This Thing Called Balance

balance | life by bri

did you know i'm in grad school?

in january i started an online nutrition education program at american university. it's an intensive program with one course every 8 weeks for the next two years. if you remember college, you'll remember that 8 weeks is not long enough for one course. so you can imagine things move pretty quickly. 

one of the questions the admissions department asked in my interview was how i would manage the coursework. how i would balance it with my current daily tasks. how i could balance it all.

i was totally prepared: 

oh, i’ll wake up at 5am every day to get my school work done. i’ll work ahead so i can have weekend off to play with my kids. i can totally do this, i’ll be the best student you’ve ever had
balance | life by bri

we're seven weeks in to my first course and the number of times i woke up at 5am to do school work i can count on one hand. i am finding time to fit it all in, but it's not as simple as waking up early and doing it. there are times where i'm not in the right mindset to study biochemistry, learn that coconut oil is actually terrible for me, and the wondrous magic that are proteins. often, i open up my computer to reply to a discussion post and get bored at the same information being repeated by every other student. 

most of the time though, i'm excited. i plan my coursework throughout the week, i check it off in my calendar with a little pride and maybe a touch of snark like 'ha! see? i can do it!' i find the topic of nutrition endlessly fascinating and am eager to crack open my textbook.

but then there's the pile of laundry on the floor next to my desk and the dishes aren't going to wash themselves and i haven't written a blog post in a few days and oh, hey maybe i should just toss it all aside and relax with an episode of the west wing.

balance is hard. balance may be a myth. but prioritizing tasks is real. and it's doable. and i'm working on it.

1. do the hardest most time consuming thing first
when i carve out time to get work done i start with the most difficult task. usually my weekly reading and watching the slideshow notes from my professor. then i can do other things on my list like posting my discussions, replies, writing a blog post. getting the biggest thing out of the way works best for my brain and my anxiety levels.

2. multitask
multitasking gets a bad rap. i wouldn't suggest you check facebook while reading your kids a bedtime story, but some multitasking is incredibly beneficial when juggling a household a job and school. folding laundry is not a singular task. i never fold laundry without turning on netflix or hitting play on the latest powerpoint presentation from my professor, or listening to a podcast. leisure can be mixed with chores. remember that.

3. everything in its' place
having a place for everything helps me tremendously. my desk is clear of everything but my planner (always open to this week or else i'd never look at it) and my laptop. everything else is tucked away in the desk drawer or on a bookshelf. when it's time to do school work, i bring over the textbook and my notepad. when it's time to blog, i clear the desk, grab a cup of coffee and plug in my camera to upload photos. when i don't need to be at my desk, i make sure it's clear (including broken crayons, old coffee cups, and the handful of hair bows charlotte leaves behind).

4. make space
we all have deadlines. editorial calendars, homework due dates, i need clean underwear like, yesterday. so in my planner, i push things up a day. let's say i have a discussion post for school due tuesday evening. i put it in my planner for monday. same goes for my weekly quiz. it's not due until saturday night, but i put it down for wednesday. this gives me a little extra space and a nice little surprise by the end of the week when i've finished everything before it's due.

5. save room for the unexpected
working a little ahead and sticking to a schedule is a little trick to give myself extra pockets of unscheduled time. or, gives me grace for when my work gets interrupted by a curious 4yr old, a sleepless baby or a high-energy 3yr old. no one napped, i didn't get my alone time to work? let's hit the park! never say no to playing. the most important things in my life are these 3 little people and saying 'mama's too busy' is not how i want them to remember me.