How to Balance Online Classes with Working Full Timeposted by Mark on April 29th, 2009
Many people who choose to enroll in an online school over a traditional school do so because they work full-time, and the time saved by attending classes at home allows them to juggle work and school responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task to balance. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of your job-school shuffle.
- Make a schedule. Write down your work and class obligations that have fixed times. See how your days shape up, where your inflexible time lies and where there are times that you can adjust if needed for work or school obligations. Set aside a block of time daily for schoolwork, preferably at the time of day you are most comfortable studying. If you’re an early bird, maybe you should get up early to study before work. Schedule social events, like meeting up with friends, to avoid vague plans that waste time; your time is more valuable now than ever. Keep a calendar on your desk clearly marked with due dates, test dates, etc.
- Communicate. Let both your family and your boss know about your hectic schedule. Your family should know when your “study time” is and that it’s off-limits, to avoid distractions and make your studying as efficient as possible. If you share a computer, everyone should abandon it when it’s your time to work. When you keep your family abreast of your schedule and goals, they serve as a support system. At work, ask your boss if it’s OK use your lunch break to work on homework.
- Adjust your work schedule if possible. Will going in earlier, working on weekends or telecommuting create more time or allow you to complete more work? If you’re working on a degree or certificate that can help you in your current job, there’s a good chance that your boss will be flexible about letting your rearrange your schedule as needed to accommodate tests and projects. Ask well in advance for the day off before a final exam or major project. If it turns out that you don’t need the time off, you can always go in to work.
- Prioritize. You can’t get everything done at once. Focus on one task at a time — either work or school. Take time out each week to prioritize what projects you have to work on first in both settings.
- Use your work knowledge in your schoolwork. You might take it for granted, but a few years of work experience can be very valuable. Think about all you’ve learned on the job and how it might apply to your class. Is there something you work every day that can be the subject of a school project (assuming you’re not giving away company secrets)?
- Let you kids help. If you have kids who are craving your attention, let them help you study by creating flash cards or asking them to quiz you.
- Don’t take your job home with you. Even if it means staying a little late or going in a little early, chances are you’ll be more productive at work than at home. Leave home for schoolwork.
- Resist taking a semester off. Procrastination has a snowball effect, and the farther you are away from school, the more daunting it is to return. And when you have a job, you tend to feel like you don’t have time to do anything else — until you try.
- Use school resources. Use any school resources (orientation, tutoring, time management tips, study skills training, online library) that can make you feel more comfortable in the situation and help you save time.
- Use you classmates to help you stay motivated. Forming an online study group or otherwise keeping in contact with classmates won’t just help you feel vested in the class, it will also help you understand the material better and make the class a more fun experience, making you less likely to drop out.
- Be prepared. Keep your course materials with you so you can use any unexpected downtime to study.
- Use your family and friends to help with chores and errands. They know you’re in a hectic time in your life, so they’ll be willing to help out; it won’t be forever.
- Take time out for your loved ones. You’re so busy that you’re liable to neglect those closest to you, so take time out for them. Even allot time for it on your schedule so that you enjoy the time without worrying that you’re taking away from your schoolwork.
- Minimize stress. Get enough sleep (catch up on weekends if needed), exercise, eat healthy, drink water, take breaks, enjoy your family (see above). Expect disruptions in your schedule, and roll with the punches.
- Stay positive. Set goals, remind yourself why you’re taking classes and what you’d like to achieve. Visualize the prize. Plan your academic path and the steps you need to make it to the finish line.
- Realize your shortcomings. If you find yourself unraveling and don’t see how you can maintain the balance between work and school, don’t force yourself and jeopardize your job or your future. Talk with your boss and your loved ones about the options: taking a leave of absence, dropping classes, working from home. Reevaluate what your goals are and how you can accomplish them.