How to balance work and online study

One of the best things about online study is that it’s much, much easier to work while you’re doing it. You won’t have to look for a new, student-friendly job that you can fit around your academic work – instead, you can stick with your current job and fit your study around that. With increasing numbers of people now doing this, you’re unlikely to run into any problems which haven’t already been solved. This article provides useful tips on how to combine work and study so that you can be confident of doing a good job with both.

Draw up a list of demands on your time

One of the common mistakes people make when figuring out how they can fit in work and study is to forget that they do other things as well and that some of those things can’t be set aside. It’s a good idea to sit down right at the start and make a list of the other things you need to fit into your time. This could be housework, childcare, exercise, or any number of other commitments. Treat this exercise like drawing up a budget and acknowledge that you won’t always be able to get things done in the minimum amount of time – you’ll need room for a bit of overspill. You’ll also need to be flexible enough to catch up if you have to take a couple of days off or work at half your usual capacity due to illness. Additionally, make sure to schedule downtime to avoid overworking or burnout. Set aside time each day to unwind and relax – you could watch your favorite show, take a soothing bath or try some meditation. Being realistic about all this now will make it much easier to cope once you get started. When you have a clear picture of how much time you need to free up, you can start working out how to do so.

Work out when you have downtime

Unlike traditional forms of study, most online study can be done from anywhere, as long as you have access to an internet connection. This means that you can fit it into bits of time you might not have thought of as free. Many people choose to study while commuting on public transport, for instance, or during breaks at work. If you think about the structure of your day, the chances are that you can identify lots of little gaps where you could fit in watching a video or completing a short task. You may be able to listen to a lecture while cooking or working out, or fit in some revision last thing at night, after going to bed, so that your brain can process it while you sleep. By fitting study in like this, you can significantly reduce the amount of time that needs to be spent working on it at a desk, and thus reduce the disruption in your life. You may also find that you absorb some types of information better in small doses.

Distinguish your wants and your needs

When you’re working out how to rearrange your time, it’s important to distinguish between what you simply want to do and what is essential. People can err on this in either direction. You might automatically assume that you need to do all the housework when, in fact, you’re living with people who could stand to contribute a bit more. You might feel really committed to social activities, which, realistically, need to take a back seat for a while if you are to move forward with your life successfully. On the other hand, it’s a mistake to cut out everything you do for relaxation, especially if the course you want to take is months or years long because you need to make sure you won’t burn out. You should also be wary about cutting back on the activities which keep you fit (which include things like dancing as well as formal sports and exercise) because this can be a false economy. If your fitness decreases, you won’t be alert for as long on any given day.

Make sure you’re suitably equipped

If you’re going to combine work and study effectively, you will need the right equipment. As a rule, this doesn’t mean that you will need to invest in anything expensive, but you will need to be practical about it. A good set of headphones make all the difference when studying in a crowded place, and they are much easier to carry around if they fit into your pocket. For some courses, such as those which require you to do a lot of work with spreadsheets, a phone screen is too small to be practical, but a small, lightweight laptop could fit the bill perfectly and still allow you to be mobile. A stylus may come in handy if you regularly get cold on your commute, which can make using touchscreens difficult. Work out your requirements and get organized ahead of time, so you don’t have any delays once you get started.

Get smart about scheduling

If you’re spreading your study across the day in lots of little bits, you’re going to need to be careful about assessing the amount of time you need for different types of tasks and making sure that you get everything done. Various types of scheduling software are available to help with this – often for free – so find something you find suitably intuitive. The chances are that some parts of your study will be less flexible than others – you may need to attend tutorials at fixed times, for instance, though there is usually still a choice, and they are usually held outside standard working hours. Establishing your time commitments early will make it much easier for you to avoid schedule clashes and make adjustments where necessary. Needless to say, good time management skills are an asset in themselves and something which employers value a great deal.

Look for ways to combine work and study

Depending on the nature of your work and what you want to study, it is sometimes possible to combine work and study, at least part of the time. In fact, in some fields, like nursing, it’s actually a requirement to combine practical, work-based experience with what you learn on your course. If you’re studying in an online BSN program, you should talk to your healthcare employer right away about registering your clinical hours. In general, if you are studying with the aim of furthering your current career, you can look out for opportunities to work on the specific areas which you’re learning more about, albeit at a lower level, and seize opportunities to enrich your understanding by talking to more experienced people. This will give you a better grasp of your subject and make your studying easier and quicker to do.

Get your boss on your side

Many bosses recognize that their employees gaining additional skills and qualifications is a good thing for them. If you think this might apply in your case, it’s worth talking to your boss about your studies and asking for support. That could come in the form of offering you extra flexibility to avoid clashes, introducing you to useful new sources of information, giving you time off to study for exams, or even providing some financial assistance in return for a commitment to staying with the company for an agreed amount of time after you graduate. Study and work do not need to be in competition – they can support one another, and you may very well find that you are able to start applying your new knowledge at work even before you have finished your course. Your qualification may ultimately put you in a position where you can mentor other workers and enhance the quality of work being done by your organization across the board.

Communicate with your loved ones

Working and studying at the same time means you probably won’t have as much time for your family, but there can be a positive side to that. Relationships often benefit from a rethink about who is responsible for what, and if you see each other less, you may find that you value your shared time more instead of taking it for granted. If you have children, this could be a good time to encourage them to take on more responsibility for themselves. When you’re studying at home, and they can see how hard you’re working and how much it means to you, you’re setting a good example for them, both where homework is concerned and in regard to hard work more generally. In the end, of course, your new qualification will likely mean that you can earn more money and give your family a better standard of living.

As the examples here should illustrate, fitting both work and study into your life is far from impossible. There are lots of ways to simplify it, and sometimes doing both at once can even be an asset. If in due course, you look for a new job, prospective employers will be impressed at how you have managed to accomplish this. If you want to take the next step on the academic ladder, don’t let worries about work hold you back.

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