The transition to a new level of study can feel like a big adjustment and it’s easy to focus all your efforts on studying and forget about self-care. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can help to avoid “burn-out” and support good physical health and mental wellbeing. This page has some top tips on how to balance your university work with your rest and relaxation time.

Time management

Effective time management is a skill and one that you’re likely to continue to develop during your time at Imperial and beyond. The key to effective time management is planning your time in advance to ensure you set yourself realistic goals and factor in relaxation time around your work commitments.

There are lots of different ways to plan your time, find a method of planning that works well for you:

  • Diary or calendar
  • Phone reminders
  • Wall charts
  • Apps like Trello, Toodledo, or Microsoft Planner

It can be helpful to plan your time around big milestones, such as exams and project submission dates. Consider all the aspects of your life that you will need to make time for, including lectures and tutorials, lab work, independent study, part-time employment, leisure activities and socialising with friends and family.

Time management tools - apps to help you stay focused

  • StayFocusd – this browser extension allows you to block your choice of websites that you find distracting for a set-period of time, allowing you to focus on the task at hand
  • Freedom – similar to StayFocusd, Freedom allows you to block apps and websites and can by synced across several devices
  • Strict Workflow – this browser extension enforces cycles of 25 minutes work followed by 5 minutes break by temporarily blocking a selection of distracting sites
  • RescueTime – this app helps you to understand what is distracting you by tracking your activity across different websites

Worried about your sleep patterns?

Check out our information on sleep.

Watch Robert Stickgold's lecture on sleep, memory and dreams.

Study time vs. relaxation

Devoting time and effort to your studies at Imperial is a given but it’s important to factor in time for rest and relaxation and take part in activities away from your studies during your working week.

What constitutes relaxation?

Everyone has different ways of relaxing - whether you enjoy reading a book, doing some exercise, watching a film or delving into the arts, the aim of relaxation is to feel well-rested and refreshed. Separating your working environment from the spaces you chose to relax in is a good way to ensure that when you are relaxing, you’re able to disassociate your thoughts from work.

Healthy study habits

There are times of year when you might find you have an increased workload and struggle to fit in relaxation time. Even if you find you don’t have a lot of time to unwind during these periods, it’s important that you maintain healthy sleeping habits and try to stay away from "all-nighters".

Professor Mary Morrell from the Faculty of Medicine has undertaken fascinating research on the importance of sleep. Her research shows that the lack of sleep can negatively affect brain function, the immune system and the digestive system. Sleep is important for consolidation of memory, so ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep after a hard day’s work will help your memory retain what you have learnt!

Part-time work

You may need to take up a part-time job to help cover the cost of studying. Balancing part-time work alongside your studies can be a challenge! If you do have a job, we advise you limit this to 10-15 hours a week maximum, so that you can keep up with your independent learning, attend all your timetabled classes or labs and have time for some all-important rest and relaxation.

Imperial College Union advertises a range of job opportunities with flexible working hours so that you can fit paid work in around your studies. Check out the current opportunities available on their website.

If you are a doctoral student, there are opportunities for training and employment as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Full information is available on the Graduate School website.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, click here for find out more about the support available at Imperial.

Looking for a job? Check out our advice on Finding part-time work. You can also view the College's policy on student employment College policy on Student Employment during studies.

Keeping up with hobbies, friends and family

Students sitting and laughing on the grassIt can be easy to get engrossed in your work during busy times of the year – and that’s okay! It’s important to try and keep up with your hobbies, interests and social life, as you’ll probably find this helps to improve your mood and will increase productivity when you are studying.

If you’re looking to meet other students who have the same interests as you, or try something new, Imperial College Union has over 370 clubs & societies – if you can’t find one that appeals to your interests then you can apply to start your own. For a full list of clubs and societies, visit the Imperial College Union website.