Working at a traditional 9-to-5 job and coming home tired after a long day at the office is challenging enough. But when you add college coursework to the mix, it can be a little overwhelming for anyone.
Fortunately, there are several handy strategies you can use to ease the burden of this often difficult balancing act. You don’t have to become a skilled juggler like those who travel the world on cruise ships juggling torches, but you do have to consider making some lifestyle changes to accommodate such a grueling schedule.
Here are some helpful hints on balancing a full-time job - or any significant work schedule – and earning your college degree simultaneously:
1. Online courses can be incredibly convenient.
While you may be able to take classes on campus in the evening or on weekends, it’s far more convenient to forget about potential conflicts in your schedule by taking courses online. Saint Leo University offers a nice selection of educational programs conducted 100% online. The flexibility of online classes is so valuable to full-time employees, those with a few part-time gigs, and even parents raising children. Having the ability to map out time after work or on the weekend when you can focus on your schoolwork can make your life so much easier.
2. Take courses at your own pace.
In many cases, there’s no firm deadline on when you must finish earning a college degree, as long as it’s within a reasonable timeframe. So, if you’re going for an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, you can take the coursework as it fits into your schedule.
For instance, you may choose to take only one or two classes per semester. This can be a big help so you’re not cramming too many classes into a semester and then not having ample time to devote to each class. The last thing you want is to fail to pass a class because you simply didn’t have enough time for it.
3. Communicate with your employer. Communication is critical at all times, and it’s particularly important when your number of obligations is sky-high. So, be sure to communicate with your supervisor and others at your workplace regarding your education.
Some companies are willing to help cover the costs of higher education for their employees, even if it’s only a small percentage of your tuition. In other cases, you may be lucky enough to gain a little more flexibility in your work schedule to make it easier to get to class in the evening or spend some extra time on your studies at home.
Additionally, some employers give promotions or raises to employees who attain certain college degrees, such as a master’s degree in a relevant field of study, while working for them.
4. Take time off from work when it can truly benefit your coursework.
It’s important to use your vacation time wisely at any job – and even more critical if you’re balancing work and school.
For example, take a day off the day before or day of a big exam. Do the same for any major projects due that carry a lot of weight in your courses. As long as you’ve accrued enough time off, it can be a lifesaver to use it during high-stress times throughout your college education.
5. Managing your time is essential.
Time management is key to successfully balancing work, education, and personal responsibilities. Use notifications or time management apps on your smartphone. Schedule enough time throughout each week when you know you’ll have some quiet time to devote to your class assignments. If your boss allows it, sign on to your online course portal during your lunch hour at work or when you have a few minutes of downtime.
Bottom line – your work and education should never get in the way of each other, and you should always have adequate time for both. That’s why time management is a must.
6. Find peace and inspiration within the chaos.
Maintaining a hectic schedule can feel like you’re constantly running at full speed on a treadmill.
Here are some things you can do to de-stress during such a feverish time in your life:
- Post inspirational quotes on your computer.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise enough to keep your mind and body sharp.
- Meditate or use deep breathing techniques.
- Listen to pleasant music.
- Find time to squeeze in hobbies and other fun activities.
- Maintain all personal relationships.
7. Set goals for yourself. First off, be sure that the degree program in which you enroll is right for you. Then set specific goals on how many classes you intend to take each semester, which should give you a rough idea on when you’ll be able to graduate and restore some normalcy in your life again.
Also, if attaining a degree could result in advancement opportunities in your field, determine what type of career track could be in the cards for you.
Never lose sight that there’s a reason you’ve decided to pursue a college degree while maintaining a large workload in your professional life.
8. Tie in your job with your studies – and vice versa.
If your current job is even somewhat related to your coursework, find ways to connect the two when it makes sense.
Let’s say you are working on a social media marketing project in your job. Perhaps you could borrow some of the ideas behind it for a research paper you’ve been assigned in one of your marketing classes. Or, maybe your professor delved into a marketing concept recently that you could use at work to make a certain process more efficient.
9. Maximize your spending on education.
Although you may have a full-time job or other sources of steady income, it’s still important to ensure you are maximizing every penny you spend on your college education. This means doing your homework on academic programs of interest to you. Learn how highly rated your preferred programs are, and dig a little deeper to see how well graduates of such programs have done in the real world.
Once you’ve come up with a short list, try to pinpoint which program will result in the best return on investment so that you aren’t pouring all of your paychecks into coursework that may not really benefit your unique path in the future.
Do you have experience balancing a full-time job with earning a college degree? Share your insight to help others in the comments section below.