life is long. You don't have to live or learn or accomplish all of it in one week.
Anonymous: To Exhausted: I was in your same position last spring. I thought about taking a break from school, but realized that would not actually help the situation; I knew I would resent work and family for "forcing" me to give up something I was doing to better myself.
Instead, I made a schedule of work I had due for my classes, project deadlines for work, and required family engagements (including things like Sunday dinner). Blocking it out made it more manageable, and I was able to find chunks of time where I wasn't overwhelmed by deadlines and family.
I then went and talked to my professors with my schedule in my hands. I asked for very specific extensions, and was even allowed to push back a midterm to the week after.
I was finally able to catch my breath in June, and am so happy that I chose not to give up my education.
Carolyn: It's amazing how much time we can lose to mismanagement, and therefore how much we can find with some careful scheduling.
New York: People like this are usually our best students — dedicated, hardworking, realize the value of the education they're getting — so we really want to keep them and are willing to work with them. Some things I've suggested to my students in similar situations:
1) Find a study group. It makes studying easier and provides a bit of a social outlet.
2) Take advantage of your professor's office hours. Students who talk with me about their papers usually have an easier time writing them.
3) Divide chores for the whole family. My family was happy to pitch in, but they didn't know what to do.
Carolyn: The best pep talks are the practical ones. Thanks for the solid ideas.
This is where I would rail against our culture of overdoing, but current conditions suggest even more people will be doing even more to stay afloat, and not exactly by choice.