For many people with a full time job, life seems hectic enough. You need to balance 40+ hours of work a week with an often equally taxing home life. Between work, kids, pets, and an over-active social life, how can you possibly fit anything else in?
For workers who are contemplating study, this can be a huge tipping point. How on earth will you manage to get educated when you’ve already got such a full schedule?
Study can be key in getting your career where you’d like it to be. Whether it be a certificate that may help in professional advancement, or a degree that will allow you to change careers, education gives you a swathe of career options that can help drive you towards success.
This success will certainly be hard-earned, because balancing work and study can be extremely difficult. But it can be done, and the following tips and tricks may help you to do so.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR DOWNTIME
I’m not talking about your earned downtime – the relaxing Friday night drinks that are key to a healthy life. I’m talking about forced or wasted downtime; the type that is unavoidable, and often isn’t capitalised on. Your commute to work, for example.
The famous physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was once asked a question by a young dyslexic girl about whether she’d ever make a good scientist. He answered that those with learning impediments often get by just as well as those without, by simply being better time managers. They know that they have trouble with reading, writing, or maths, and compensate by using otherwise unused or wasted time to get those jobs done. The bus or train to work. The unneeded half hour of terrible reality TV. ‘you’d be surprised’, deGrasse Tyson says, ‘how much extra time there is in a day to draw from’.
There are simple ways to convert your reading materials (Word docs, PDFs) into audio files, which can make them far easier to digest on the go. They can offer a far less deadly alternative to reading a textbook behind the wheel.
WORK TO A SCHEDULE
When you get your reading materials, check exactly how much you’ll have to get through, and create a reading plan based around how much time you’ve got to play with. 12 pages per day over the 100 days of a semester is far more manageable than 100 pages per day over the last 12 days of the semester. By tackling the material in bite-sized chunks, you’re also more likely to understand it better, and have it stick in your mind.
A publicly displayed reading plan that forces you to be accountable can be a great motivator. If your partner/housemate/parents can see that you’re falling behind, they can crack the whip. A reading schedule offers achievable goals that will keep you motivated throughout your study, breaking up what can often seem like an insurmountable amount of reading.
BE PREPARED TO MAKE SACRIFICES
In order to fit in all that you need to, you’ll most likely need to make sacrifices. These sacrifices are best when they’re things that only affect you, rather than your loved ones. Make it that half hour of reality TV per night, rather than you and your partner’s weekly date night.
For those who like a sleep-in, the best sacrifice you can make may be to simply get up earlier. It’s been proven that people who best utilise their mornings are more proactive, and better positioned for career success.
While it’s certainly important to switch off every once in awhile, regularly sacrificing a small amount of downtime can make a world of difference when it comes to your end of year exams.
KEEP YOUR COURSEWORK ON YOU
This tip obviously isn’t always viable, but by keeping a bit of coursework on your person you’ll be able to make the most of any free time that happens to pop up. Waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting to pick up your kids from school, stuck in a traffic jam.
This is where those audio files can help a lot. Alternatively, flash cards or simple notes may provide the sort of quick studying hit that you’re after. With smartphones and tablets capable of so much these days, it’s now easier than ever to take your coursework wherever you go.
The work/study tightrope walk is the most difficult of balancing acts. But if you go into it prepared and with your eyes open, you’ll be far more likely to achieve success.
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