Ask the intern: How to have a good work-life balance
“Hi Laetitia, I’ve just started my internship in London, and I’m really enjoying the experience so far. The only thing is, I’ve been finding it hard to manage all of the work at my internship as well as socializing and visiting the city. I don’t want to feel like I’ve missed out on meeting people, but at the same time I want to be focused on my internship. Do you have any tips on how to have a good work-life balance and how to fit everything in? – Iris”
Hey Iris, thank you for your message! I completely understand how you feel as I always want to try and fit in as much as possible. I often find myself debating whether to go out in the week, for example, or to stay in and relax after a long day. I always tend to say ‘yes’ to everything in order to make the most of my time abroad. However, it is important not to burn out. Juggling a full-time internship on top of a social life and traveling is hard, and you can’t always do everything. With this in mind, remember that you should always do what you want to do. If this means staying in to watch a movie, or checking out a new restaurant, then do so! You shouldn’t feel forced into anything. The key to finding a good balance between work and life is managing your time smartly.
How to have a good work-life balance
1. Keep work and life separate
It is important to keep your work and personal life separate, as your attention will be more focused. So when you are out with friends or meeting up on the weekends, don’t obsess over your work emails. Make sure that you enjoy yourself during your free time! Setting yourself time to socialize will also give you something to look forward to during the week, and you will be happier if you invest yourself in these activities without worrying about work. Top tip: When socializing, try to limit the conversations specifically about work. It’s great to discuss what you are doing, but make sure that you don’t exclude anyone from the conversation. Instead, pick a topic that everyone can contribute to and feels comfortable talking about.
2. Be efficient at work
The social calendar is usually busier near the end of the week, so try to get work out of the way early on. I find that I get more restless as the week goes on, so I would recommend working on bigger projects and tasks at the beginning of the week. Studies show that if you start the week feeling motivated and productive, this feeling will carry through the week. This way, you will not end the day overburdened and overworked, and will thus have more energy to go out in the evenings. That said, don’t overwork yourself, as you will also want to make the most of weekend activities. In addition, don’t feel guilty for going out on a weekday evening, but do ensure you set yourself realistic goals to complete the next day.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no
If you feel like you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to say something. If your boss or colleague is giving you too much work and asking for too much, then speak up. Often they will not be thinking about how many tasks they are giving you, and it is your job to manage your time and tell them if their expectations are unrealistic. It is completely understandable and acceptable to speak to your boss if you feel overwhelmed with work. The same applies for your social life. Don’t feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to everything. If you are tired and would rather stay in, or if you’d prefer to stay in the city instead of taking a day trip, then do so. You will only be unhappy and annoyed if you force yourself to follow the masses. It’s ok to take a time-out once in a while.
4. Be flexible
I’ve found that while it may be easy to draw up a timeline and plan for work, it is harder to plan out a social life. You and your friends may spontaneously decide to go out for dinner or explore a new part of the city. Alternatively, your friends could have a different schedule to you, and may not always be free when you are. Moreover, plans could get canceled at the last minute, so it’s important to learn how to be flexible. Don’t expect things to work out as planned all of the time; in fact, it’s fun to be more spontaneous! You could even combine activities planned with different friends and go out as a bigger group. It’s also worth compromising in some situations. Don’t be too stubborn about the things that you want to do. Accept other people’s opinions, and offer a compromise if you clash. You are all here to make friends and to explore the city after all!
5. Set your own expectations
Traveling abroad often comes with many expectations; friends and family offering tips, online websites telling you what you must visit, and movies portraying glamorous scenarios. However, your time abroad is what you make it. Set your own expectations of what you want to do and see. Don’t feel disappointed or let down if you don’t manage to do everything. Also remember that your internship experience is likely to be different from one that you would have in your home country. Don’t expect things to be the same, and try to adapt to your new surroundings. Traveling is often overhyped; it’s okay to stay at home all day if you feel down, and equally it’s completely fine if you spend every spare moment visiting somewhere new. The important thing is that you enjoy yourself and your experience abroad.
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Photo 1. by The Intern Group.
Photo 2. by The Intern Group.