If you’re a working student, the work doesn’t end when you clock out of your day job. Whether you’re continuing education to qualify for a better role in your company or earning your bachelor’s while raising kids and holding a job you can’t wait to quit, it’s not easy to balance the stress and responsibilities of work and life with school. And, the deeper you get into your academic program, the harder it will be.
What can you do about it? We rounded up a few tips to help you maintain your sanity and excel in all three areas—without feeling like a hamster who never gets a break from running the wheel. Use these three tips to balance work and life with school more effectively and efficiently.
Use Your Schedule Like a Sidekick
Paper planners, calendar apps, a giant whiteboard calendar—whatever you prefer, make it work for you. Every commitment should be represented: appointments, work schedule, classes, assignment deadlines. As soon as you have a confirmed date (and time), put it on your schedule.
Classes and assignments: In addition to blocking out the time that you’ll be attending class (physically or virtually), put all of your homework deadlines on your calendar. Pay attention to where things fall. Do you have a can’t-miss family event right before a big test? Plan your study schedule accordingly.
Study time: Don’t just expect to get your homework and studying done. Put it on your schedule. If you’re not working at a certain time, studying should get first dibs on that time block. Don’t let studying get pushed to the wee hours of the day (unless you work best then). Make studying a priority. Put it on your calendar and stick to it.
Rest and breaks: There’s a lot to do, but you can’t just work all the time. If you can’t manage a full day off each week, try to schedule at least a solid afternoon or evening where you’re not doing anything work- or school-related. Use that time to do things that help you recharge, whether spending time alone reading or catching a game with friends.
Remove Distractions and Make Every Minute Count
You’ve blocked off every weeknight from 7 to 9 p.m. for studying, so make sure that’s what you actually do during that time. Set an alarm on your phone for 9 p.m. or use an app like Toggl to track your time and plug away.
If you’re prone to distraction:
- Put your phone on silent or airplane mode and hide it in a different room.
- Only open your computer when you need to use it, and log out of all social media accounts so you aren’t distracted by an ever-updating newsfeed.
- Go one step further and use a website-blocking app like Freedom to keep you on track and focused.
If you’re sensitive to noise:
- Use noise-blocking headphones.
- Listen to instrumentals.
- Work in libraries instead of coffee shops when you need a change of scenery (bonus: libraries are free!).
If you procrastinate by “organizing” your to-do list:
- Spend 10-15 minutes before the time block starts sketching out what you’re going to work on. Use your all-inclusive schedule as a guide.
- Put 1-3 easy tasks at the start of your list to kick-start your productivity. An object in motion stays in motion, right? Lower the barrier to entry and build some momentum before you turn your attention to the hardest item on your list (but save a few easy things for the end—you don’t want to use up your willpower before you start working on your research paper).
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
There’s only so much you can do in 24 hours. When you’re up against the constraints of time and the limits of your abilities, don’t be afraid to let your friends, family, and even your boss or professors know what’s going on.
Have a few honest conversations and find out if it’s possible to…
Work a more consistent but flexible schedule. If you’re bouncing between first and third shifts while taking online courses, it can be hard to find a rhythm that supports your studies. Talk to your boss about the possibility of working consistent hours so you don’t have to redesign your routine every week.
Get an extension on the assignment you were working on when your child caught the flu. Some responsibilities can’t take the back burner, and if you’re a parent, your kids (and their health) should come first. If your kid got sick the week you had planned to hammer out the research for your capstone report, explain the situation to your professor and ask for a reasonable extension.
Have friends or family watch your kids while you study for finals. Your friends and family should understand better than anyone else why your education is important to you, and it’s possible that they’d even offer to watch the kids without you asking. But don’t sit around and wait for it. If you anticipate needing the help, raise the question. You can always celebrate your academic success with them later.
How are you doing as you try to balance work and life with school? What tips have you found that help you succeed? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Head over to Facebook or Twitter and share your favorite tips with us!
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