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3 Tips on How to Balance School and Work

A woman sits at laptop balancing school and work and the text 1 Effective Time Management, 2 Minimize Distractions and 3 Let Your Boss Know.

Spare time is at a premium in everyone's life. There’s work, family obligations, maintenance projects around the house, time with friends and doing various hobbies and, let’s face it; you have to sleep sometime. So how do working adults add more to-dos to an already full life and succeed at doing it? They’re not superhuman and they don’t have a time machine to add more hours to their day. What they do have is motivation, a willingness to work hard and learn critical time management skills.

Importance of Time Management

For most new students, the biggest challenge is learning to efficiently manage their time. It’s important to set realistic expectations from the start to block out periods of time, but this can be difficult to do when a student is just starting to get back in the groove. Time management will be integral to successfully meet your academic goals.

If you’re an online student, courses are asynchronous, meaning they don’t meet at a predetermined time, so managing your own time becomes particularly important because staying focused and on task falls to you, the student. The good news, however, is that you’re then able to work around your life’s schedule and fit your coursework in where it makes the most sense.

While it can be a lifestyle adjustment for some students, you can scope out a detailed schedule of your week to help chart times during a typical day to do homework and other assignments. You’ll be able to find ways to work schoolwork into brief breaks during the day, before work, during lunch or even during a child’s naptime. By breaking the workload down into manageable chunks of time throughout the week, it can alleviate the stress of having a lot to do in one block during the weekend. That may be your preference, though, and in assessing your personal schedule, you’ll be able to determine what will work best for you.

Stay Focused

One key to perfecting time management is limiting distractions and not biting off more than you can chew. For instance, if you come into initial courses thinking that online education is going to somehow be easier than studying at a traditional campus, you may well be taken aback when it isn’t. The work is all attainable, but it does require a commitment on your part. This circles back to time management in that if you attempt to do too much at one time, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. Pace yourself and limit potential distractions.

It's important to create habits that allow you to simply concentrate on coursework without being distracted by the thousands of everyday tasks that make up life at home. For you, working at home may not be a distraction, but you may need a different learning environment. You'll need to be honest with yourself and decide whether late at night, in the peace of a quiet household is the sweet spot for success or if you need to visit a library or coffee shop to get away from home distractions.

Find Support

Be sure to let people at work know that you're beginning a degree program and why. Being frank with your boss about why you're going back to school, what your ultimate goals are and how that may prove beneficial in your own job performance not only garners support but allows your supervisor to understand your personal responsibilities beyond the workplace. The same goes for many of the other people in your life, from friends to family members. If your support network knows ahead of time of your motivation and commitment to earning your degree, they'll be able to cheer for your success and lend a hand when you need it.

Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.

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