So, you’re a full-time student. A parent. A spouse. An active volunteer. In other words, your plate is full.
Let’s face it – doing well in college is a challenge all by itself, but when you add all kinds of other responsibilities (that most of us have), it’s even harder. How can you strive for a healthy work-life-school-everything else balance? Here are six tips:
Schedule your weeks.
It might sound over the top, but the best way to organize your time is, well, to organize your time. Block out time for the non-flexible parts of your day, such as work, school, and commuting. Then, divide the rest of your time into homework time, family time, and flex time. Once a schedule is in place, look for ways to multitask when it makes sense and tasks that you can easily outsource or delegate. Build in time for some of those “wants,” too – exercising, friend time, or whatever helps you de-stress. Managing your time carefully will help you make the absolute most of it.
Get your support system on board.
Whether you’re going back to school after raising kids, or going for the first time, or you’re anywhere in between, college is a big commitment. Even the best students find that it isn’t easy. It helps to have support, whether from friends, parents, a spouse, or a boss. When you make the decision to go to school, sit down with the important people in your life and share your goals, hesitations, and fears. Tell them how they can encourage you along the way, keep you on track, and be your cheerleader when you need motivating.
Get your employer on board, too.
You may be holding down a full-time job in addition to school. Talk to your boss and colleagues to let them know your plans and schedule, if it means you’ll need to leave work at a certain time for evening classes or would like a little flexibility. Your employer may have ideas to help you through school, especially if part or all of your studies are applicable to your job. Having the support of your employer is an important part of attaining a balanced life.
College is a marathon, so pace yourself. It’s easier to take smaller, defined steps toward something than to work toward one daunting goal. It’s also important not to burn yourself out early. An academic advisor can help you develop an academic plan. What are the requirements of your program? Put specifics (and specific dates) on paper. Tracking your progress will help keep you focused on the end goal and gives you reason to celebrate each small step toward it.
Ask for help.
If you’ve been to any college orientation programs, you’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. Maybe you’ve been out of school for 20 years and your computer skills consist of emailing and nothing else. Maybe you have a learning disability that you fear will get in the way of your success. Explore your campus for support services – you’ll be surprised how many centers, offices, staff, and resources are dedicated to helping students overcome challenges. With proper support, you’ll make the most of your time and efforts and will avoid spinning your wheels.
Focus on the thing you’re doing.
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind about striving for balance is that you can’t be everything to everyone all the time. When you’re studying, keep your mind on studying. When you’re with your kids, try not to be distracted by your long to-do list. And if you take an evening off, enjoy it. If you’ve allotted time for something, give it the attention it deserves and don’t feel guilty about setting aside other things for a bit.
We all have different responsibilities and commitments in our lives that make going to college a challenge. What’s worked for you in achieving a more balanced life?