Blog Academics, Career & Leadership Development

The Balancing Act

By Caitlin Querio on Friday, June 28, 2024


4:00. One more hour of work emails, then pick up Daisy from daycare and head home to start dinner. Henry’s swim class was cancelled, so we can squeeze in play time before baths. If bedtime goes smooth, I can knock out the essay for my Microeconomics class by 10:30. Then I can start laundry and make the kids’ lunches for tomorrow.

The daily internal dialog of an adult leaner juggling work, family, and school is not for the faint of heart. Yet, each year droves of adult students choose to go back to school; they multitask, pull late nights, and somehow make it all happen to get to graduation day.

Balancing School and Life While Earning a Masters or Finishing your Degree

If you’re asking how in the world do they balance it all? The answer might shock you – they don’t balance it all. The reality is that when you’re adding a degree to the mix, balance is not enough to get you to graduation day. 

If the game Jenga has taught me anything, balance and stability are two very different things. When it comes to thriving as an adult student, balance is one tiny bump away from everything toppling over. As a student, you need stability to sustain your growth.   

So if success isn’t about balance, how do I build a foundation of stability to thrive as an adult student?

1.    Know your why.

The romanticized image of studying in a coffee shop quickly fades as syllabus shock settles in. In those moments of compounding to-do lists, your conviction to carry on is what will drive you forward. Whether you’re in school to get the degree for a promotion or to set an example for your kids, you are there for a reason! Know your why and find ways to remind yourself of that why; this is the foundation of your path and it builds conviction that will fuel your momentum.

I am choosing to complete a Master’s degree, so that I can have a job that provides a better life for my family.

2.    The sacred no.

School requires time, energy, and resources. If you plan to go back to school, you need to embrace saying no to some things in your life, even good things, so that you have the freedom to say yes to your education! Let your educational conviction lead you to a sacred no to the things don’t reflect the highest and best use of your time. Create guardrails for your time and energy; think about the rhythms, tasks, and expectations that you could say no to, so that you have the freedom to yes to investing more into yourself.

I can say no to late night TV, fun reading, some social gatherings, and free-time in my lunch breaks so that I have time to focus on growing myself professionally.

3.    It’s just a season.

Saying no to things can be disappointing, even painful, but remember that school isn’t forever. This is a season and there is an end date in sight! Track your anticipated graduation date and remind yourself that when that date comes, you get to take your accomplishments with you and leave the homework behind!

I choose to focus on me and my education for the next two years, so that I can increase my earning potential for the rest of my career.

4.    Plan your work, then work your plan.

We all have the same 24 hours to work with each day and each week is a zero-sum game. Step one to getting it all done is to figure out what actually needs to get done. Create a master calendar for home and work, print off those syllabi, and plan how/when you will get this work done. Plan your work, then you work that plan. Come what may, stick to that plan with all the conviction you can muster, so the main tasks stay within their primary timing. 

Each month, I will sit down to plan out grocery shopping, laundry rhythms, family meal times, reading assignments, and papers. I know what needs to be done and when I will do it!

5.    Find your cheerleaders.

Going back to school comes with challenges, but it also comes with victories! Each test, major paper, and course you complete is an opportunity to celebrate. Find the cheerleaders in your life that can celebrate these victories with you!  These victory moments and support teams are the benchmarks that will breathe life into your academic journey.

At the end of each semester, I will celebrate my growth and accomplishments with a special family outing.

If you’re considering taking the leap of faith to dive back into school, know that the journey will not be easy, but it is a season that will stretch and change you. Your convictions will strengthen your foundations, you will realize you are capable of so much more than you ever thought you were, and you will have a community celebrating just how far you’ve come.  Your academic journey doesn’t have to be perfect for it to transform your life. Take that next step and see just how far you can go.