Time is on my side: Balancing work, school, and life

Where has the day gone? This question is a reminder of the incessant demands on time and energy, but it’s important to ask questions to understand busyness, time, and school/work/life balance.

Does time = money?

The Economist points out that wealthier societies equate time with money.1  This view of time, though, is often self-imposed. Kreider explains that people are busy “because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.” He goes on to note that busyness is “something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”2 Understanding how we think about time and how we spend time is the first step in reframing and maximizing time.

Try not to connect self-worth to how busy you are

There does seem to be a significant connection between the need to seem busy and self-worth, but what is the cost of this thinking? On a societal level, taking time off to rest and rejuvenate enhances creativity and motivation.3 Quigley shows that time off can reduce the risk of heart disease, increase reaction times, help with healing, give people a better perspective on life, boost motivation levels, and encourage healthy relaxation in the future.4 It would appear that time off is valuable, but finding free time can be complicated.

Since I was an undergraduate, I’ve been a busy person. I told myself that, when I finished college, I would have a typical 9-to-5, so the busyness would pay off, but that hasn’t become a reality yet. This has left me frustrated, and when I’m frustrated, I make changes. Here’s how I’ve started to turn things around:

  1. Track how time is spent — Keep tabs on how you spend your time. Ensure you spend your time accomplishing things of value.
  2. Keep lists — Keep track of tasks that pop into your head throughout the day by writing them down. This allows you to stay focused on what you’re doing in the moment, knowing you won’t forget about something you need to tackle later.
  3. Decide where to cut out the nonessentials — Deciding what you have to do and cutting down on what you don’t means more time for family, friends, and yourself.
  4. Set a schedule — Setting a schedule and sticking to it means making your time work for you.
  5. Schedule downtime — Scheduling an hour or two a day of downtime for hobbies, exercise, and spending time with friends/family ensures downtime will actually happen. Make it a priority.
  6. Disconnect — Stepping away from all devices and social media enables you to connect with friends (and yourself) without the risk of distraction.

After implementing these steps myself, I’ve found extra time for the people and things I love. After weeks without a single day off, I’m finding myself with time. These are just the tips I use, though. I’d love to see this conversation continue. What do you do to balance school, work, life, and leisure?

About the Author

SuzanneWhetzelSuzanne Whetzel has been a tutor and educator for the past 14 years and is currently a lead tutor with Smarthinking. She specializes in writing, reading, and English language instruction at the high school and collegiate level. She holds a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education/student personnel with a focus on graduate and nontraditional students. Additionally, she has taught writing intensive film and composition courses at the collegiate level, as well as served as a freelance tutor and editor. She also enjoys volunteering at writing centers when possible. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching movies, gaming, crafting, catching up on the latest tech news, dabbling in computer programming, and enjoying conversation over a cup of good coffee.


  1. Economist, “Why Is Everyone So Busy?” Dec 20, 2014. Accessed June 8, 2016. http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21636612-time-poverty-problem-partly-perception-and-partly-distribution-why.
  2. Kreider, Tim. “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” The New York Times. June 30, 2012. Accessed June 8, 2016. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=0.
  3. Sagmeister, Stefan. 2009. “The Power of Time Off.” TED. Accessed June 8, 2016. https://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off?language=en. Sagmeister discusses his “Seven Year Itch” projects and the resultant passion and creativity he brings to new projects afterward. He also explores his experience with valuing time off.
  4. Quigley, Patricia. “The Benefits of Taking Time Off.” U.S. News. Aug 17, 2011. Accessed June 8, 2016. http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/08/17/the-benefits-of-taking-time-off.