Wellbeing is a combination of your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social health, and is strongly linked to aspects of happiness and life satisfaction. Trying to achieve a balance of these factors is the best way to maintain optimal wellbeing. Each year, a national Student Experience Survey is deployed in Australian universities, which continues to show that maintaining mental and physical health while studying is the number one challenge that students face. While, managing their study/life balance is the second greatest challenge reported each year, which makes this module a must-read!
How will this module help me?
- Appreciate the importance of optimising your ongoing health and happiness
- Understand common wellbeing challenges that students face
- Learn about stress triggers and responses and how to maintain your wellbeing
- Understand the importance of creating a balanced life through time management
How long will this module take?
"Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful."
Joshua J. Marine
"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralising."
Harriet B. Braiker
Change and challenges
As discussed in the Transition to Uni module, the commencement of higher education involves a lot of life changes, which can be exciting, but also challenging. It is normal to have a range of feelings and emotions as you adjust to your new norm and find your feet over a period of time. Here are a list of common challenges that students face that can impact on their wellbeing:
- Balancing university with the rest of your life
- Managing deadlines and responsibilities
- Understanding academic expectations
- Financial changes and difficulties
- Moving away from home
- Building a new social network
- Managing carer responsibilities
- Failing an assessment or subject
- Breakdown of relationship
- Lack of motivation
- Illness or injury
- Exam anxiety
"Balance is not something you find, it's something you create"
As outlined in the introduction to this module, study/life balance is the second greatest challenge facing Australian university students. This balance is often defined as a satisfactory level of involvement/fit between the multiple roles in a person’s life. Learning to manage your time is an important life skill to develop, particularly when you are studying and have many conflicting priorities and deadlines. However, this schedule must also include time for your social, emotional, physical and intellectual wellbeing, as well as your paid work and study. By placing a priority on your wellbeing, your work and study will be more productive.
Time management is important in order to achieve your aspirations and goals with the least amount of stress. JCU recommends that students allocate a minimum of 10-12 hours/week/subject to study commitments. Around 25% of your time will be spent attending classes/webinars and the other 75% will involve independent study. This self-directed study will include academic reading, reviewing/synthesising notes, completing tutorial exercises, group study, as well as assignment and exam preparation. For a full-time student studying three or four subjects, it is a significant time commitment (36-48 hours/week). It is helpful to create weekly and semester planners (see below) to stay on track and share these with your nearest and dearest (parents, partners, children), so there is a shared understanding of your study commitments.
A weekly planner is designed to capture all the things you do at the same time every week, so you don’t have to keep trying to remember all of these items in your head. It allows you to create a balanced life, reduces your stress levels, and frees up valuable brain capacity for other important work.
Step 1 – Download and save the Weekly Study Planner Template (DOCX, 34 KB) from the JCU Learning Centre, so you can start to build your plan. It is a good idea to create and save these in electronic form as you may need to regularly shuffle the items around until you find the right formula for yourself and your life.
Step 2 – Slot in your scheduled classes on the planner that you must attend for each subject (lectures, tutorials, practicals), as well as any paid work commitments, and carer responsibilities – these are your non-flexible commitments. For your classes, type the name of the subject code and the type of class on the planner (ED1401 Lecture, or PY1001 Tutorial). It is good to use a different colour background highlight for each subject, so you can see all the relevant study responsibilities at a glance.
Step 3 – Add in your independent study hours for each subject (tutorial/practical prep, assessment prep, review/synthesise lecture and subject notes, PASS classes etc) using the subject code and type of activity (ED1401 Tutorial Prep or PY1001 Assessment Prep). You should aim to spend around 7-10 hours/subject/week on these self-directed activities, and they can be scheduled at times that suit you. Some students like to try and cluster their study activities together to focus on one subject per day ie do their subject lecture, tutorial, and assessment prep on a Wednesday, but this is not always possible as you may have two or three different subject classes on the one day. Just ensure you schedule your preparation activities before the relevant classes for the week. It is also good to experiment with your concentration levels at different parts of the day to schedule independent study activities accordingly ie do you work best in the morning, afternoon, or night time?
Step 4 – Fill in your week with different wellbeing activities, so you are doing something each day to look after yourself and maintain that life balance, including hobbies. See previous Tips for Wellbeing section.
Step 5 – Lastly, slot in all those boring things you need to do in life ie cleaning the house, doing the grocery shopping, washing and ironing, commuting etc.
Step 6 – Review your plan each week on a Friday to see if it needs to be tweaked. Remember, everything takes longer in your first study period, so you may need to lengthen some of your preparation sessions, if you find that you aren’t completing your scheduled activities each week. Everyone’s plans will look different as they are personalised to each individual’s life and priorities, but the most important thing to remember is to stick to the plan you create.
Semester Assessment Planners
A semester assessment planner is designed to be an organisation tool, so you can see all your major study commitments at a glance.
Step 1 – Download and save the Semester Assessment Planner Template (DOCX, 286 KB) from the JCU Learning Centre website under the Getting Started section, and type your subject codes in each of the column headings provided.
Step 2 – Review your subject outlines in LearnJCU and identify all your different assessments for each subject, the types of assessments, % value, and due dates and times.
Step 3 – Transpose that information onto your assessment planner for the relevant week (Essay 30% 14/03 – 5pm). See example Semester Assessment Planner (PDF, 334 KB). This will give you some idea of when your ‘pain points’ might be with regards to multiple assessments due in the one week.
Step 4 – Start to backward map your plan to meet those different assessment deadlines and add in your preparation activities on your planner. The rule of 3 is helpful for this – allocate a week for some planning and research, a week for writing, and a week for editing in the lead up to an assessment due date. The amount of time you spend on these activities will be listed on your Weekly Planner i.e. PY1001 Assessment Prep, so you know which days and times you have allocated for these types of preparation tasks.
Step 5 – Remember that you may have competing deadlines for one subject (as well as others), so you can’t always wait to finish one assessment before you start preparation for another one. It is important to take particular note of the assessment weights as a percentage of your overall grade as they will guide how much time you spend on each item i.e. you would not spend the same amount of time preparing for a 10% oral presentation as you would for a 30% research assignment. This is the same for exams – you need to allocate more preparation and review time for your final exams worth 30%-50% versus a 10% in-class test.
The Iceberg Illusion
Success is frequently measured in outcomes and what you accomplish. What rarely gets the recognition it deserves is the effort that has been put in behind the scenes to achieve your goals. As shown below, there are a lot of challenging factors to overcome at university that are often unseen by family, partners and friends, so they may underestimate the efforts you are expending at times and the impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. So, be kind to yourself and make your wellbeing a personal priority, especially in your first year of study as you find your feet.
Take the Quiz
Test your knowledge of Wellbeing and Life Balance by taking the quiz.