Holding down a job while trying to study is a massive challenge. When you’re studying and working, you never seem to have any time, and usually both initiatives suffer. You seem stuck in a cycle of chasing deadlines, late nights, early mornings, and not always getting everything that needs doing done.
Balancing work and studies is always going to be tricky. You’ll likely feel that you’re always being pulled in two directions as you try to prioritize both. On top of that, you’re probably going to want something that resembles a social life too.
It’s all about finding that balance, being smart with your time, and constantly reminding yourself of the goal.
If you’re studying towards the career of your dreams, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated. It’s important to stay grounded in the reason you are studying so that it stays a priority.
That’s not to say that you can’t make some changes in your life to help you find more time for your studies.
Here are six tips that will help you to prioritize, focus, and possibly even enjoy your studies even more:
1. Minimize distractions
Distractions are the number one killer of productivity. They can be in the form of social media, family members, pets, and even your email. When you need to focus on studying, it’s incredibly easy to let a new email or a TikTok notification pull you away for half an hour or longer. This is why setting up the right space for studying is critical.
If you can avoid it, don’t study in your bedroom or living room. These are areas for relaxing and not for working. Rather, set yourself up at a table and chair with your computer at the right height for your neck and shoulders. Make it a comfortable space that you want to spend time in, but not a space where you want to relax.
Next, when it’s time for studying, don’t have your email open on your computer and definitely don’t have any social media open. Turn off notifications on all of your devices – e.g. Do Not Disturb mode – so that you aren’t tempted to open anything that isn’t related to studying.
2. Avoid multitasking
Multitasking is another big killer of productivity. It’s impossible to finish a task properly if you are splitting your focus across more than one thing. Trying to read your textbook while cooking dinner may seem like a good idea. But it will really lead to the information not sinking into your brain and possibly a burned meal.
Stanford University studies show that our brains are better put to use when focusing on just one task at a time. We also use less energy this way. It’s important to create a schedule for yourself that has you focusing on one major task at a time. You’ll find that you can get more done in the same amount of time because you aren’t stretching yourself in different directions.
3. List and prioritize daily and weekly tasks
We all have tasks we do every day and every week. These include chores around the house as well as what we need to get done at work and for our studies. In order to create a schedule that works for you, it’s important to list these tasks in order of priority.
Priority tasks should get scheduled first. Then, look at the tasks that are less critical. Perhaps you could hand some of the housework over to the people you live with.
At work, if there are admin tasks like invoicing that could be temporarily handed over to someone else or at least become a shared responsibility, talk to your boss about how to do that. Often minor tasks are easy to reassign but can free up plenty of time.
4. Rely on your support system
Burning the candle at both ends is something that a working student will have to do for a period of time. It’s not sustainable, and it certainly isn’t possible to do without some kind of support system. It’s critical to talk openly with your family and friends, especially those who are in your everyday life, about what you are going through and to ask them for help.
These people won’t be able to do the studying for you or work your job. However, they can take away some of your stress by being there when you need them. This could mean cooking you dinner once a week so you can have an extra hour at the books. It could mean helping you study for a big test or proofreading your assignment while you’re at work.
5. Talk to your boss and teachers
Your boss and your teachers won’t know the full extent of what you’re working on unless you tell them. If you are open and upfront with them about the demands on your time, they are more likely to be lenient about deadlines where they can be.
If you have a big test coming up at school, ask your boss in advance for a half-day at work (if you can) so you can study. Alternatively, you could ask to change your shifts to align with your classes more easily. At school, let your teachers know that you also have a job and if there is something pressing at work, it could impact your studies. Communicating ahead of time makes people more likely to be flexible with you.
6. Prioritize personal time
We often get so wrapped up in scheduling our work and study time that we forget about downtime. This is a vital part of life and we need to make time for ourselves, otherwise we will burn out. This includes getting a balanced diet, exercising, taking a night off to sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix, hanging out with friends, and whatever else you enjoy.
Elite athletes build in rest time into their training. Your brain also needs rest time if it’s going to perform at high levels.
Make time to save time
You can’t slow down time, but you can make it work for you. There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s what you do with those hours that count.
A little perseverance, discipline, and planning will help you balance work and studying and leave you with time for a life in between.