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Kill Two Birds With One Stone: The Art of Combining Studies and Work

When people consider going back to college or university, many of them fear they won’t be able to do well in their studies and work a part-time or full-time job at the same time. Countless students across the globe have proved it is possible.

Of course, balancing the two can be tricky and it’s not for everyone. You have to prioritize your time and energy accordingly, maintain a strict schedule and, at times, make compromises. My personal experience as a nurse trying to improve my educational qualifications showed me a thing or two.

Here are some ways I discovered to combine work and study effectively.

1. Prioritize and manage your time

Managing your time is crucial to your success. You will need to plan ahead and adjust to a new routine. The demands are the same, whether you are a full-time student or a distance learner – online courses often require the same number of hours. Full-time students may have all kinds of distractions and enjoy all kinds of leisure activities. As a distance learner, you have to accept that something will have to go. You will need to prioritize and accept that you have to make some changes.

And, unfortunately, you will have to learn to say no to your friends more often – at least during busy times in the semester. You have to be realistic and realize that your social life may suffer to some extent. It helps to communicate and let those around you know when you are available to socialize and when you need to study.

2. Plan carefully

The biggest issue I faced when I first started my online studies is that I would plan mentally, but I didn’t write it all down. It’s helpful to print out the study program, so that you have all the details about the courses and deadlines for assignments. You will need to develop a realistic plan to fit in all the hours you need to study.

Make sure that deadlines for submission of assignments are clearly marked on a calendar and you stick to them or the workload becomes impossible as unfinished assignments pile up. Starting an assignment well before its due date can definitely remove some unnecessary stress from your life!

Utilizing weekends and evenings will mean making some sacrifices such as not going out on a Friday night. You will need to become familiar with what is expected from you for a semester and then allocate certain hours to study on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

3. Work smart

Both your studies and your job are equally important, but you may be able to find ways to utilize spare time at work to study. I found that writing study notes on index cars and go over them during breaks was helpful. As a nurse seeking to improve my career, I found that my study courses helped me in my work and vice versa.

It took a while for me to realize that technology could help me to study smarter. My iPhone contains app calendars and in-built reminders. Psychologically, knowing that you’re supposed to be working on an assignment rather than watching TV can make a difference.

4. Manage stress levels

There will be those days when you feel that what you have taken on is impossible and you just want to give up. It is stressful to combine work and studies. You need to watch for burnout. Drinking too much coffee, losing interest in your work and your studies, becoming irritable and not being able to concentrate are all warning signs.

Take a break every now and then, even if it’s for only half an hour. You will find this helps you to concentrate better when you return to your studies. Stay physically active, get enough sleep, eat healthy foods and you have less chance of burning out.

5. Remind yourself why you’re doing it

You had very good reasons for wanting to study. Keep these in mind constantly to give you incentive. You could be stuck in a rut at work and want to further your education to give you access to more interesting, higher paying jobs. Distance learning offers the great advantage of being able to be done in conjunction with your existing job and other responsibilities. It offers flexibility to gain a new qualification at the same time as being able to earn. Another benefit is that you can work at your own pace.

See this as an opportunity to grow, learn how to balance the important things in your life and how to organize effectively. I found I definitely developed a better sense of time and organization when I entered those essential times, dates, times of shifts and study hours on my iPhone calendar. You may have some difficult moments when you have to switch off that TV and work on an assignment.

I look back on that time and realize how hard it was, what sacrifices I had to make and how I often wanted to give up. However, I also realize that I would never be where I am in my career if I hadn’t gone through it. I would have been stuck at a certain level for the rest of my life.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you find a job after college? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

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About the Author Mark Thomson

Mark Thomson is young and devoted freelance writer from New York City. As an Assignment Masters associate, Mark creates content for education, self-development and career-making fields providing readers only with essential up-to-date info and advice.