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How to Work Part Time, Pass your NPTE, and Enjoy your Social Life

Aug 17, 2023

By: Hayden Gray, DPT

The Real Life of a Working Student

If you’re a current student of Physical Therapy, I hope you take some time to read this. Or, if you’re someone who feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to balance out your daily life, I hope you read this too.

I’ll start by giving a timeline of events that led up to the point of me writing this.

  • Clinical Rotations from 7/2022-3/2023
  • Employed in 4/2023 and began working 15-20 hours per week
  • Finished my Doctor of Physical Therapy in 5/2023
  • From 4/2023-7/2023 began studying for the NPTE 5-7 hours per day
  • Took the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Exam) in 7/2023
  • Became a full-time employee in 8/2023

Now, let me break that down a bit more. I spent 5-7 hours every day studying for the NPTE, so roughly 35-49 hours per week (7 days) and worked 15-20 hours per week (M-F). Add those values up and it comes out to 50-69 hours devoted to my education and career per week over the course of 12 weeks. That value may be high to some, or it might be average, I’m only highlighting it due to what I’ll say next.

There is enough time in the day. There is enough time for your friends, family, significant others, recreational activities, sleep, high quality meals, and anything else you may feel like you don’t have enough time for. Here’s how I managed to take care of myself through a busy and stressful schedule, pass the NPTE, work part-time, and enjoy my social life.

1.) Maintained a consistent sleep and wake schedule

  • Every weekday I would wake up at 5:30 AM and be asleep by 9:00 PM.
  • On the weekends, I would allow myself more flexibility.

2.) Utilized the early morning hours for myself

  • By 6:00 AM on the weekdays I would be working out in the gym, running, or getting outside for some sunshine.
    • This was super important to me and helped me control my stress: don’t let leisure activities like this fall to the bottom of your priority list.
  • Following the gym I would eat, grab a coffee (of course), pack my meals for the day, do my laundry, or other miscellaneous chores I knew I wouldn’t want to do at the end of the day.

3.) Time managed my day

  • My laptop was open no later than 7:30 AM.
  • I would put time aside for meals and “brain breaks” when studying from 7:30 AM- 1:30 PM.
    • During breaks, step away from material or projects completely and after a set duration of time, get back to it.
  • Following my morning-afternoon study, I would work from 2:00 PM- 7:00 PM.
  • After work, I would have dinner and finish work related tasks from 7:15 PM-8:30 PM.
    • This was another boundary I set for myself, if I let certain items build up, I would wake up stressed the following morning.
  • Lastly, SLEEP.
    • Quality, and restful sleep is so important, don’t go to bed feeling overwhelmed
    • Put aside a few minutes before bed to completely unwind.

4.) Devoted time for friends and family

  • During these periods of time (typically Friday after work and Saturday) I would put all educational, and work-related tasks away.
    • Friends, family, significant others, all deserve undivided attention for a period of time.
  • It’s hard to feel like you can completely step away from something but for me, it helped me stay focused and disciplined throughout the week.
  • On Sunday’s I would get organized for the week and make sure everything was in order for the upcoming week.

Were there times where I couldn’t follow this exactly? For sure. I sometimes overslept, I forgot to meal prep, I stayed out with friends for a few extra hours, and at some points, I needed to be there for my family. However, during those times, I could reflect on all I had been doing and know that because I stayed disciplined with what I had to accomplish, I could sacrifice a few extra hours. Find a balance that works for you, develop a realistic and consistent schedule, and don’t let stress build your habits. If you need a resource on how to manage your time, stress levels, or daily schedule, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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