Working while in full time education poses time management challenges for most students. These challenges range from conflicting work and university schedules, coupled with post-work fatigue and loss of motivation once the coursework starts piling up.
The current university timetabling means that most students spend more time at home than on campus. Being able to establish a balanced schedule, to facilitate a seamless switch from work to school mode, would be an ideal start. The following suggestions may prove useful and hopefully alleviate the challenges of a work/study balance.
Notify Your Work: Once you confirm your university timetable and it conflicts with your work schedules, notify your work management and discuss a possible flexible work schedule. If a flexible work schedule is arranged, try your best to stick to it. Your boss may not find it funny if requests to change it become a weekly occurrence.
Speak to your course advisor about any challenges should you encounter increased difficulties with your university work.
Designate a Study Space: At home, having a designated study space is a good way to have some privacy and dedicate time for coursework. And your bed does not qualify as a “designated study space” I’m afraid. By studying in bed, you’re a few sentences away from a cosy nap - use every single bit of willpower you can muster to fight this urge.
A conducive study space outside the bedroom would be ideal, however if you can only attain privacy in your bedroom, a chair and a desk can go a long way. Distractions can come from family members or flatmates, hence the importance of having a calm private study space.
Create A Study Schedule: Creating a study schedule helps you to take the first step, write the first page of that essay - and before you know it, you’re already making progress. Scheduling could be allocating a certain amount of time to online classes, course work, reading and revision etc.
Feel free to mix-up your approach to this routine to keep it interesting. And as they say, progress begets progress – and with time you will have a working routine.
Time Management Technology Assistance: Apps such as myHomework are designed for students’ workload organisation. The app’s unique selling point is that it “helps students at any level improve their organization and become better students”.
The app is equipped with a calendar to schedule to-do lists such as your coursework and due dates, with weekly and monthly planning features. Like most apps, they all have a free basic plan, with the option to upgrade to a paid plan.
Allocate Time for Intermittent Breaks: Give yourself micro-breaks while studying/working at home. That momentary switch-off from tunnel vision to a wider gaze resets your focus and alertness.
These micro-breaks can be very useful as it breaks the monotony of physical and mental exhaustion. This could be a few seconds or minutes taken to go have a cup of tea, stretch or just staring out the window into the distance – whatever tickles your fancy.
Even a few seconds of micro-break can yield a disproportionately higher focus on your return. Studies by Journal of Environmental Psychology have shown that these tiny breaks can boost workers’ ability to re-focus, alter the way they see their jobs and even contribute to the avoidance of injuries.
Allocate Time for Brief Exercise: Start the day by breaking a sweat. This doesn’t mean running 200 miles or lifting the same weights as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson –10 minutes of jumping jacks or any aerobic exercise will do. It gives you a clear head to execute the day’s schedule.
According to the NHS, physical activity can boost alertness, mood, sleep quality and energy - hence reducing fatigue and the risk of stress and depression. By exercising first thing in the morning, you’re more likely to feel energized and motivated throughout the day.