Balancing Work and School

Today is Wednesday, so this post is on outstanding performance.

Technical competence is the most fundamental part of outstanding performance.  Often, young professionals find themselves finishing a BA or getting an MBA while they are working.  This is a great way to hone your technical skills. 

However, balancing the demands of work and school are not easy.  I know.  I was working full time while I was getting my MA at the University of Colorado.  I was in a two year program – for full time students.  It was supposed to take four years at night.  Being the overachiever I am, I completed the degree in two years.  This meant going to school from 5:30 – 10:30 Monday through Thursday for two years straight – including summers.  It’s no wonder that when I decided to do my EdD, I decided to quit my job and go to school full time.

I found a great wikiHow on how to balance work and school.  Here it is…

You’ve found a great opportunity: you’re able to work and go to school to earn a degree or take courses for personal interest. But once you’ve started, you can’t seem to find time to fit everything in. Here are some guidelines for working students who can’t seem to find enough time in a day.

Be organized. Keep your school materials organized and in one place. Mark upcoming deadlines on your calendar and start school projects early to allow sufficient time to complete them in case other things come up in the meantime. If you’re taking several courses at once, don’t spend all of your time on one course while other deadlines begin to loom on the horizon.

Create a flexible schedule. Some parts of your schedule are going to be inflexible, such as class times and work days. Fit homework and studying in when you’re either not in class or not at the office. Build a routine that you can stick to, but are able to adjust if other important things come up. As a working student, you have to be ready to adapt to new assignments, unexpected errands, and sudden work crises that need to be addressed immediately.  Build enough study time into your schedule that if something unexpected comes up, you can shift it into another slot during the week.

Communicate your schedule to your employers, friends, clients and family. Make sure the people around you know where you’ll be and when. Sign up for an online calendar and send the URL to the people who depend on knowing where you are and when. Not everyone you work with will understand the demands of being a student and, similarly, not all of your classmates will understand the additional responsibilities of working while in school.

Manage your stress. Stress is an inevitable part of being a student and a worker–combine both together and you can expect to be stressed out. As much as you may try to prevent stress, you’re going to have to learn how to relieve as well.

  • Take those much-needed breaks. Give yourself time to collect yourself when you need it the most, so you can re-approach things with a clear head.
  • Be active: stretch, swim, run, lift. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps relieve stress and you’ll find if the more you get out and exercise, the easier work and school will seem. Exercising is commonly known to reduce stress.
  • Vent. Get things that bother you off your chest. Be vocal. Talk to the people closest around you and rant about your professors who can’t reply to e-mails and bosses who demand cover pages for TPS reports. Don’t let negative feelings build up.
  • Live.  Don’t forget to enjoy life. Don’t get bogged down by nuances of the demands of your academic and professional life. Take time to experience the world around you and appreciate your relationships in life. See movies, read books, watch sports. Don’t forget to squeeze in the things that make life worth living into your schedule.
  • Be realistic. There may not be enough time for everything, so get your priorities straight and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish every single task you’ve set out to do on a given day. Stay positive and be thankful that you have the opportunity to make a living and get an education–two things many people in the world go without.

Remember why you’re doing it. By taking on work and studies at the same time, you’re accepting a challenge that most people don’t dare to attempt. But, you wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t have strong reasons and motivation. Whether it’s the desire to pay your way through school and remain debt-free, or because you want to get ahead in your career (or switch to your dream career), or simply because you know that life is short and you want to make the most of it–keep your goals in mind whenever it starts to feel like too much.

Tips

  • Keep work and school separate. Don’t worry about work while you’re at school, and vice versa. Keep them separate, and focus on one thing at a time.
  • Find online tools that are useful for time management, such as calendars, reminders, etc. Use portal pages to arrange easy access to both work and school related websites.
  • Plan your academic path. Figure out what steps you need to make it to where you want to go and set goals for yourself. Do you need 5 courses to finish a program? Find out when they’re offered and create a multi-year schedule.
  • Guilty pleasures. Everybody has them. Whether it’s MTV, MySpace, or getting lost in idle chit-chat with your neighbor, if there’s an activity that you tend to get caught up in but that doesn’t further your goals in life, avoid it like the plague.
  • Work smarter, not harder.
  • Get buy-in from friends and family. School will limit the amount of social time you have. It’s important to keep these relationships healthy while you have limited time for them. Communicate via e-mail on a regular basis.
  • Create some sort of progress measurement. Cross completed classes off of a list or use a countdown clock to measure time to completion. This will help keep your eyes on the prize.

Warnings

  • Be aware of the signs of burnout and make adjustments if you feel like you’re at the end of your rope.
  • Doing school and work at the same time might not be for everyone. Be realistic and prioritize. Don’t let going to school part-time jeopardize your income if you can’t handle being unemployed.

This wikiHow presents some great common sense advice on how to balance the competing demands of work and school.  Continuing your education is always a good way to become a better performer. 

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: www.CommonSenseGuy.com for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Bud

PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to www.FirstGiving.com/TheCommonSenseGuy to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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