Balancing study and life

How to balance work, family, friends and other commitments with studying a qualification.

As an adult, we all have responsibilities. You may have a job. You probably pay bills. You may even have a family. And hopefully you have a circle of friends. So what happens with all these commitments when you decide that you’d like to go back to study as well?

From the outset, it looks like balancing the lot is going to be near impossible but with a little planning and ingenuity it can be done.

At Customised Training, most of our students are working and need to juggle various commitments and responsibilities.   We have put together a list of things you may want to consider in your bid to balance out work, family, commitments, a social life and study.

Our first suggestion is to use a planner. Whether it’s a diary with a day to a page or a calendar, electronic or paper-based, a planner allows you to keep a track of your schedule. By filling in all of your fixed appointments like class times, work times, due dates, and familial obligations, you are able to see where your free time is and then schedule study or leisure time in accordingly.  If there isn’t enough time for everything once you’ve put it all into the planner then you may need to make some choices about some of the more optional activities.

Planners are also a good way to keep track of your accomplishments and keep the rest of the family up to date with your routine.

Things to make sure you include in your planner

Scheduling time for your family and family obligations is quintessential to the overall success of your plan. Make time for the laundry and groceries and most importantly, make time for your children.

They are still going to need you to feed them, love them and take them to school, daycare etc. Make time for your friends too, friendships grow with nourishment and although this takes time, don’t give up on friends altogether whilst you’re studying. It’s also a good idea to schedule in some time to spend with your friends on a regular basis. It will not only give you something to look forward to, but it will show your friends that you are making an effort.

You’ll find that some items scheduled in your planner need to be non-negotiable and then other items can be more flexible. Remember that it’s okay to say “no” to additional requests of your time or to events that aren’t necessary or enjoyable.

Perhaps the hardest thing to include into your planner is a little time for yourself. Most of the time, we are so focussed on getting things done that we forget to look after ourselves. In order to avoid burnout, it’s really important to spend some time alone each week or doing something that you really enjoy doing, even if it’s just an hour in a coffee shop or an hour reading a novel just for fun.

How to develop efficient study habits

There are 5 easy steps to creating effective study habits:

  • Get organised.  Add deadlines to your planner and keep your learning materials organised and in the one place.
  • Take really good notes. Focus on the main ideas covered in each class or training session and summarise statements. If there is something that your trainer constantly repeats in class, write it down as it will probably play an important part of your assessment task or be something that you need to remember for your career.
  • Find a suitable place to study. Some people need music to study while others need quiet. Wherever you study make sure it’s comfortable and there is plenty of light.
  • Reduce distractions. The key to efficient studying is to focus all of your efforts on the task at hand. You can focus for a short time, 20 minutes has proven to be effective and then take a short 5 minute break. So, close your email, turn off your television and disable the social media apps on your mobile for those focussed periods and do as much as possible during this focus period. Organise your work space so that you get rid of clutter and anything else that may be distracting like photos or knick-knacks (and definitely your phone!).
  • Study a little bit each day. Instead of leaving all of your study to the last minute we suggest you review your work and do a little every day. Besides, your brain is much better processing and retaining information learnt in this way.  If every day, doesn’t work for you, choose a few days each week on which you will study.
Make a list in order to work more efficiently

One of the best ways to work more efficiently (or do more in less time) is to create a list of all the things that you need to do:

  • Put the most important things at the start of the list and the least important at the end – stick to these priorities and don’t get distracted by unimportant matters that pop up.
  • Purchase the stationary that you need and file everything properly. This way you won’t waste your study time looking for what you need or organise your reading material. Make a list of what you need.
  • Break big projects on your list into smaller bite-sized tasks and list each of these.  As you complete each of these smaller tasks, you’ll feel a real sense of achievement and you’ll be one step closer to finishing your assessments and your qualification.
How to deal with stress

When you have lots on your plate, it’s very common for people to experience higher than normal levels of stress.  Whilst the presence of stress is not necessarily something you can change, it is something you can manage. You could try some of these methods and if you’re really feeling overwhelmed, remember to reach out to your trainer or a student support officer:

  • Try and keep work, home and your training separate.  In other words, only worry about work while you are at work and training while you are at class etc. Try and be fully present in each of these settings knowing that you have scheduled in time for the other commitments in your planner and you’ll get to them.
  • Give yourself regular short breaks (5-10 minutes). Get up from your study area, have a cup of tea, go for a walk or read a book.
  • Exercise!  This is arguably the most effective stress management tool. Not only does it reduce stress levels, it also stabilises moods, improves sleeping habits and increases your self-esteem. You can also keep up with family or friends at the same time by exercising with them which may also save you a little extra time.
  • Make time in your schedule to sleep as it increases your memory capabilities, helps you stay attentive and improves your overall mood.
  • Eat nutritious and healthy foods.  This will give you more energy and even help your brain function. Avoid fatty foods, sugary treats and excessive caffeine as they can affect your sleep schedule and make you lethargic.

 

At the end of the day, you need to be realistic so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do everything. Celebrate your successes no matter how great or small they are and when times are really tough, talk to your family, ask people for help and never forget the reasons you enrolled in your qualification in the first place. Finally, don’t forget that Customised Training, our focus is you and your success.  We have a whole team of trainers and student support officers who are on standby to help you along the way with your journey to a successful completion of your qualification.

 

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