Millions of full-time students are also full-time workers, according to a Georgetown University study reported in The Atlantic. Their numbers include younger students continuing on to university right after graduating from high school and older students returning to school after years in the workforce.
If you’re part of the second cohort, your study skills may be more than a little rusty, and you’re almost certain to have more non-work obligations to balance against your academic workload. Here’s what you need to do to keep pace.
1. Carve Out a Recurring Study Period Every Day
Research suggests that people tend to be most productive in the morning; evenings and overnights are comparatively unproductive. But you know your own work habits better than anyone, and you may not have the luxury of going full-bore at the books every morning if you’re working full-time anyway.
More important than optimizing your study schedule for productivity is optimizing your personal schedule for, well, study. Getting in the habit of studying at a set time every day (or as close to that set time as possible) will do more for your output than anything else.
2. Choose a School and Program With Flexible Hours and Workloads
You don’t have to go back to school full-time to earn a career-changing degree or certificate in short order. Choose higher education institutions that offer flexible degree programs and manageable workloads for busy professionals. If you’re pursuing a creative degree, for instance, a digital arts school like British Columbia’s Centre for Arts & Technology is a far better choice than a school that forces you to commit to full-time student status.
3. Cut Down Your Extracurriculars, For Now
That weekly volunteering session, fulfilling as it may be, might need to become a monthly volunteering session for the time being. You’ve got priorities, after all; work and school, for better or worse, come before any other obligations save family.
4. Consolidate Your Socialization
By the same token, you’ll want to declutter your social calendar to the extent possible. Maybe that means bringing your six scheduled coffee dates per week down to two, or swapping out individual face-to-face sessions with group hangouts. Your friends might appreciate the efficiency, too; and you can always ramp up your socialization as you ease into your work-school routine.
5. Talk to Peers Who’ve Been Through It Already
If the prospect of juggling work and school with everything else going on in your life seems daunting, you’re not alone. This is going to be a tough transition, no matter how well-organized you are. Before you make the leap, talk to peers (coworkers, friends, relatives) who’ve successfully navigated it already. Their advice may have more bearing on your personal situation than you realize.
6. As a Last Resort, Trim Your Work Hours
At some point, you may find these accommodations insufficient. If and when that happens, consider temporarily trimming your work hours or handing off peripheral responsibilities to others. Whether this is feasible will depend in part on how your role is structured and whether (if at all) your boss is willing to bend. But if it makes the difference between continued smooth sailing and an unwelcome inflection point, it needs to happen regardless.
You Really Can Have It All
Don’t listen to the naysayers. You really can work full-time while getting an advanced degree or certification. You’ll just need to incorporate as many of these work-life balance hacks as possible to make it work.