Balancing Work, Life, and Learning in your Early Career

Finding the right balance in your professional and personal pursuits can be very overwhelming as a fresh graduate. Here are some ways you can make that journey a more intentional, mindful, and enjoyable experience!
Jevitha Muthusamy
Editorial Writer
Balancing Work, Life, and Learning in your Early Career

As a fresh graduate, the early stages of your career can feel overwhelming, as you adjust to the demands of your new full-time job while trying to maintain a personal life. The pressure to perform well at work, coupled with the desire to pursue hobbies and engage in personal relationships, can get stressful and anxiety-inducing at times.

Balancing work, life, and personal growth is an ongoing journey that requires self-awareness, discipline, and adaptability. That’s not to say you can’t make the most of it while still enjoying the ride, though! Here are some tips on how you can find a balance that works for you.

  1. Identify and Set Priorities

The first step to striking work-life balance is identifying and setting clear priorities. Identify the most critical aspects of your life at this time and establish a hierarchical list of what is most important to you. 

Be aware that you will have to give-and-take when it comes to meeting those priorities. For example, if focusing on your early career journey is important to you right now, then you may need to deprioritise time spent with friends and loved ones in the short term. Or if you intend to prioritise your hobbies or pastimes, then you may not have time for professional learning or furthering your studies.

Remember that there are no “right” or “wrong” priorities. They are all equally valid, and it really depends on what you want out of life at this moment. Likewise, your priorities may shift or change over time. Make it a point to revisit your list every so often and think about whether your priorities have remained in the same order, changed, dropped off, or been replaced with new ones.    

     2. Work on Time Management

Effective time management is the backbone of achieving work-life-learning harmony. Create a schedule that allocates time for work tasks, personal activities, and learning pursuits. Utilise calendars, planners, or digital tools to organize your days and weeks, ensuring that you have dedicated time for each aspect of your life.

Take care not to overestimate your capabilities, however. It’s more likely that you’ll only have enough attention, mental capacity, and time to do a small handful of things really well each day. 

Think carefully about what 3-4 tasks or priorities are most important each day, and then focus your energy on ticking those off. That’s often more productive than trying to do too many things at once, and not excelling at any one.

    3. Embrace Flexibility

At the same time, you need to accept that all your plans will rarely go according to plan! Embrace the idea that it's okay to adapt your schedule and attention as needed. Some days, work may require more attention; while other days, you may have more time for personal activities or learning opportunities.

Learning to deal with ambiguity is a big part of adult life. It’s important to maintain a flexible mindset – that is, being able to observe how things are playing out and then allowing yourself to ride the flow. Sometimes, you may end up in surprising or unexpected places or situations!

Your priorities are ultimately just goal posts, and there are many ways to get there. It’s often better to focus more on “where” you are going, and allowing yourself to be flexible on “how” you get there. Just take things one day at a time, while still keeping your end goals in view.   

    4. Make Time for Self-Care

Early career professionals often neglect self-care in the pursuit of career success. However, taking care of your physical and mental well-being is vital for maintaining a sustainable lifestyle. Make sure you set aside time for exercise, relaxation, hobbies, or spending quality time with loved ones to recharge and rejuvenate.

Treat self-care as a non-negotiable part of your routine. You are not “wasting” time, but rather investing in your own well-being now so you don’t burn out or break down later. Adult life is a marathon, not a sprint. So it’s important to stop and smell the proverbial roses whenever you can.

Another underrated element of self-care is learning how to be kind to yourself. Always remember that what you feel and experience is valid, and that we all have our limitations as human beings. Embrace that you simply can’t know and can’t do what you don’t know right now, and that that’s alright! You will get there eventually so long as you keep doing your best and are eager to learn. 

     5. Develop an Eagerness for Learning

Arguably the most important trait to have in your personal and professional journey is the habit of continuous learning. Try to dedicate time each week to expand your knowledge and skills, whether through online courses, webinars, workshops, podcasts, meeting new people, or reading relevant books and articles. 

The key to developing a continuous learning mindset is to cultivate a genuine sense of curiosity. Be curious about how the world around you works, or why things are the way they are. Get in the habit of asking others questions or reading up on things you don’t understand simply to satisfy your own curiosity. Curiosity is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it will get over time. 

The more eager you are to learn, the broader your perspective on the world will become. And in that process, you’ll find more and more options or possibilities opening up to you over time in both your professional and personal lives.

     6. Seek Support and Share Responsibilities

You don’t need to shoulder these burdens alone. Seek support from friends, loved ones, or mentors who can provide guidance and encouragement during challenging times. Additionally, learn to let go of and share responsibilities with colleagues or friends wherever possible. This helps alleviate your load and builds a stronger support network.

Seeking support from others and sharing responsibilities with them also results in having people around to keep you accountable. We may lose momentum or drop the ball or go too far off our original path at times. Having trusted people around who can keep us accountable is key to helping us stay on course while not compromising our own responsibility for our choices and actions. 

      7. Be Present in the Moment

Lastly, even as you strive for balance, remember to always be present in each moment. Fully engage in your work tasks, personal interactions, or learning experiences. Being present enhances the quality of your experiences and allows you to extract more value from them.

Practicing mindfulness helps with fully immersing yourself in each experience and deriving more meaning from your activities. This is about being conscious about what you are feeling at any particular moment, and learning to fully lean into those feelings. All feelings are useful in that they can tell us a lot about what we want or need, what we enjoy or dislike, or how we view our place in the world.

Regardless, try to find ways to incorporate your personal interests and passions into the things you do each day and to pursue small moments of joy and pleasure wherever you can find them. You’re on this ride for the long haul, after all. So you might as well learn to put your hands up in the air and enjoy it!