By: Mike Ward
Trying to work part-time while going to school full-time can be quite the challenge. You’re trying to juggle classes, homework, work, your social life and the battle to stay sane.
Is it possible to work full-time and study full-time? Sounds crazy right? Like a recipe for complete, flaming burnout, followed by dropping out of school. Only crazy people would try to work and study full-time.
Believe it or not, many people have very successfully attended school and held down a full-time job. These people are not crazy. They have friends and a social life and even families. They didn’t burn out or go off the deep end.
So how did they do it? Did they discover some method of slowing time which allowed them to move between locations rapidly?
They were just very smart and disciplined. They used some very specific methods.
You can do it too if you so desire. Here are 12 methods for working and studying full-time simultaneously without going completely crazy.
METHOD #1: FOCUS ON THE ENDGAME
This isn’t a method so much as an important reminder. When you’re studying and working full-time, things are going to get crazy. You’ll feel overwhelmed at times and wonder why you chose to do both simultaneously. You may even find yourself wanting to quit your job, school or both.
In those moments, you need to remember the end game. You’re working and studying simultaneously so you can so you can offset some of the student loans. Or because you’re supporting your family while also getting a degree. Or because you love your job and want to still go to school.
Keep these reasons in the front of your mind when things get rough. Take a breather and remember your big, “Why?”
METHOD #2: IMPROVE YOUR READING SPEED
Perhaps the greatest challenge when studying and working full time is keeping up with all the reading. It’s not uncommon to be loaded down with hundreds of pages each week, and with time at a premium it’s tricky to get it all done.
One specific technique is to improve your reading speed. Most people don’t realize that they read quite slowly and have much room for improvement. By implementing a few simple techniques, you can dramatically increase both your speed and comprehension.
METHOD #3: UTILISE HOLIDAY PERIODS
Depending on your job and time of year, you may get longer holiday breaks. This is especially true if you work as a teacher.
Take advantage of these breaks to get more studying done than normal or to even get ahead. Some programmes even offer accelerated courses during these periods or between semesters. Taking these accelerated courses allows you to get credits at a much more rapid pace.
METHOD #4: CAREFULLY BREAK UP YOUR READING/STUDYING
One of the biggest challenges of working and studying full time is managing the heavy study load. You need to carefully plan out when and how you’re going to study. One powerful method for managing your study load is to systematically break up your reading and studying into carefully proportioned periods.
For example, if you have 200 pages to read in two weeks, calculate how many study hours you will have available in the next two weeks. If you have ten hours available, you must read at least 20 pages per hour to complete your assignment. If you can’t read that fast, you’ll need to budget more study time in your schedule.
Breaking up your reading/studying into small, manageable chunks keeps you out of panic mode when you’re forced to read hundreds of pages at a time.
METHOD #5: TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF YOUR COMMUTE
Unless you work from home, you probably have a commute to work. Most adults have at least a 20 minute commute, with some driving much longer. Your commute time is perfect for getting some studying done. Some simple ways to do this are:
- Put study materials on flash cards review them when you come to stoplights (NOT WHILE DRIVING!).
- Download audio versions of your textbooks and listen to them as you drive.
- If you’re studying a subject that’s audio heavy, such as a language, record yourself saying your vocab words along with the definition. Then listen as you drive.
- Record your lectures using your smartphone and then listen as you drive. You can listen at 1.5x speed to get through the information more quickly.
Don’t waste your commute. It’s time that usually is filled with talk radio or music, which isn’t bad, but doesn’t help you in your pursuit of a degree.
METHOD #6: MAXIMIZE EVERY SPARE MINUTE
There are numerous times throughout the day when you have spares minutes. When you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up your child from school. These moments can easily be turned into micro study sessions.
Some simple ways to do that are:
- Carry flash cards with you everywhere. If you don’t want to carry them around, snap photos of them with your phone and use those to study.
- Utilise your phone. For example, if you’re a medical student, put anatomy photos on your phone.
- Download any relevant apps that can help you study.
- Find YouTube videos and watch them on your phone.
Don’t underestimate the power of small moments. A few minutes here and there quickly adds up to hours.
METHOD #7: MULTITASK DURING “NON-BRAIN” ACTIVITIES
Trying to multitask while you’re studying is a bad idea. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to focus on two things at once. However, there are many “non-brain” activities you do throughout your day, such as cooking, working out, bathroom breaks (seriously) or yard work.
Use these activities to get in extra study time. Keep a stack of flashcards near the bathroom. Listen to audio lectures while at the gym. Work on term memorisation while cooking dinner.
To the point above, small moments add up. If you can’t find large, uninterrupted blocks of study time, pile small moments on top of each other.
METHOD #8: CHOOSE YOUR SACRIFICE
In order to successfully work and study full-time, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Each day, consider making one sacrifice that will help you achieve your goal. Choose to give up something that will affect you and not others.
For example, instead of watching an hour of television, use that time to study. Instead of spending 40 minutes on social media, spend 40 minutes reviewing study terms. Don’t give up things like family time or a workout since those are critical to a healthy work-life balance. Rather, give up the things that only affect you.
METHOD #9: PLAN A STRATEGIC STUDY DAY
To avoid becoming overly stressed before big tests, plan a strategic study day. If possible, take a day off work to go over all the material that will be covered on the test. If you can’t take a day off work, use a Saturday to study.
Taking at least one strategic study day before a test will significantly lower your stress levels as well as prepare you to succeed.
METHOD #10: UTILISE PROVEN PRODUCTIVITY METHODS
The key to succeeding while working and studying full time is productivity. You must learn the art of being productive in the time you have. To that end, consider studying some proven productivity methods, such as The Eisenhower Matrix.
You don’t have to read a book to get a feel for these productivity methods. There are plenty of free videos and articles that can guide you.
METHOD #11: KEEP YOUR MANAGER IN THE LOOP
Unless you happen to be your own boss, you’ll need to keep your manager updated on your study schedule. Most managers will be supportive of your efforts as long as you keep them up to date on your comings and goings.
Make sure to tell your boss:
- If you need any particular times off for study.
- If you’ll be coming in early or late to make up for time off.
- If there will be any possible disruptions to your work schedule.
METHOD #12: CONSIDER ONLINE COURSES
Online courses can be ideal for someone trying to work and study full time. You don’t have to commute to a campus and you can usually watch lectures at your own convenience as long as you complete all assignments on time.
Online courses offer the flexibility that many traditional campuses don’t and can make it much easier to balance work and study.
Undoubtedly, it will be challenging to work and study full time, but it can be done. It requires strategic use of your time, dedication and sacrifice, but if you’re willing to make the effort, you can succeed.
As noted at the beginning, keep the endgame in mind. It’s hard work, but the results are wonderful.
About the Author
Mike Ward (M.Div) is director of enrollment and community development at Cornerstone University.
With eight years of higher education experience, Mike seeks to provide excellent student experiences.
This article has been modified to suit the NZ audience with Mike’s permission.