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Online Education for Working Adults: How to Balance Study and Work

Jul 18, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

Working adults face very specific challenges that most traditional students don’t have to worry about. One of these is balancing study time and the demands of work. If you’re a student with a full-time job and a full-time study schedule, it might not be easy to figure out when—and how—to study to get the most from your classes. Here are a few tips for maximizing study time—and making sure you don’t get overwhelmed.

Know when you study best

Maybe you’re not a morning person—and you know you can’t drag yourself out of bed at five in the morning dependably every day. Or maybe you have trouble concentrating late after the kids are in bed—you’re just too tired to study. It may take a week or two of experimentation to figure out what time of day is best for you to study, but be aware of what time works best for you—and try to make time during your optimal time of day to study.

Avoid procrastination

Procrastination is for traditional students without full-time jobs and kids. If you have either or both of those things, you just don’t have time to procrastinate. The more you procrastinate, the harder your life will be later. Get your work done
in small installments over a long period of time,
and you won’t be stressing over a big project deadline later.

Time Management

It’s not easy to find time to study—especially if you’re balancing family responsibilities and a full-time work schedule. But it is possible.




Be realistic about your courseload

It’s definitely possible that if you work full-time, you just can’t go to school full-time—there aren’t enough hours in the day. Gauge how much time you spend at work, how much time you need to fulfill family obligations, and how much “free” time you have in a week to get studying done.

Tell your employer

It’s possible your employer will help you by accommodating your study time—allowing you to come a bit later or leave earlier to get studying done, reducing overtime expectations, or letting you take some time during the day—especially if you plan to use the degree you earn within the company. Talk to your boss, explain the situation, be sure to outline how your education is beneficial to the company—and see if they can accommodate you.

Don’t skimp on sleep

No matter how overworked you are, skipping sleep is not going to help you. If you don’t get enough sleep you won’t be able to think clearly or retain the information you’re studying—and you’ll do worse both at work and at school. No matter when you study, be sure to leave enough time to get a good night’s sleep.

Say no when you have to

You can’t take on every responsibility—especially if you’re both working and going to school full-time. Know your boundaries, and say no to requests that cut into your study time. Avoid requests for things that are non-essential to your work and home life if you’re feeling stressed—you don’t have to feel obligated if you know you won’t have the time.

It’s not easy to find time to study—especially if you’re balancing family responsibilities and a full-time work schedule. But it is possible. Know when you study best, and see if you can enlist your employer’s help in carving out the time you need. Get the help of family and friends when you can—even if it’s just someone to watch the kids for a few hours while you finish a paper. And avoid procrastination and skipping sleep—these things will only make the situation worse in the long run. With a little planning, you should be able to balance study and work—and get your degree.


Liko Puha Over a year ago

Great tips that make sense. But until you reach your limits, realizing exactly where those boundaries are, they are only words.

Younger folks might be able to do it all. I found that taking two masters classes at the same time while working is not feasible. An expensive lesson, but thankfully I am alive to choose more wisely albeit with lighter pockets.

Of course, none of this is possible without a supportive spouse. Make sure you get that assurance before starting--and any free time you get, spend it with them and your extended family. Keep them high on the priority list. Saying no to outings and other normal activities while in school is difficult, but with the spouse's help, you can. "That is a wonderful project, but I need to check with my spouse first."

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