Why can't I handle multiple responsibilities?
February 11, 2014 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time balancing school, work, and social life. Teach me how to get my shit together or help me realize that I can't handle everything I've taken on.

I'm doing a post-bacc part-time and working 20-30ish hours a week as a hostess. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed and I'm noticing that I've started to neglect one responsibility or the other (i.e., called out of work twice in the last month, missed class today because I know I have work later).

My parents pay my rent and tuition so the money I make as a hostess is primarily used for credit card payments, groceries/food, transportation, and going out with friends. I wonder if I should take out loans to pay for my cost of living starting next semester so that I can just focus on school and not have a job? I'm trying to pinpoint what it is about balancing the two that is stressing me out. My classes are not ridiculously hard, and my job is mindless. The only thing I can think of is the commute: 30min downtown for school, 45min uptown for work. However, when I used to work really close to my apt, the commute to school felt so long. So I wonder if this is just an issue of laziness/growing up?

I've altered my school schedule so that I have class Mon-Thurs and am off Friday, which I'm hoping will help. I also changed my availability at work so that they can't schedule me on Sundays.

My work schedule is pretty flexible, but again I'm not sure if it's the amount of hours I'm working or just not having the mental capacity to compartmentalize the different aspects of my life. I guess I'm looking for some sort of formula of how to block out the hours/days of my week so that I can get everything done. How many shifts is realistic for me right now to work? I like making money on the side, and would prefer to continue doing so if I can. But I also feel like I can't give 100% to school when I have so many other things on my plate, and school is really my top priority right now.

I also would like to have time in my schedule for therapy (I've started going again recently), yoga, cooking non-shitty meals, and cultivating hobbies. Is that too much to ask? I'm 23 and single and have been making a conscious effort to go on dates, but I wonder if I should cut dating out for now.

Please share with me how you stayed sane and got everything done during times where you had to balance multiple responsibilities.
posted by DayTripper to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you can work it out that you're working a full day on Friday and no other shifts, that may help to see if it's the schedule that's making this tough.
posted by xingcat at 7:13 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are your commutes 30 and 45 minutes each way? Because commuting that much sounds tiring and eats into your time. Can you get an on campus job, or a hostess job near school instead?
posted by florencetnoa at 7:20 AM on February 11, 2014

I worked full-time and went to school full-time for both my undergrad and my MBA. I think it helped that I enjoyed school and I enjoyed my job.

I also whittled my social life down to the bare essentials. I worked and went to school Monday through Friday, I went to class from 8am to noon, and a drove to work for the 12:30PM to 9:00 PM shift. This worked out great for me.

I also had a hellacious morning commute in San Francisco. I woke up at 5:30 AM, got dressed, drove to the bus stop, picked up slugs, traveled across the bridge, dropped the slugs at the bus station, and went on into school.

I only occasionally went out on a weeknight. And my job allowed me to do homework from 5-9, when the phones died down.

My social life was confined to Friday night, Saturday night and sometimes Sunday brunch.

I found that having such a regimented schedule really helped me keep it all together organizationally.

So perhaps that hostessing job, by not having set hours or having the ability to have downtime in the job, isn't exactly the best fit for you.

How about doing security work, where you do a swing shift in a building. You make the same money, mostly sitting at a desk in an office building. You can do homework while you earn money. Ditto night desk clerk at a hotel.

Overlap is a good thing.

I would advise against getting into debt, you are a grown woman, and you're young. Try other things, but make this work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 AM on February 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're doing the post-bac classes to get into grad school, right? The better you do at them, the better the program that will accept you, yes? Can you cut down on work hours? Or get a less stressful job? Getting enough exercise is a critical part of maintaining sanity in grad/professional school and you need to firmly embed it in your daily routine. Find time for it every day. A social life at this point is not as important as getting into grad school. Plan now so that you can play more later.
posted by mareli at 7:28 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

You mentioned that you spend your hostess money on paying credit card bills -- do you mean you're in credit card debt currently? Or just that it goes toward covering the incidentals that you pay for each month with your credit card?

It honestly sounds like your money is going into a black hole of untracked spending. With your parents covering both your rent and tuition, your monetary needs should be few (especially if you get a family meal at your hostess job).

