You're hustling to move forward on your career path which is awesome! But tackling both work and school simultaneously can be overwhelming and stress-inducing. This article will provide 5 steps to better manage your study load while working:
Step 1: Let your employer know you are studying
Not communicating that you are studying can cause frustration to your employer - they may wonder why your work quality is declining and why you are working less, leading to negative assumptions about you. However, if you have updated your employer about your schooling periodically, such as your exam period, assignments, and your workload, your employer will be more understanding and may even accommodate your needs. This is the first easy step to do that can take some burden work off your shoulders.
Step 2: Get the syllabus ASAP
The second step is to get the course syllabus as soon as it is available and take the time to read it. That way, you won't get a nasty shock when you realize there is an assignment due next week. By simply knowing the expectations, it can help reduce anxiety and stress. The typical key things to look for are (1) assignments, (2) due dates, (3) exam dates, (4) reading materials.
Step 3: Use a planner
Now that you know the course outline, it's time to jot that into your planner. I use a weekly agenda though some may prefer calendars or a daily schedule. Find a planner that works for you. The key things to write in your planner are (1) assignment due date, (2) exam dates, (3) weekly reading materials. Planning ahead helps you see what you need to do in chronological order, so doing your schoolwork is just a matter of checking off a list over a span of a couple of months.
A little tidbit is to take advantage of free online resources to determine what planner works for you. I like to look at Pintrest.com for some pretty templates.
Step 4: Dedicate to a study routine
Alright, so you got all the important information on your agenda. Now, you need to decide on a study routine that works best for you. Staying committed to the routine will be the toughest part as you are getting accustomed to studying and working at the same time. The tip here is to make room and time for studying during the day and be consistent. When you're changing the routine left, right, and center, it's hard to be on top of your schooling. Once you find that routine, stick to it, or else all your planning from step 3 is in vain if you do not act on your plans. Oh, and make sure your study routine is realistic. If you're working 8 hours a day plus commute, then opting in to study for 6 hours might be a tad unrealistic.
For me, I had to train myself to wake up at 4 am and commit to my readings/assignments for 2 hours every weekday before I go to work. This was achieved by going to bed at 8:30 pm every night to ensure I have adequate sleep. However, waking up early is not for everyone and some prefer studying after work. The most important thing is you fit in 2-3 hours of studying consistently whether it is in the morning, afternoon, evening, or in the dead of night. Just as long as it works for you.
Step 5: Dedicate a self-care routine
Now that you have a proper study-work plan, it's time to squeeze in some self-care activities. Carving out time to self-care is just as important as squeezing in time for studying as self-care 'recharges' you for your busy schedule. If you're not well-rested, then you can't study productively and when you're not studying productively, you will feel stressed for not meeting your weekly study goals, and now your work piles up and you continue to feel even more stressed. Do you see a vicious cycle here? Self-care prevents you from being in that stress cycle. So find several stress-relieving activities that you enjoy doing and make time for them!
Once you have found the activities you like, make a realistic self-care routine. For me, I would never touch my school work in the evening (because I studied in the morning), so I use this time to play games, watch videos, or chat with friends. That self-care time is reserved just for you, so make the most of your precious relaxation time.
Plan ahead and be consistent on both studying and relaxing. Just remember that you won't be in school forever and it will be worth it in the end once you get that fancy credential!
About The Author
Jasmine Tsang is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) under the College of Registered Psychotherapist Ontario (CRPO) and the founder of Reflections Therapy. She specializes in providing counselling services for people facing challenges in their adulthood such as relationships, self-esteem issues, school & career stressors, anxiety, and depression. For more information about Jasmine, click here to read her bio.