Eight tips for balancing study and full-time work

December 04, 2015
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Choosing to study while working full-time is not an easy decision to make. There are so many considerations: do you have enough time, do you want to make the financial investment, is it going to get you to where you want to go? You need to be really clear on all of these before starting.

Once you've committed to studying, the next challenge is staying on track. Staying motivated. Staying focused. 

As someone with a full-time job and studying a bachelor degree as, shall we say, a 'mature-age' student, here are some strategies that are assisting me in managing my workload.

Schedule study, schedule fun

As the saying goes, what gets scheduled gets done. I put all my weekly study in my diary as blocks of time and specify which subject and what I am going to be spending my time on. I allow these blocks of time to be flexible within the week, but they cannot be moved past Sunday - this means I do not fall behind. I also ensure I schedule some fun throughout my week so that I am getting some balance. I also colour code my diary. I have a different colour for each area of my life: work, study, family, health and fitness. It's then really easy to see at a glance how balanced my life is.

Don't leave assessments to the last minute

There is nothing worse than pulling an all-nighter and then having to be your best self at work all day. It's not fun and it's not sustainable. Schedule your study in, break up the tasks into smaller chunks and work on your assessments throughout the course - not the night before they are due. You'll produce a better result, you'll reduce your stress levels and you’ll be able to continue performing well in your job.

Make the most of your breaks

In between semesters - or in my case, trimesters - ensure you use the time to relax and recharge. Plan some catch-ups with friends, a weekend away or a little holiday. 

Reward yourself

Plan rewards for yourself. It can be as simple as a long, hot bath after you've read two chapters, or as extravagant as a shopping spree after your exams. Choose rewards that you will look forward to and set yourself targets.

Understand how you learn best, and do that

There is no right or wrong way to learn. Everybody is different; some people like to take a lot of notes, some listen intently, some like to read, and others learn visually. You can even get a different result by handwriting your notes, or typing them into an app to create flash cards. Try a few different methods of studying and discover what works best for you. Then do it.

Work in your chosen industry

If you can, find a job in your chosen industry. It's never too early to get a foot in the door, and you'll find your colleagues will be a great support in your studies. It also means you'll be living and breathing your course content, which is such a great way to learn.

Stay focused on your goal

Always remember why you chose to study in the first place, and stay focused on that goal. There are a number of ways to do this: create a vision board of your ideal life, write it down, enrol friends and family in your goal and your reasons why, and ask them to remind you when you need it most.

Remember it's a choice

Always remember you chose to study and work full-time. Take responsibility for your decisions. Own it. Even in those moments when you're not sure you can do it or you'd much rather be drinking wine with your girlfriends than finishing an assignment, remember it was your choice, and remember why you chose it. Eyes on the prize!

Emma Harvie

Emma Harvie works full-time in the media industry and is studying a Bachelor of Business at Swinburne Online.

Image: Francis, Flickr Creative Commons license

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