Studying towards a qualification can present a range of new challenges – and if you’re studying part-time around work or family (or both), one of the greatest challenges can be finding the time and motivation.
Whether you’re studying online or visiting a campus for lectures or practical units, there are some great study habits you can adopt early to help you manage your time and find the right balance.
Be open about your situation
Be realistic about your responsibilities to both your employer and your study commitments. Starting a course may mean you can no longer work overtime or might need to attend exams at certain times, but letting your boss know about this early on will help manage their expectations. They may be happy to negotiate flexible hours to help you reach your study goals.
Space it out
Avoid trying to cram a week’s worth of study time into one session. Instead, aim to space your study out over the week into regular bite-sized sittings. You’ll retain more information, and you’ll be less likely to feel like your study time is a burden to be squeezed into an already busy schedule.
Get into a routine
Wondering how to study effectively between work and parenting? Figure out a study schedule that is going to work for you and then make it part of your routine.
For example, if you’re most effective in the morning, try getting up an hour earlier and studying over breakfast. If you’re most focused in the evenings when the kids are asleep, set aside a block of time after work or dinner.
Having a routine doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible – it just allows you to have hours set already aside for study, so finding the time isn’t something else to add to your To Do list.
Set mini goals
Part-time learning means you’ll need to maximise every hour you dedicate to study. Knowing what you want to achieve from each session and setting mini goals (read two chapters of a text book, write 500 words for your next assignment) can help you stay on task, and be more time efficient.
Sneak in incidental study
People talk a lot about the benefits of incidental exercise, such as parking further away and walking an extra block to get to work. This means sneaking in small opportunities to be active, so it doesn’t feel like you’re dedicating more time to getting fit.
The same ‘incidental’ principle applies to study and the opportunity to leverage free time for learning. Create audio files of your course readings to listen to as you drive to work or go for your morning run, or keep a notebook with important concepts in it, so you can flick through when you’re waiting for the train or having a coffee break at work.
If you’re an online student, check if your coursework can be accessed via your mobile phone or tablet and take the opportunity to study anytime, or anywhere.
Make smart sacrifices
If you’re juggling part-time study with work or raising a family, you’re going to need to make some sacrifices. To avoid feeling like you’re missing out, try and make smart sacrifices so you can still enjoy time with family and friends. Many people find that skipping just one hour of TV each night to be the best option – and you can always catch up on your favourite show when your study is complete.
Enlist the support of your squad
Tell friends and family about your reasons for studying, and ask for their support. If you’re balancing part-time study with being a parent, work out a routine that will allow your partner or extended family take care of the kids a couple of times a week, so you can focus on hitting the books.
Remember that this is temporary
When times get tough and your motivation fades, remember that your situation is temporary, and you won’t be studying forever. Think about your reasons for studying – to move into a new industry, or secure a promotion – and remind yourself that the small sacrifices you’re making now will pay off when your goals have been achieved.
Looking for more ways to get the most out of your course? Maximise your study time with these 5 study apps to keep your organised.