Six Tips for Making Time and Space to Study in a Busy Household
Online degree programs offer working parents the flexibility to meet their career goals. But when you enter an online program, you’ll find that the workload is just as heavy as it would be at a traditional school. True, you can study whenever you want—but sometimes finding any time to study can be a challenge.
Between the demands of family and work, it can be tough to find a place and time to make your own. Here are a few tips for carving out study time in a busy household.
1. Make your own space.
Look for a space in your house that you can use exclusively for studying. This place should be devoted exclusively to schoolwork—a place where you can post up checklists and homework assignments, where you can work without a lot of distractions from outside, and where you have some privacy. Having a special study area set aside for class work will help you keep focused.
It can be hard to find a quiet place and uninterrupted time to devote to your studies—but it isn’t impossible.
It’s important that your study area offer some privacy. If you set up your at-home classroom in the living room or on the kitchen table, you’ll be easily accessible to your kids and spouse. You’ll want an out-of-the-way place where family activity won’t be a distraction.
2. Develop a routine.
Just as it can help to have a special place set aside for study, it can also help to study at a certain time every day. Choose a time and treat it like an appointment or commitment. Schedule other appointments around it, let family and friends know that you’re unavailable during this time, and take for granted that you can’t schedule anything else during your study time. If your study time is fairly regular, it can make it easier for you to keep it free.
3. Take time when you can get it.
That said, it’s sometimes difficult to stick to a single time every day. Especially if you can’t carve a three-hour block of time out of your day for studying, it’s important to take the time where you can get it.
Some online students grab time to study in the early morning before taking the kids to school, while dinner is cooking, while kids are watching television or napping, or late at night. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t keep a regular study time—but be sure to take the time you need in smaller increments instead.
4. Make a deal with your family.
If your family isn’t supportive of the time you spend studying, you’ll have a more difficult time. Make sure they understand how important it is to give you time to study without distraction. If you have a spouse, enlist their support in keeping the kids occupied and happy while you’re studying. Or ask older children to “hold down the fort” while you study; this gives them added responsibility, and many older children will rise to the challenge.
A reward system can help when making these negotiations. Promise kids a treat if they give you time to study: a trip to the park, ice cream, or a trip to the movie theatre afterward might all be good incentives.
5. Find a study buddy.
You may not live anywhere near your peers in the online classroom. But even so, making connections with them can help keep you motivated. You might not know anyone in your day-to-day life who’s doing what you’re doing; even if your family is supportive, they won’t completely understand the challenges you face. A connection with someone with the same goals and challenges can be invaluable.
See if anyone’s willing to join you for an online chat about classroom-related topics outside of the class message boards. Talk about topics that give you trouble, quiz each other, and share study strategies. Setting a regular time to meet a classmate online will help give your study time some structure.
6. Silence your phone.
With the rise of the cell phone, we’re often expected to be available at any time. But when you’re studying, a ringing cell phone can be a huge distraction. Don’t be afraid to turn your phone off or keep it on vibrate. Study time is your time, and you don’t have to be available every minute of the day.
It can be hard to find a quiet place and uninterrupted time to devote to your studies—but it isn’t impossible. Enlist your family’s support, connect with your peers, and grab the time when you can get it, and you should be able to find the time and space you need to meet your goals.
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