Using the 5Cs to balance work and study

Article Date | 9 November, 2023
Source: LSST Marketing/Adobe Firefly (prompts for balance, books, study; work)

By Charlie Tennant, LSST Vice Principal


Around a year ago, in early November 2022, I was on the verge of starting a new chapter in my career. Being an academic I – like many of my colleagues and LSST students –  aspired to pursue a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) to enhance my professional prospects. However, with the first week of my DBA programme approaching, I was apprehensive about juggling it with my other commitments. Here is how I created my 5C framework to juggle my work, my voluntary activities, my family life and my studies.

All throughout my working life I’d studied in some way, shape or form alongside these other facets of my life relatively easily in hindsight. However, I knew that this next level of study of a doctorate would be much more challenging for me, and take me outside my comfort zone.

I needed to develop something easy for myself to remember and keep me on track. I also needed it to serve its purpose well. So, I spoke with a few mentors and colleagues at the time to test the ideas I’d come up with. What I ended up with was a 5Cs for balancing work and study. I found confidence in my upcoming journey due to this approach, which encapsulated my approach to success in work and studies.

Back to the present day, and since I joined LSST as Vice Principal in September 2023, I’ve been struck by the capability of our students to manage morning, evening and/or evening classes in pursuing a higher education degree alongside work, family, caring and other commitments and responsibilities. I don’t underestimate the challenge some students must feel, but nevertheless, they are making incredible efforts and succeeding at making the balance work.

Saying that, given the confidence my developing a framework gave me, I wanted to share it. I did share my framework with the Higher Education (HE) sector in a video I’d recorded in collaboration with the Association of Higher Education Professionals in November 2023. However, that was very focused on professionals in the HE sector. I therefore want to outline here in written form, the 5Cs framework for balancing work and study, and broaden its scope. I caveat this by adding this framework is generated purely from my own experiences and feedback from many trusted colleagues I’ve worked with over several years. It is not a framework that has been found through academic means. This said, I still wish to share it, and students, colleagues and others may use it or critique it as they see fit.

To summarise, the 5Cs prompt us; to Consolidate, to Connect, to Communicate, to Control, and to Celebrate. Below I give my definitions to each C in detail. There is no specific ordering to the Cs, although you may find using them in a particular order may work better for you. As with all frameworks, it’s designed to be changed and tailored to your specific context:




Consolidating, or finding the common thread among things we pursue in life, is important. It may not always be possible, but if we can do it, I believe it acts as a great starting point. It allows us to bring some focus to what might feel like chaos a lot of the time.

First, we need to define what we mean by ‘consolidate’ and how it might work in practice. In my example, I have a background and passion for leadership and strategy. So, I’ve focused my DBA studies, where I can, on exploring these areas. I also pursue leadership positions in a voluntary capacity in my Trustee and Vice-Chair role at Barking and Dagenham College.

For others, they may feel a particular passion for well-being, EDI, or sustainability to give a few examples. So, I’d ask, how can you incorporate this into your current work? For example, speak to your line manager about how you might be able to contribute to improving these areas for your workplace or within your team. I’d then ask the same again but for your studies? You may want to bring in these topics when considering case studies, or developing your coursework, depending on whether the assignment brief allows for that level of academic freedom. See if you can become involved in student groups or voluntary positions if you have the time of course, and see what you can bring to the table with respect to those passions.

If and when you are able to do this, you will find it easier to move your thinking and thoughts between work, study and the other areas of your life where you see this connection with your passions. As above, you may not be able to 100% embed your passions into what you do and every aspect of your life, but every little helps.




Connecting is hopefully a little easier to define and achieve. Connecting specifically with people who share your experiences or passions, is important for wellbeing, but can also provide an important listening ear and support network that you can rely on. I’ve many a time needed to lean on people I’m connected with in order to find the balance between work and study, and even just a simple conversation has been the key to me being able to turn a given problem or issue around and find a solution. Equally, you may also be able to share your experience with said connections, and personally, when I’m also able to share, it gives me confidence in my own ability and thought processes.

In the workplace, you can connect with people in the few moments you get to socialise. For example, on a lunch break, or possibly immediately after work before a commute. Or, you could do this digitally through WhatsApp groups. The same goes for fellow students. Look for opportunities to have a conversation with a classmate you’ve never spoken to. LSST will incorporate activities to bring students together, but you can also do this through your own initiative. Your classmates may have some wisdom as to how to balance work and study that they can share with you.




Good communication is the solution to so many problems, and the same is true for a successful balancing of work and study. We all have key people in our lives, at home, in the workplace, and at our place of study. These people will, hopefully, have our best interests at heart, and will be willing to support us in our pursuit of developing ourselves. However, they can only do this, if we’re clear with them and communicate our support needs.

Support needs come in many forms – from something as simple as being given space in the home by our families to work on assignments, to understanding and empathy from our employers. Either way, both work best when we have been clear with our loved ones, colleagues and tutors about what we believe would help us most in achieving our goals.

For example, I need to spend a significant amount of time reading ahead of each module of study on my DBA, and this means sacrificing time I would ordinarily spend with family, and taking care of other important aspects of my private life. I’ve shared with my loved ones that I need to make this commitment, and they not only allow me this time but actively encourage me, even when I feel I may not be up to the challenge.

It’s important to remember that not everyone in our lives will be supportive of our commitments. However, through effective communication, we can keep our network informed of our priorities and the limited time we have available to meet them. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that we can manage our time effectively.




Once we’ve communicated our commitments to those important figures in our lives, it’s important we then stick to the promises that we make to ourselves with regard to time and effort where possible.

This is where we need to be exacting in the standards we set for ourselves and adhere to. Of course, life throws us many curveballs, but outside of unexpected situations which are completely understandable, we need to ensure we control our time, and control how we use said time.

For me, making use of my Outlook calendar to record every activity and commitment I need to meet is crucial in helping me do this. Others might use their phone’s calendar, a calendar on their wall or fridge at home, or even hand-written notes in a diary. Whatever you prefer, the most important thing is to take as much control as possible of your time, so that you can minimize the risk of not meeting deadlines. As well as not being in a frenzy towards the end of an allotted time for assignments, or work-related projects as this will add unnecessary stress and pressure for you. This is something you certainly do not need when balancing so many important parts of your life.




Finally, it’s important to not forget how far you’ve developed and the progress you’ve made. Even by simply pursuing study alongside your work, you have demonstrated a clear commitment to wanting to develop, and have acted upon your vision. As the old adage says “vision without action, is just a daydream – action without vision is simply a nightmare”. You’ve already managed to strike some sort of balance between the vision for your future, and taking decisive action. So well done.

Along the rest of your journey, you will come across challenges, and experience times where you doubt yourself. So it’s important to remind yourself of all your achievements.

Of course, the biggest celebration of all will come towards the end of the chapter of you balancing work and study, and it will be very well deserved. Keep that in your sights, and hopefully, my 5Cs for balancing work and study, especially the final C (to celebrate) will help get you there.

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