Best Tips For Managing Work, School & Life
The decision to enter college is a major commitment that affects both you and everyone else in your life. This is especially true for adult students returning to college who have to consider their jobs, bosses, co-employees, spouses or partners, children, and many others. Education brings enormous advantages and is always worth pursuing, but part of the challenge of education is balancing school with your work, family, and personal commitments. There may never be a perfect balance, but you don't need perfection, you need something good enough to manage! Planning and preparation are the keys to finding a balance point, so let's look at some ways to get started.
You can't balance if you can't see what you're balancing. Start by keeping a detailed calendar of your class, work, and family schedules. Add any appointments or fun dates to the same calendar, and monitor it to make sure you are not neglecting any relationship priorities. Adding due dates for bills and assignments to your master calendar helps you implement another level of organization to keep you on track. A visible calendar will help you stay focused and keep you aware of what's on the horizon. Don't expect perfection. A calendar is a management tool, not a religious scripture. You will have to move things around, and occasionally you'll miss something and have to adjust, but at least you'll know where you are!
It's important to focus all of your attention and energy on one task at a time. Resist multitasking and be present in the moment. When working, studying, spending time with family and friends, or just taking care of yourself, you should try to give 100% of your attention to what you are doing.
Learn to conquer procrastination with better time management. Don't avoid projects that seem cumbersome: instead, break them down into smaller parts of a whole to finish the project on time. Always remember that the job you don't start is the one that takes longest to finish!
Many employers are aware of the importance of schooling, and your decision and your desire to improve yourself and build credentials are likely to win your employer's respect.
Successfully managing college, family, and work is all about prioritizing time and activities. It also means being honest and frank with the people around you at work, at home, and in the office. If you are in school or planning to go back, you should talk openly to your employer about your situation and plans. Many employers are aware of the importance of schooling, and your decision and your desire to improve yourself and build credentials are likely to win your employer's respect. Many employers will offer to accommodate flexible schedules, working from home or going part-time if necessary. If your work hours are strict, consider weekend, evening or online courses.
You will need to create boundaries when balancing school and your job. Make your decision and firmly say no when being asked to compromise the value of your time. Learn to say, "I can't do this right now." Be firm, not defensive or overly apologetic. Talk to your manager about expectations during schooling. Coursework increases during midterms and final exams, and most managers allow fewer hours during those times. If your current job is not cooperating and your schooling if suffering, you need a more flexible temporary source of income. Keep the lines of communication open to ensure success in every aspect of life. Your education is key to your long-term happiness, but you also need to consider your need for immediate income, and that means accepting that your job is also a priority!
The other side of working while in school is studying while working. Fortunately, this is not a unique situation. 38 percent of today's undergraduates are over 25; almost half are financially self-supporting, and college students work an average of 19 hours a week. Colleges and universities have adapted with flexible schedules, online courses, and a variety of programs designed for working and part-time students. Professors and administrators are aware that their students have responsibilities and will often go out of their way to accommodate them. It's always okay to talk to a professor and see what can be done to allow you to balance your coursework with your responsibilities. Don't expect a free ride. The value of your degree is based on the assumption that the school is not giving free rides, so asking for one does more harm than good. If you are doing your best to keep up and do quality work, though, schools and teachers are usually willing to do everything possible to work with you. If you have problems at school, it's always worth looking into possible help. Many schools have programs designed to help working students with everything from academics to childcare.
The family side of your balance can often be the most challenging because emotional connections are such an essential part of family life. You know that going back to school is in your family's long-term interest, but it's important that others understand this as well. This is particularly difficult when young children are involved because they aren't in a position to understand the reasons why a parent is so often busy or absent. There's no perfect solution to this problem. All you can do is give them as much time as you can and making sure your time with them is exclusively theirs. While you do this, find and use all of the family help you can. Your parents, siblings, and other relatives, even in-laws are likely to understand the importance of your education and may be willing to assist. Look for any childcare assistance and options that are available. If your time with your children is limited, maximize it by establishing and maintaining times when you're consistently together. Little rituals like a daily bedtime story or a weekly afternoon out can be immensely reassuring to a child.
Balancing school, work, and family requires a lot of help and patience from other people in your life. It pays to express your appreciation as loudly an often as possible. It's also good to keep people posted on every milestone and bit of progress you make. You're not bragging; you're just letting them know that their help is appreciated, you're making good use of it, and that you will eventually finish this stage of your life and be in a position to pass on the help to others. It's easier and more rewarding to help a stressed relative if you can see that they are working as hard as they can to achieve a valuable goal.