Helpful tips for managing your studies and a job

When you consider to pursue Higher Education do you first ask yourself  ‘Will I be able to handle both my job and studies at the same time?’ Or are you like me, and just go ahead and apply, with the belief that you will make everything work?

A can do attitude is a positive trait to have, but it is important to balance it with self discipline.  So here are a couple of tips with examples from my own experience to help you with your Higher Education journey.

1) Prioritise your tasks
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks. I know, being a mother, an employee, friend, volunteer and all the other roles I fulfilled while I was a part-time student. There were times when I felt there were not enough hours in the day to complete my many tasks. So I had to learn to prioritise.

I have a tendency to want to do everything I set my mind to, so I had to learn how to manage my time effectively or end up failing to complete all my priority tasks.

There were some things I had to limit, such as socialising every weekend, or spending hours doing unimportant things like watching television. Tasks I enjoyed such as socialising and reading romantic novels were my treats for when I had done something significant in my studies.  My Bestie Tanya would laugh at me and exclaim “wow! you really know how to celebrate” when I would tell her I had bought a new novel to read as my treat.

2) Time management

Being a mother was my priority and ensuring my son had a balance of educational, social and enrichment activities was very important.  Many of my sons enrichment and social activities took place during the evenings and weekends and I was his chauffeur.  To manage my time effectively, instead of completing four journeys to and from his activities,  I would bring my study material with me and sit in the car, or find a quiet place in the building, or outside in the grounds and study.

At first I would sit with other parents do all the pleasantries and then focus on my reading material.  On one occasion when my son was about 9 years old, I can remember he was upset because someone had mentioned that ‘his mother was always reading’ and not acting like the other ‘mothers’.  I explained to my son the importance of being an individual and not being pressured to conform to peer pressure, while taking into account how he felt.

This situation made me realise I had not got the balance right, so I had to change my behaviour slightly. I did this by studying out of sight and then spending a little time with the other parents before my son finished his activity.

I was very creative in finding time to study. I would take public transport to and from work so I could study. I was able to increase my weekly study time by 10%.

It was important for me to decide on a minimum and maximum number of hours to study each week because I could quite easily become engrossed in my study.  I studied a minimum of 14 hours and a maximum of 30 hours.  This may sound a lot, but when you break it down over a 7 day period it really isn’t.

Below is an example of a typical week for combining my studies, work, looking after my son and my other motherly duties.

My daily commute to and from work was approximately one hour.  I used this time to read.

My son was a member of a swimming club and attended two evenings a week, so while he trained I spent this time studying.

I did the majority of my studying at the weekends, starting Friday evening.  Once my son went to bed I would generally spend 3 hours studying. Saturday mornings while he attended another one of his activities I would study.

Once my Saturday chores were complete and I had spent quality time with my son doing something fun. I would spend the late evening studying.  Likewise on Sunday after church and spending time with my son, I would study. As my son got older and he spent more time on his own studies, we would study together.

During my busier weeks I would cook larger portions of food to last a couple of days. I would also cook extra meals at the weekends so I could freeze and store them in portions. This saved me from having to cook daily and ensured my son and I ate healthily and heartily.

My week was not as rigid as it may seem. The more hours I studied during the week,  the less studying I had to do at the weekend. This was my incentive to study for at least one hour before I went to bed during the week.  Once my monthly essays were submitted to my supervisors a week before my supervision I could treat myself with a novel and knock myself out.😁

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