I'm a lazy person by nature - always have been. I want to change, I have to change if I want a good job and to make a good living. I'm really bad with balancing things. If I want to do well in school I have to give up sleep and fun. Some people seem to get all these things, and I hate those people so much. So, what should I do? I'm going to start a difficult distance learning course, and I'll need to study 6 hours a day to do well (I have learning difficulties as well).
I took up drinking coffee. And pepsi. And eating a large snack sometime after dinner. I ended up staying up til 1am most nights. It worked out because I could work/study better and faster while my roommates slept.
Set goals for yourself, both short-term and long-term. Ensure that they are goals within reasonable acquisition. Then take steps to realize those goals. If getting a quality education is on your mind, then you must devote at least 1/3 of your time pursuing that. For example, if you wake up at 8:00 a.m. and go to sleep at around 11 pm, then from around 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. you would spend time reading and contemplating materials relevant to your courses. Take a break for lunch or simply recess from your work. Resume at around 12 pm 'til about 2:30 pm and that's 1/3 of your day.
Organizing your life around a schedule is not just about being structured or orderly, it's about knowing what you want and taking control of your life to get what you want. So if you've already decided to study for a length of time, then do it and don't let anything or anyone stop you from doing so because you've already made plans to do it and your plans are more important than theirs (within reason, ofc).
With that said, you should make an effort to explore within your community during your free time to see what options are available to you. Life is all about the people you know and your relationships with those people. Successful people influence others to be successful, so find someone you know (within reason) that you think is successful and learn from them. You'd be surprised at how far you will go by simply emulating habits* of successful people.
*That's harder than it sounds, I know. But anything worth having is worth having, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Manage your time effectively and make use of those little bits and pieces of free time you have in between your schedule. Unfortunately, I don't have any practical advice since I'm kind of in the same boat. Come exams time, I forgo sleep to study. It's been at least 3 weeks since I went to bed before 3am, that's on top of regular 8 or 9am classes that I have to get up at least an hour before for.
Good planning and understanding your needs is important to balancing. Prioritizing too.
I personally find having one a day a week where I'm scheduled to have absolutely no school work or anything else I'd consider work to be something I need. I also have a day scheduled to devote to things I haven't done yet - it's blank but reserved for doing catch-up work or getting ahead and/or studying. Sometimes that's split between two days. I also give myself a lot of wiggle room with work. So if I want to do an hour work on a project, I schedule two. It's especially useful for when I just need a break, or if I get hungry, but it's also good for if I get wrapped up in it or if something comes up that distracts me. If I finish early I do something I enjoy or move onto the next thing. I try to use the time I'm on the bus to do things like readings or reviewing flashcards. Same goes for time I'm in doctors offices or waiting for a class to start. Little bits of time adds up for readings that would otherwise kill me to do all at once.
And I'm rambling.
I'm sure study hacks don't work for a lot of people, but I've found a few things on the site that are useful to me. Maybe you'll find something useful for you.
What allows those of us who manage to have sleep, social life, and academics all together is basically two things: 1) time management and 2) efficiency of the tasks you're completing, particularly work. Ideally, if you're focusing on one area of study and a relatively small skillset associated with it, you'll get more efficient with practice. But a lot of "efficiency" relates to your existing experience (e.g. I went to a really good high school that really made me work hard so college was a breeze after that) as well as natural ability.
Time management you can do a lot with - for example, combine work and social activities or meal time and social activities to cram in socializing when you're busy. Otherwise counter-intuitive things like taking periodic breaks and sleeping/eating properly can actually make it easier to get stuff done by significantly increasing your efficiency when you're actually working.
Also, it helps if you choose a course of study that plays to your strengths. Of course, I definitely didn't do that... by that logic, I should have been an engineer or programmer or something. (Also for financial reasons that would have been a smart choice haha). But instead I did a very reading/writing intensive liberal arts major in one of the most prestigious and exclusive programs at my school. Why? Because I'm a masochist and like to challenge myself, I guess. But it worked out because I'm good enough at that sort of stuff - even if it's not my strongest point - and I got so much practice that I got really good at it. But for most people, playing to your strengths can make a big difference.
Pssh, nobody has time for balance. The time between the 50+ hours I'm at work/school, I do stuff. If I want to do something specific with friends, I ask them in advance because they're as busy as I am.