10 Tips to Balance Work and School

10 Tips to Balance Work and School

10 Tips to Balance Work and School

Working while attending classes to complete a degree is possible with planning, goal setting and communicating your need for support. Here are 10 tips to help you stay goal-oriented and on track.

1. Stay positive and focused. Avoid negative thoughts by reminding yourself of the new life you are striving for. Break up your larger goals into doable, realistic tasks on a manageable timeline to reduce your stress level. Intentionally redirect your focus by picturing yourself in the job you want.

2. Set aside time to study and be productive. Everyone's different, says Marty Nemko, a career coach and radio show host in San Francisco who also specializes in education. Some people do well with a rigid schedule; others do not. Some study best right before dinner, others late at night. Discover your strengths and develop study habits that work for you.

“The key is in believing productivity is important, not to be avoided,” Nemko says. “It's the key to feeling good about your life and succeeding, however you define that term. If you believe that in your soul, you'll work plenty hard, with or without organizational or motivational systems.”

3. Make use of technology. Many trade journals and publications are accessible online so use those to get familiar with hot topics and news in your chosen field. Additionally, make use of the school’s online services to communicate with classmates and professors, check assignments and monitor grades.

“With current course management software, I can have students submit assignments electronically whether online or face-to-face. The biggest change is how rapidly communication can occur,” says J. Robert Collins, professor of management and marketing at Texas A&M University-Commerce. “The biggest impact on students, and faculty, is the easy access to all kinds of information on the Internet. The ability to search large databases has greatly improved our ability to discover answers to questions.”

4. Be efficient. Try not to waste time on unnecessary tasks. Read the syllabus closely to ensure you are meeting all of the instructor’s requirements. Find out whether you can access your textbook online, or tote the book around with you. Read while the kids are practicing soccer or while you are on the train going to work.

Collins says students most in danger of dropping out are those who struggle with personal discipline. Organize yourself and be relentless about budgeting each task on a calendar, as if you are making appointments at work. Research what experts on time management have to say, if you need more pointers.  

5. Know your citations. Essays and research papers are inevitable for most if not all degrees. Find out which style, such as the popular MLA style guide, your school recommends and invest in a copy or subscription. Knowing the specifics of how to make citations and other notations will save time when you get to critical, late night editing.

6. Make time for friends and family.  Don’t live in a cave of books and papers. Your family and friends should be a refreshing distraction that helps you keep a positive mindset, so schedule time for them on your planner too.

7. Find a routine. John Mooney, associate dean for academic affairs and online programs at Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business, notes that creating a “regular” routine is key, though what “regular” means may differ for many people. 

“My advice is to try to establish as much routine as possible, but for some people this may have to be defined on a semester-by-semester, month-by-month, or even week-by-week basis depending on how much variation is happening in the other aspects of their lives,” Mooney says.

8. Exercise and eat right. Don’t ignore your health. As a working student, you may be constantly on the go. A good diet and exercise will give you more energy and improve your mental outlook as you drive toward your academic goals.

9. Make it a team effort. Support and understanding from friends and family will boost your confidence and relieve stress. Enlist their help occasionally – proofreading your papers, for example. Involve them in your goals so they feel invested in your success along with you.

10. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” –Walt Disney. You have dreamed it, so now set your sights on accomplishing your goal. Weed out the unnecessary – the goal blockers. You might miss out on the latest television shows, for example, but that’s a temporary loss. In the long run, you will be prouder of your new degree than you will your TV trivia. Enjoy making your dream come true.

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