How to Balance Work and School: 5 Helpful Tips
For many adults, going to school with a full-time job can be intimidating. But it doesn’t need to be and we’re here to reassure you that it’s completely doable - and you’re far from alone!
According to a report by Georgetown University, over 70 percent of undergraduates were employed. Not only that, but about 40 percent of undergraduates and 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week, with many working 40.
Whether you work a job with set hours, or you have a flexible schedule that changes regularly, the key to balancing school and work lies in managing your time well. The tips below will help you successfully juggle school and work.
1. Set a weekly action plan once your schedule is available
Every week, set aside time to plan out your week. If your work schedule changes regularly, do this as soon as your schedule is available.
Fill in all work and personal appointments on your calendar and then add study sessions and other school-related activities in the open spots on your calendar. Depending on the class, you may need to add scheduled reviews before tests, group discussions or proctored exams to your calendar.
Treat these times as you would a medical appointment or a business meeting and stick to your weekly plan. You’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing you’ve allotted time for all of your top priorities.
2. Create a family schedule
If you have responsibilities on your plate that involve family, such as a spouse or children, make any necessary arrangements that will help free up time for schoolwork. For example, if you have kids, you may need to have your parents babysit them once or twice a week or swap babysitting nights with friends or neighbors who have kids. You can also check with your employer to see if they offer any type of childcare options.
It’s also helpful to make a list of your responsibilities at home and see if there are any that your spouse and/or children can help out with. If you do most of the cleaning or cooking, maybe you can arrange to have your spouse take charge of dinner on certain nights. And, depending on the ages of your children, you can assign them certain chores so you aren’t the main person responsible for keeping the house clean and in order.
3. Use tools to manage your workload and schedule
To stay organized, use tools to help you keep track of your class materials, assignment deadlines and test dates. For saving your files, Google Drive is free and easy to use. A note-taking app such as Evernote can become your best friend when it comes to taking notes and jotting down ideas. But before signing up for any of these accounts, find out what software resources your school provides for file saving/sharing, such as Google or Box. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you can often have access to more storage and features through your student account than what you would get from an individual account!
For classes that require research projects, you’ll find using a reference management tool to be beneficial, helping you to create and manage lists of references - and providing sanity when it comes to citing sources.
For most classes, the hard drive on a laptop will be sufficient, but you’ll want to back it up. However, if you’re in a film, art, music, architecture or engineering program, you’ll need cloud storage to store class materials and projects without running out of space on your computer.
Find a calendar and a management system that works for you. If you prefer a paper planner, get one that’s portable so you can refer to and update it on-the-go.
There are also many effective digital calendar and scheduling systems that act not only as calendars but help you to effectively manage your time. These are great because you can allow other individuals to access your schedule, making it extremely easy and convenient to share your schedule with your significant other.
Some common (and free) student planner/scheduling apps to try include:
- myHomework (premium version is $4.99)
- iStudiez Pro (premium version is $2.99)
- Fantastical 2 (calendar app designed for MacOS)
- ClassUp (iPhone and Android compatible)
- Egenda (available via the App Store and on Google Play)
Before your first class, get a list of all the technological requirements from your school and set up and familiarize yourself with any new tools.
4. Discuss your academic goals with your boss
Online universities offer the flexibility needed for those working part or full-time - and that’s essential for those whose work schedule changes regularly. But there may still be times when school obligations conflict with work, such as during exam periods.
If you feel comfortable, be open with your boss from the beginning about your academic goals and discuss what your school workload is like each semester. Work together to plan ahead for times during the semester when you may need to rearrange your work schedule, if feasible.
5. Maximize downtime with study sessions
If you don’t have many large blocks of time available, get into the habit of using shorter study sessions. You’ll be surprised at just how effective regular study sessions of 60 minutes, 30 minutes and even 15 minutes can be. Wherever you have an open slot on your calendar of anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes available, set it aside for studying - this can include lunch breaks and commutes on the train!
To make the most out of these short study sessions, get to work right away and take good notes that you can easily refer back to when you need to review. Set a goal in advance for each study session (for example, reviewing flashcards or reading a certain number of pages in your textbook) and write the goal in the time slot on your calendar so you know exactly what to work on. Save more in-depth or challenging topics for when you have at least an hour or more available. Take advantage or your commute as well - this is the perfect time to listen to or read an ebook on your mobile device.
One of the biggest benefits of taking online classes is being able to study from anywhere on your own time - no matter what your work schedule looks like. Utilize these tips to create useful study habits and a personalized study routine that caters to your schedule.