By Brian Fairbanks
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.
When it comes to finding the right balance between work, life and education, adult students face uniquely different challenges than many of their traditional, often younger, counterparts. For this demographic, attending a physical campus for classes at set days and times, even at night after work, may be a challenge. Outside of work obligations, they may have a family or older parents to care for, as well as their own life to live.
While it may seem impossible to juggle all these responsibilities at once, an online education can help make it possible. Fitting classes, homework and learning into available times throughout the day — like lunch breaks during work or children’s soccer practices — can help create a better balance. Let’s look at some of the ways working adult students can better balance work, life and school and how an online education can help.
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.
So, where do you start? Here are a few tips to consider:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Rest. Get plenty of sleep, drink plain water and cut down on caffeine. When you feel your best, you can do your best.