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Work-life balance shouldn’t be the preserve of the exalted few, says Calum Robson. Everyone can take steps to calmer, more fulfilling days and badly needed restful nights.

A common misconception is that work-life balance is only an issue for people who have reached certain stages in life – such as having a young family or reaching the top at work – or alternatively, those who can simply no longer cope. But what about the rest of us?

A controlled work-life balance is within everyone’s grasp – and after all, surely you’ll perform better, in the exam hall and at work, if you’re happier and less stressed?

Take stock of your life
Work might take up a third of your time. But how much of your personal time do you give up to other activities (or people) about which (or whom) you care little? Many people are simply unable to say ‘no’ to friends, family, and other pulls on their ‘me time’. And that either eats into the time that you can control, or else sends you to bed, exhausted and in need of far more sleep than you might otherwise need.

Everyone’s idea of the ideal work-life balance is different – but students will typically find that study time competes with personal time. Don’t ‘lump’ studies in with your hobbies, interests, and family commitments.

While study isn’t actually ‘work’ in an office sense, it’s part of your professional development – allow yourself time for pure enjoyment as well. Frivolous or purposeful? Doesn’t matter.

Set your objectives
Prioritisation is key. Assess the value of each activity or person that currently takes up your personal time. You may have to make decisions that will be unwelcome news to others – but remember, you’ll be of little use to anyone, including your nearest and dearest, if you are frazzled and worn out. You need that work-life balance to function.

Lists are therapeutic to put together, motivational, and a useful start to getting organised. Use lists to work out what you want to spend more or less time on, as well as how and when you’re going to implement your plans.

Be gentle with yourself – once you are in the driving seat, you can aim sky-high; for now, set achievable goals and throw in small rewards and treats as extra incentives to reach them. Share your goals with those you can trust not to interfere, or who can divert less empathetic parties on your behalf.

Do it now
In five minutes, everyone can scribble down at least a few precious ambitions that they would love to pursue if needless obstacles didn’t get in the way.

So don’t wait until you have a good solid hour or you’ll never get started. Once you have invested that first five minutes, finding more time for yourself will start to look easier – and it will be.(

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