Balancing work, life, and studies: approaches over the years

Balancing work, life, and studies: approaches over the years

When I left Newcastle to study my undergrad diploma in Nutrition Sciences at Leeds Beckett University, over 7 years ago now, I had the joy of being able to return home as a bright-eyed 18-year-old full of new information to spew all over the Christmas turkey to my not-very-interested family in the small gaps I would take from reading textbooks at my bedroom desk. If I had been writing this article then, I would have been advising to enjoy the support of your family doing your cooking, cleaning, and washing. This is a rarity the more time goes on which allows you to study your passion-project with a freedom which gets harder to find.

If I had to advise one year on, however, this was a point where I had become obsessed with ‘productivity hacks’, motivational speeches and ‘biohacks’ to enhance my study and retention capacities while I worked as a chef alongside my online nutrition company in this same holiday period. I would be giving links to every podcast, video, book, and blog on how to speed read, write notes using the Cornell method, to time your revision periods using the Pomodoro technique, and do it all while the lecture ‘Work Smart, Not Hard’ by Marty Lobdell plays in a continuous loop in one of 39 open tabs.

Clearly this recipe for burnout would not be advisable, as by my third university year I had finished my undergrad level 5 diploma in Nutrition Sciences and tanked the aforementioned nutrition business (and boxing equipment site, t-shirt printing business, two community projects, two chef jobs and three staff members) into the ground in a blaze of financial debt. Therefore, having now started a Nutrition and Marketing degree at Newcastle University, this third Christmas period was one which had a strong sense of direction to study information that would directly benefit my practice both in and out of the lecture hall to prevent mistakes repeating.

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This well-defined study practice continued into my final undergrad year, finishing up this degree at Newcastle, where I had now started a boxing company called Union Jab which thrived on strong branding and well-established marketing practices as I’d learned from my course and libraries. I had introduced the use of to-do lists, mind-maps, Google calendar, and other scheduling tools which gave accountability to tasks which were essential in meeting clearly-defined academic and business targets.

And now, 4 years after this Nutrition and Marketing degree, I have worked as a trainer, nutritionist, writer, fitness marketing executive and consultant, and even briefly a garden centre manager (lockdown was a strange time for all of us). However, having now returned to conduct my Masters in Exercise Physiology with the benefit of many years of not-always-fruitful experience, I can look at this post with such different vision that I may have at 18.

My advice? Get a list and write down what you want to achieve from your time here at Newcastle. How will this holiday period help it? Define it and then, most importantly, do it. Your academic journey is a marathon, and this Christmas is one checkpoint along the way. Enjoy it, appreciate the position you’re in, whatever it may be, and stay ready for the next episode.

Finally, to any prospective entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business alongside their studies this holiday; don’t! You’re just bored. Go to the library.

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