If I were you, I would try to economize and then cut back to the bare minimum number of hours at work. It is a lot easier to cut back on spending than magically create more hours in a week, and working 30 hours plus going to school plus going out plus therapy plus yoga plus dating plus hobbies is not going to happen.
posted by telegraph at 7:29 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think if you're going to work and do school, you need to find a job that's going to let you do homework on the job. This is how every single person I know balances school and work--they have a job that is either slow enough or flexible enough for them to get some studying done there.

Hostessing is "mindless" I guess, but actually extremely taxing since you are always "on". Consider jobs like Ruthless Bunny mentioned above. Or, a temp receptionist kind of thing where you can sit behind a desk and do some school reading while you wait for the phone to ring. (Those used to be easy to get when I was in my temping years, don't know if they still are...)
posted by like_a_friend at 8:03 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I worked a non-downtime job (teaching HS) and went to school at night for an unrelated MA. Firstly, your hobby is studying...or at least it was for me. Non-discretionary spending and socializing went out the window. It sounds grim but ideally neither the hostessing or the school is going to last forever. I would try to only work one day when at also school- ie hostess only Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun. That way you have more free time each day without the major commute for both.

It's not ideal. There have been questions like this before and the answer is always some variation of "there are only so many hours in a day so you have to prioritize". But now is not the time to worry about hobbies and yoga when you don't have time to fit in both going to work and going to school if you you are calling out of each. Also it takes extreme willpower "I AM doing this". Period. Try to get exercise by walking everywhere possible and taking the stairs- cheaper and fits in schedule. And it's also calming.
posted by bquarters at 8:52 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was working and going to school* full time here is how I handled it:

- I cut way way back on my social life. Something had to give, and that was it. Luckily, I'm an introvert who doesn't really need lots of social time.

- I had a receptionist/admin type job where I could study during down times. My supervisor knew I was going to school and was really nice about letting me study as long as I got my work done. Ruthless Bunny and Like A Friend have great suggestions about getting a job where there is enough down time to study. (A lot of people I knew were doing security work and were able to study and do homework on the job.) Restaurant jobs don't really have enough built-in free time for multitasking.

- My commute was short - about 20 minutes. While a long bus or train commute can be spent studying, a long car commute will eat into your time.

tl;dr: find a job where you can study at work and you don't have a long commute.

Or, if you possibly can, pay off your credit card debt, draw up a frugal budget (remember: this isn't forever!) and work as little as possible so you can concentrate on your studies.

*school = BA, not grad school, but the same principle applies
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:58 AM on February 11, 2014

One thing I do is limit my social life to standing dates with a few trusted friends. I have coffee every Tuesday morning at 8 with Friend A, and homemade/takeout dinner every Thursday at 6 with Friend B, and homemade/takeout brunch every Sunday at noon with Friends C and D. This means when I'm too stressed out to plan ahead or even reach out, these much-needed supports are already built into my system. Also, knowing I have time with friends coming up soon helps me say no to, "hey a bunch of us are going to..." whatever expensive, time-consuming event or venue.

Another thing I do when overwhelmed is examine every single minute of the day (draw out a 24/7 schedule if it helps) and ask myself, am I doing something I need to do, or something I want to do, or neither? It's amazing how much time gets spent doing neither, and that's where you can cut. Need is sleeping, eating, working to pay for food. Want, for me, is fulfilling the requirements for the degree I want (but how far above and beyond do I want to go? I examined whether I really wanted all A's or whether some B's might be OK sometimes for sanity's sake--my answer was to take the sanity-saving B). Neither need nor want was my arguing with people who are wrong on the internet, maintaining ties with the friend group that was feeling more like a frenemy group, Solitaire/Angry Birds/other things I did supposedly to relax but that weren't actually making me feel relaxed and refreshed after, YMMV.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 10:20 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Working full time and going to school part time meant I had no time for hobbies, no time for socializing, and limited time for exercise.
posted by town of cats at 1:51 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is working, commuting 2 hours a day, going to school, going to therapy, doing homework, doing yoga, cooking, having hobbies, and a social life too much to ask? Yes.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 1:52 PM on February 11, 2014

Find a job that lets you study, or at least sit down. Hotels would be good places to start looking.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:15 PM on February 11, 2014

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