How I Juggled My Masters Degree While Coping With Family, Transitions, Work, Multiple Time Zones And A Pandemic
My recent completion of my Masters degree was a very challenging two years. After accepting the study offer, I knew I had a task at hand to ensure important things in my life does not get affected — and they are my devotion to God, my marriage and my two beautiful kids. These 3 are my non-negotiables.
There were other priorities too while at the same time managing changes of circumstance. Between summer 2019 to 2021, I had to deal with life changes, work transitions, multiple time zones (as I had an international cohort) and in 2020, the pandemic and its impact.
There were days when the day became longer than usual, as sometimes I can only begin studying starting at 10pm and go to bed past midnight and waking up early in the morning to start the day.
Looking back, I reflected on my learnings of what worked (and didn’t) during the two years of work, studying and everything else.
Focus on prioritising rather than balancing
I have never been a fan of the concept of a work-life balance. I’m not sure if I can really make create such a world in my life, perhaps could it a mere illusion of a nice concept?
Akin to a juggler, I had to manage different priorities at different junctures of my life. Some days my studies had to take precedence, other days it was work, other days it was dealing with emotions. Different times required different priorities and that worked for me.
After my non-negotiables, I then had to manage priorities in life. This too meant dropping certain side-gigs or opportunities that came during this window — because I know any unnecessary addition (although it may be financially beneficial) may just well be a distraction.
Focus on who you want to be rather than what you need to complete
I’m a fan of James Clear’s Atomic Habits book which focuses on identity-based habits vs outcomes-based habits. An example of outcomes based habits is setting a target to lose weight or to finish a certified course. An identity-based habits is more concerned about changing your perspectives and views on life which therein will ultimately shape certain habits.
In my case, although I desired to complete my Masters, I did not have a ‘I-just-want-to-get-it-done’ attitude. If I had that, I would not have made so much effort to enrol in it in the first place, what more, put myself in a position of raising funds to support my studies — which was another challenge and a story I documented here.
My Incredible Miracle: A Fully Funded Post-Graduate Studies Program
This is my story of how I went from having zero funds to begin with to having my Masters course fully funded. This is…
I decided that I wanted to approach every module and class by not being the smartest in the room or by needing to get an A for the subject.
I wanted to be a learner, to stay inquisitive and allow my curious mind to wander. With that, I asked questions to my professors, learnt new cultures through asking and responding to my intercultural cohort on Canvas/Moodle. A key question I often ask myself is: if I’ve asked more questions than giving answers throughout that particular module.
Read here to understand more:
Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year
Change is hard. You've probably noticed that. We all want to become better people - stronger and healthier, more…
Focus on staying organised rather than needing to be organised
Granted, to manage everything that was happening — you have to have some degree of discipline. Otherwise, I can bet a million dollars that something will eventually crumble.
My tip would be to do the little things that will make you organised instead of being engrossed with making sure everything is in order. For me, this look like having a portion of my time on a Sunday evening or Monday morning that I list down all my to-dos and sort it out by days or block of times. And then, for every block, I would ‘star’ items that should be amongst the first few that would needed to be completed.
Another version of me would be stressed out if I did not finish my to-dos but now, I would be less harder on myself. For less urgent less important stuff, I tell myself it is ok to sometimes push the deadline further (like this article that I have been meaning to publish the last 2 weeks!). Be kind to yourself!
Focus on your emotional and spiritual state rather than progression
With the pandemic, the subject of mental health and self care seemed to be more prevalent. During the period of lockdown and border closures, I had to manage several disappointments including not having one of my residencies that I was so looking forward to.
One way I stayed on top of things was having my solitude time. This was a time I had to carve out of my schedule to rest, take deep breaths or go for a walk. When there are days I’ve missed out on doing this because I “lack” time, I find my emotions and order of life gets entangled. When this is done, things seemed to be more manageable. It’s counterintuitive and that’s not easy to explain.
Sometimes progress can dilute the meaning of life. For the sake of achieving our goals, we can lose sight of who we are become. Make it a point to fill your emotional and spiritual tank as the essence of our being is made out of this aspect. There are hundreds of materials out there on practical steps you can take towards self care and having a steady mental health.
Do any of the above resonate with you? I’d love to hear more.
Have you had many things to manage for a long period of time? What are some tips you can share?
Read about how I funded my post grad studies here: