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There are a lot of people you’ll come across throughout Year 12 who will tell you that the most important thing in life is your studies. That is, to an extent, true. Obviously, everyone in Year 12 is striving for the best outcome that they can achieve at the end of the year, and a lot of your time and energy will be dedicated to achieving that goal.

I’m here to talk about the OTHER commitments in your life, and why you should never let them slip during the year.

The biggest piece of advice that I have for anyone who is completing Year 12 (and this extends beyond QCE as well) is that study should not be your whole life, at any point. It is vital to both your physical wellbeing and your mental health that you can juggle your life commitments around QCE study – but, I know, easier said than done when you’re trying to keep a million plates in the air at once.

This life advice article is going to be split into a couple of areas – WHY it’s important to keep that study/life balance with other life commitments, and HOW to go about achieving such a commitment balance.

But why should I?

Year 12 seems like Mount Everest, and all your attention is focused on just making sure you don’t fall down the damn mountain. I get it. But in order to not fall down the mountain, you need to be sure that your eyes aren’t fixed just on the top point. Instead, you need to consider everything else along the way (how great are my metaphors guys?).

I threw myself into study in the first few weeks of Year 12, and ended up getting very sick for about 3-4 days in Week 4 with the flu. It was literally my body’s way of telling me to calm down.

I am a huge believer in the motto “work smarter; not longer”. Our brains can only function at an optimal capacity for a certain amount of time before we need a break in order to maintain a good level of study. Otherwise, you’re sitting there, deep in hour eight of Maths Methods, wondering whether ‘x’ is actually a letter– because it sure doesn’t look like one anymore.

This is where the other life commitments come in handy. Work, exercise, walking the dog, cleaning the house (you’re welcome parents), seeing friends, watching the latest episode of Orange is the New Black – all of these are other life commitments that you SHOULD be spending time on. It gives your brain a break, your body a break (seriously, stretch, walk around outside – you’re not vampires), and recharges your batteries for the next study session.

I worked all the way through Year 12, and it was an absolute life-saver. I didn’t work long hours, and I didn’t do a lot of shifts. But when I was there, my brain was focused on something outside of school. This meant that when I was studying, I was focused on that –not wondering when I would ever see daylight again because I was trying to study 25 hours a day.

At this point, I also want to draw your attention to something that the impeccable Brenden Horn told me about a few years ago, which has always stuck in my head. It’s referred to as “diminishing marginal utility”. At a very basic level, it means that the first few hours you put into studying a concept, you get a huge amount back in terms of knowledge. But once you get further on, you’re only getting a tiny increase in your knowledge for every hour that you spend studying it. Therefore, noting when you’ve reached optimal knowledge for a certain concept is vital for studying effectively.

Diminishing marginal utility backs up my argument. There comes a point where it actually isn’t worth your time to do any additional study, so you would be getting more out of doing something that benefits your mental health (like exercise, or earning some money at a part-time job).

Okay, that’s great. But how?

Planning, planning, planning. You can’t go past a good plan. I write everything down, and I swear by my paper diary. But you can use a phone, or an app, or Google Calendar – whatever works.

If you map out your time, you’ll use it a lot more efficiently than if you say to yourself: “I’m going to study Legal Studies today”. Spending a bit of time at the start of every day saying “10am-12pm is going to be definitions, then lunch and a walk until 1pm, then English essay until 3pm”, ensures that you remain more accountable to yourself. And you’re likely to work more efficiently, because you know you only have a small window of time, rather than thinking that you have the whole day and suddenly it’s 4pm and you’ve achieved nothing and oh no why is it already getting dark outside didn’t I just get out of bed?

There is nothing wrong with holding down a part-time job in QCE. And there’s also nothing wrong with not having one. It’s all individual choice. But whether it’s work, or the gym, or spending time with your family or your cats (they’re people, too), it’s important that you’re taking time out of your schedule to self-care, and ensure you’re continuing to operate at an optimal level. The best way to achieve this is to write down when you’re going to do it. This helps to ensure you don’t spend TOO much time away from study, under the premise of ‘self-care’, because it can be a bit of a trap. But marking out half an hour at 5pm to go for a run or watch an episode of Seinfeld is actually incredibly beneficial to your study in the long term – trust me. Don’t pull a Year 12 first term Karly, and burn yourself out too quickly. It’s a marathon, not a sprint – knowing when you need to stop for water is half the battle (oh please stop it with the metaphors Karly).

Quick summary because I like to tangent: Juggling life commitments is hard, and requires planning. But, it is absolutely necessary for your mental health to have aspects of your life that are NOT studying for QCE, so make sure that you make time for them – whatever they are.

Looking for more info and free resources for QCE? Check out these resources!