Does the thought of your daily to-do list make your heart race?
There’s coursework to complete, a 9-to-5 job to manage, not to mention spending quality time with family and friends. If you’re having trouble keeping it all in balance, you’re not alone.
Attending school while working full-time can be a real challenge. But it IS possible to manage your many responsibilities without sacrificing your overall well-being. Capella University students share how they maintain balance while working toward their degrees.
Give their top five suggestions a try, and start enjoying a better school-work-life balance.
1. Establish a structure.
“I need structure. Sunday is for family, Monday and Tuesday are work. Wednesday and Thursday, school. Twice a month, Friday is for friends or just me. The other two Fridays and Saturdays are school or work, depending on what projects I am working on.” Elizabeth H.
“I had a swing shift at a really great company that encouraged further education. So any downtime I had at work, I could spend on homework. In other positions, I spent my breaks/lunch reading or writing for school. I bought a Surface (tablet PC), so it was easy to carry around what I needed for school.” Kayla S.
“I keep an organized whiteboard for coursework and TA work.” Marla O.
“Keeping a calendar on my cell and PC helps balance my time management.” Jared D.
“I calendar everything…work time, study time, free time.” Rita J.
Try it: For one month, create a schedule for everything you need to accomplish. Don’t forget to put “me time” on the calendar! A detailed schedule can help you keep work, school, and your health in balance. Choose the format that works best for you, whether it’s a digital calendar (on your phone or computer), whiteboard on the wall, or a traditional paper calendar.
2. Identify the best time to study.
“Choose a time that works best for you. Some people go to bed earlier and get up earlier to do homework before their kids and spouse wake up, and before they’d regularly start getting ready for work.” Kayla S.
“I had been feeling overwhelmed with all the roles I have in life: wife, mom, soccer mom, fitness instructor, child assault prevention workshop presenter, trauma intervention volunteer, and student. Luckily, I’m earning my degree via FlexPath, and that has been a blessing to my busy schedule. I find it best to write my papers in the early morning, between 5 and 7:30 a.m. I can do research anytime.” Myra M.
Try it: When are you most able to focus on your studies? Early in the morning when the house is quiet, during the lunch hour, or after everyone’s gone to bed? Identify these time windows, and reserve them for coursework.
3. Take breaks.
“I always take a day off each week from my studies and just rest. It helps me recharge for the next week’s assignments.” Tami Y.
“Once a month, I go out with girlfriends.” Gina G.
“I take baths, play computer games, and watch television. I also try to exercise and eat right.” Natalie B.
“Law and Order and Facebook.” Heather L.
Try it: When you feel like your life is all work and no play, take a one- to two-hour break. Go for a walk, watch a movie, or grab coffee with a friend.
4. Just say no.
“Depending on the length of your program, you may need to do what I did. I told everyone that the answer for a year is ‘No.’ Please invite me, but don’t be surprised if I cannot participate. I am totally focused on completing my program in a year.” John G.
Try it: The next time someone invites you out, ask yourself: Do I need to stay in and study, or would a break actually do me good? Make sure you take care of your main responsibilities (school, work, family) first, and don’t be afraid to say no.
5. Keep things in perspective.
“I think about all the things I have to do each day and I prioritize. While taking three courses for my PhD, I try to focus on the fact that this is temporary. Sometimes I think, ‘I am going to miss Capella,’ and that keeps me going.” Iglesia C.
Try it: When you’re engulfed in coursework, your busy job, and life responsibilities, it can be easy to forget what it’s all for. On a blank sheet of paper, list the reasons why you took on the challenge of university studies. These reasons could include: “I’ve dreamed of holding an advanced degree for years” or “This brings me one step closer to my ideal job.” Keep this list in a coursework folder, or post it on the fridge. Look at it often and remember why this challenge is worth your time.
See if you’re ready to add “online student” to your list with Capella’s free time management, learning style, and technology self-assessments.