Balancing act: Time-management tips for parents

By Brian Fairbanks

June 16, 2021 • 4 minute read

Most parents may find time management difficult because of an obvious imbalance: They often have more responsibilities than hours in the day. Between work and parenting (not to mention household tasks), their free time is so limited it may not seem possible to take on another major commitment like earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

But going back to school may be more viable than you think. And the benefits are tempting. Earning a bachelor’s or advanced degree can help you learn a new set of skills, position you for a career change or help increase your earning potential. Going back to school can also give you a personal sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Of course, students who are also parents must be able to effectively manage their time and responsibilities. Here, we outline several time-management strategies to help you reach your educational goals.

Prioritizing responsibilities

For some parents, it can be hard to know how to prioritize the responsibilities that compete for their time. Many parents hold full-time jobs, spend weekends catching up around the house and may want or need to spend time with extended family or friends when they’re not working. And before any of this, they must attend to their child’s needs.

For example, parents may work all day before picking up their child from school. After that, comes homework, dinner and bedtime. Factor in a few more kids, bills, emails and the dozens of other things normal people take care of every day, and it’s easy to see how it can become overwhelming, even without adding school into the mix.

As Lifehack.org notes: “When you say ‘yes’ to one activity, you are saying ‘no’ to something else, because you can’t do it all. If you say ‘yes’ to that new book club, you may be saying ‘no’ to family dinners. …. If your priority is to have family dinners together consistently, then the book club may not align with your values.”

You must ask yourself: What are my priorities? What are my long-term goals? If one of these is going back to school for a degree, that’s obviously a long-term goal that may need to be prioritized over short-term needs or wants.

Time management, of course, will help tremendously when you are in college, regardless of what your outside responsibilities are, especially if you are taking several courses at a time. Being able to successfully carve out time for classes, studying and coursework and then sticking to that plan will be a lot more doable with some solid time-management skills under your belt.

Time-management tips for working parents

So, where do you start? Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Schedule at least one or two days a week for studying. Especially during the school year, plan for at least one or two days when you and your kids have fewer activities to accommodate. This includes pick-up and drop-off duties.
  • Share some responsibilities. Enlisting the help of your kids around the house teaches them life skills (like how to clean a bathroom or wash the dishes). They can also learn the importance of teamwork.
  • Set a stopwatch/timer every time you study or do schoolwork. A literal reminder that time is ticking away can help you stay focused on immediate, important tasks such as completing an essay or tackling some math problems in a textbook.
  • Try to kill two birds with one stone. That means find ways to multitask. If you’re cooking, listen to a course lecture. When you’re getting some light exercise, listen to notes you’ve recorded for yourself. This also may be a good strategy for reviewing some material before an exam.
  • Download a time-tracking app. Just as it is important to make the most of your time. It can be helpful to identify the ways you may be wasting it too. Smartphone or desktop apps can tell you how much time you spend, say, browsing the internet or watching videos. (Other apps can be directed to temporarily block those URLs if you think you’ll be too tempted to slack off.) If you spend hours each day on something that isn’t important, having the app tell you how much time you waste on it can help you prioritize.
  • Set a time limit for all activities except important ones like studying or completing urgent coursework. In fact, for college coursework, you should try as often as possible to clear your schedule for two to several hours at a stretch. Make sure you have plenty of time and you’re not feeling pressured to rush. Remember that in college, quality is key, so take your time with each assignment and task.
  • Make the most of unexpected time. Go through your list of priorities and tackle as many as possible. You may be tempted to slack off, but there’s rarely such a thing as a social media post you need to see urgently.
  • Rest. Get plenty of sleep, drink plain water and cut down on caffeine. When you feel your best, you can do your best.

Finding the balance: Family, school and work

One of the best ways to create more time for yourself when attending college is to learn online. Online universities give you more time and money to enjoy your life while you’re going to school. University of Phoenix offers 24/7/365 class availability, multiple start dates, one-class-at-a-time schedules.

Flexible school schedules at online universities can help you find that crucial work-life balance too. When you set your schedule for school, you have the freedom to focus on urgent needs, such as a sick child, a work presentation that comes up last minute or even self-care if you realize you’re getting burned out and need a day off.

If you’re considering going back to school, talk to an enrollment representative or see what student resources are available. At University of Phoenix, experts are available to guide you through the admissions process five days a week. Additionally, they can provide advice on studying, time management and career services so that you make the most of the time you do have.

Did you know you could earn potential college credit for your work and life experience? Visit phoenix.edu/admissions/prior_learning_assessment to learn more.

Ready to go back to school? Learn more about the financial aid options available to you.

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