Most of my students have been people who, while in massage school, were experiencing a period of transition in their lives, whether from one career to another or from a stay-at-home parent to a working one. Whatever the reason, they all shared in the challenge of managing their new commitment to learning bodywork with other existing obligations.
One of the biggest challenges I see massage students face is trying to work massage school into an already busy schedule. Prior to massage school, they were balancing their personal or family life with work, which can be challenging enough. Add into that mix going to class, homework, amassing enough clinic hours and launching a new business venture and you can see how easy it is to fall behind the curve.
The biggest challenge is, of course, time. The resolution is to come up with effective and creative boundaries for the best use of your time, and then adamantly commit yourself to those boundaries.
The first step is to plan out, as best you can, the entire time you are in massage school, whether it is only for one quarter or an entire year. This will allow you to see any potential conflicts ahead of time, and allow you to start preparing alternative solutions. For instance, let's say you map out the entire upcoming semester and immediately notice your kinesiology midterm is the day after you return from a business trip. By knowing this now, you can plan for your study time and be well prepared for the test.
Another way to use your time efficiently is to make index cards with class notes on them and keep a few with you at all times. Reviewing one or two cards when you're in an elevator or in line at the bank can make a big difference in retention. Alternatively, if you're an auditory learner, record yourself reading your notes and copy the recording onto a CD or MP3 player. You can listen to notes while you drive, cook, shop, do laundry-or even when you go to sleep.
Study groups are another way to help reinforce learning. You can read more about the benefits of study groups at www.futureLMT.com/studygroups.
Remember, simply having more time isn't enough. You also need to take care of yourself, so you don't get burned out and, therefore, can get the most out of the time you have. This includes getting plenty of sleep, eating well and exercising. Burning the midnight oil, eating from vending machines and spending all of your time on a computer will sap your energy and enjoyment from all aspects of your life. You need to make taking care of yourself a priority.
Balancing work and school is one juggling act, but how do you balance family and school? The answer is, creatively. Going to school while maintaining a full and enriching family life can be stressful, but it is definitely doable. Thousands of massage therapists have done it, and you can, too.
The key is to create or strengthen your support system. Step one might be having a conversation with your family about how your school schedule will impact their lives. Let them know how important this is for you and that although you want their encouragement as you pursue your dream, you're willing to do what it takes to make sure they get what they need from you.
If you have small children, you can invent and play games based on anatomy and kinesiology. This keeps them moving and engaged, keeps you studying and adds to the quality time you can spend with your children.
Another thing to remember is these are not just skills to help you get through massage school or even become better at time management-they are lifelong tools to help you creatively manage your life in such a way that you are as fulfilled and happy as possible. You don't want your life so well ordered that every minute of every day is exploited for maximum utility; it will rob you of the richness and spontaneity of life. Fifty years from now, you will not regret receiving an 87 instead of a 92 on your anatomy final, but you will regret not reading stories to your daughter because you had to study.
This is especially true if you intend to go into business for yourself. One of the most difficult aspects of the transition to a sole proprietor is keeping your work life separate from-yet balanced with-your personal and family life. For many massage therapists, work is not a nine-to-five proposition; just because you've finished your last session for the day doesn't mean you're done working. Finding time to handle all of the administrative tasks that accompany running a small business is, on the best of days, challenging. If you are not vigilant, these tasks can easily creep into and slowly usurp your precious downtime.
Having a well-established sense of healthy and productive boundaries will help you navigate the sometimes precarious shoals of balancing all the aspects of your life. Let Joseph Campbell's famous quote, "Follow your bliss," be your guide.