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juggling studying, blogging and working | is flexibility all it’s cracked up to be?

I initially wrote ‘balancing’ everything in this title but quickly realised that lol no, balance is a bit optimistic.  ‘Juggling’ with one ball in the air, one in one hand, and the other just about being caught before plummeting to the floor is more accurate. 

Quick rundown for any newbies: I’m a full time student, not a full time blogger, but I study from home through the Open University and make my monies from blogging and modelling.  So I’m kinda living the freelance/work from home life, but not really.  Some weeks I’m all over the place with different people every day, and some weeks I pretty much spend every day at home with the cat.  Some weeks I think are gonna be of the ‘at home with cat’ variety, and then along come last minute shoots, quick turnaround blog projects, plans with friends or whatever.  Nevertheless, studying full time whilst working 2 jobs (both of which are a hobby too, but the lines are blurred) does a very busy Lily make.  People often say to me that they don’t know how I manage it and truth be told, I don’t either.  I feel like I *just about* manage and am winging my way through keeping my head above water.

I’ve read several posts from blogger friends lately about balancing blogging alongside a full time job, and I’ve gotta say hats off to them for managing it!  Bee gave a fab talk at the IceLolly #BlogAtTheBeach event on the very topic of growing your blog without going full time, and so many ladies I know have successful full time careers and damn successful blogs too.  They hustle during the day and hustle in the evenings too, and boy does it pay off.

My situation’s obviously a bit different – unless I have a modelling job/casting/shoot, I don’t generally have to leave the house to be somewhere at 9am, and I manage my own time (a blessing and a curse, I tell you).  Obviously this has tons of perks and makes life easier than if I worked a 9-5: I can take photos in daylight hours, attend castings at a day’s notice, go away on midweek press trips without considering annual leave, and I wouldn’t trade that flexibility for the world.  I probably take for granted that I can pretty much go wherever without consulting anyone but my diary, and one day I’m sure I’ll miss it.  This was one of many reasons why I chose to study with the OU rather than a brick and mortar university, and it’s 100% been the right decision for me.

However, (there was always going to be a flip side, wasn’t there?) so much flexibility definitely has its down sides.  I think I was more productive when I was at college and had dedicated ‘education’ hours and couldn’t do any blog stuff til I got home, then I’d spend a couple of hours on it before going to the gym or seeing my friends or doing homework or just chilling out.  Everything was more regimented, regular, and separated.  Living, studying, and working (sometimes) from home means the lines are so very blurred, and there’s no clear ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’ time like a commute provides.

The grass is always greener, but honestly I think you don’t realise how much you value that routine until you don’t have it.   Prioritising becomes so bloody difficult.  When you can have your laptop out in front of you and reply to emails quickly rather than leaving them to be forgotten about until 10 days later, why wouldn’t you?  Do I prioritise making the most of daylight to take blog photos, or get on with uni work during ‘working day’ hours?  Do I rush home as soon as I’m done at a casting, or do I make the most of having spent money on train fare and try to do something else whilst I’m in a city centre?  Do I set aside an afternoon for contacting brands about collaborations and pitching ideas, or would the time be better spent getting ahead on an assignment?  Annoyingly it’s not as simple as just saying ‘uni should always come first’, even though my education is my no.1 priority.  I (along with the rest of the world) also have to prioritise the things that A) make me money, or B) I enjoy.  So I end up wasting time writing lists of things I need to do, organising and planning instead, because OBVIOUSLY.  I am my own worst enemy.  I started the OU before I started modelling and thought I’d try to get a regular part time job alongside my studies, which essentially I have done, just a different one than I expected.  I can have a fortnight of nothing, and then 2 jobs, a test shoot and a casting the next week; it’s just the nature of the beast that it’s unpredictable and you have to take things as they come, the busy weeks and the empty ones.

So yeah, in summary, IT’S HARD.  I absolutely do not feel like I am bossing/killing/smashing it – I am bumbling along, managing, and trying my best.  If only there were gold stars for trying your best in adulthood, eh?  I have, however, figured out a few ways of making things work slightly better, so here we are.  I’m not sure how many people this will be relevant to (if you’re living a similar life then PLEASE SAY HI), but hopefully there is something to relate to.

Things that help me juggle studying/blogging/working

— Reading uni books on the train.  Not exactly a groundbreaking idea, but a useful one!  I used to try to do actual uni work but gave up on that a while ago.  Now I don’t bother attempting more than just reading and annotating a textbook since that’s difficult enough with the tiny tables, but it’s 40 minutes here and there that add up.  Just reading as opposed to taking notes/annotating/making mindmaps (I will forever love a mindmap) doesn’t really feel like enough, but it’s better than nothing and sometimes will just have to do.

— Working to someone else’s working hours.  My mum’s, basically.  Obviously this goes out the window when I’m out and about, but if I’m at home all day I try to keep to 8-4 ish on uni work and do blog stuff afterwards.  Any kind of regularity helps!

— Going to the gym early in the morning or in the evening, never in the middle of the day.  Yep those are the busiest times and it’s bloody annoying when I get stuck in traffic on the way, but going in the middle of the day just because I can doesn’t seem like a good idea.  I actually prefer a busy gym anyway – it’s far more motivating than rattling around in an empty gym on your own.

— Getting up and getting on with uni work straight away before getting showered or dressed or anything.  Strange, I know, because I’ve said enough times that my outfit affects my mindset and I’m not one for slobbing around in jogging bottoms, BUT that means that sometimes I can accidentally spend too long choosing clothes or getting ready when I don’t really need to.  So getting straight to the desk at 7am whilst I drink my (first) morning coffee and just getting on with it for a couple of hours sometimes is the way to go.  Sometimes not giving myself time to think of the other 28 menial things I kind of need to do that day kinda helps.  Master procrastinator over here, seriously.  Gotta do anything I can to stop myself.

4 ‘tips’ is pretty useless isn’t it?  Ha.  Told you I just bumble along doing my best.  Forever on a mission to be more productive and make the most of every day, since my countless wishes for more hours in the day have evidently fallen on deaf ears.  So I’m going to end by asking for your advice – any golden tips for achieving that oh so elusive *balance* when your life is all over the place?

Lily Kate x

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Photography by Yosef Cardoso

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Nancy
    15th February 2018 at 7:34 am

    This was a great post yo read! Thanks love!

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