By Cheri S. Jones
Currently, the worlds of work and study are closer than ever. Whether that means undergrads who work part-time to fund their studies or professionals who return to education to improve their skills and boost their resumé, working and studying is an increasingly common phenomenon. In fact now, with the coronavirus pushing a good chunk of the world’s population to work from home, the idea that you could take up an online course alongside your full-time job or remote work alongside your remote course, is increasingly appealing.
Despite this quickly becoming the norm, balancing your work and study lives is still a delicate and often conflicting act, and it takes dedicated time management. To help you along, here are a few things to think about when trying to study and work at the same time.
What’s the Priority?
When it comes to working and studying, it helps to figure out which task is your priority. You may be working a full-time job and doing the degree for career advancement, or you might be using the job to earn some money to fund your studies. Whatever the scenario, either your job or your studies should be the main focus.
Once you’ve had your main focus you can plan the secondary goal around it. If your studies are your priority, try not to compromise study time to fill your work quotas. Similarly, if work is your priority, avoid plunging all your time into studying and ignoring your work responsibilities.
Allocate Your Time
Working and studying at the same time is completely achievable, but it requires time management on your part. Both studying and working can easily take up all of your time, so you need to figure out a balance which satisfies the needs of both.
If you’re working a full-time job, take a look at your out-of-work hours to see how much you can dedicate to studying. This can mean working in the evening and on weekends, but also factor in the time you need to eat and sleep; no point burning the candle at both ends if you don’t have time to rest and recuperate.
Make (and Keep) a Schedule
Any scenario with multiple conflicting priorities becomes a little clearer with a defined schedule. Angus McDowel, a college blogger at DraftBeyond and LastMinuteWriting, says “we are animals that depend on routine, no matter how spontaneous you think you are. Giving your day a structure will help you figure out what you can achieve and help you to stick to it.”
Making a schedule is often a process of trial and error. Plan out one day at a time and see whether you can stick to it, then analyze what you’ve achieved over the course of a week. The more you plan, the more you’ll get to know how you work and what scheduling ideas help you the most. The hardest part is sticking to it, so try to reward yourself for keeping on schedule in whatever way you can.
Look for Overlap
Hopefully, you may find moments where your study and work lives overlap, and you can use the knowledge from one and apply it to the other. Not only will this improve your performance in your respective roles, it’s also a great way to solidify skills and knowledge in your long-term memory.
Looking for overlaps like this is an important skill in itself when it comes to looking for jobs after studying. Fran Lilly, an education writer at Writinity and Researchpapersuk, points out that “recruiters are increasingly looking for skills over qualifications, meaning that it’s good to be aware of how you can highlight your experience in interesting ways, even if you have an appropriate degree for a job. Rather than thinking of your bar job as something distracting from your college experience, frame it as something that taught you team skills and time management.”
Whenever you’re making a change to your personal schedule it helps if you communicate what you’re doing. Let your boss know you’re taking up a course, or let your college supervisors know you’re doing work alongside your studies. Keeping everyone informed will prepare them in case of conflicting schedules, and they might even be able to help you balance your time more effectively.