Going Back to School? Learn to Juggle Education and Work
Being in school not only implies coursework but also on-campus activities, involvement in student organizations, internships, conferences, social engagements and much more. It can be difficult to manage these engagements while preserving sanity. In this article, we will discuss techniques and tools to be successful academically, and how to be career-oriented while practicing self-care.
Scheduling School and Work
Being a full time student is already a high stress time period. Throwing work into the mix only makes things more turbulent. The key to managing stress is to schedule, schedule and schedule. To be successful in the long term, scheduling everything from a morning routine, to recreation, to coursework, to meetings is essential. This way you ensure that you are making purposeful use of your time. When scheduling, try to pay attention to your energy throughout the day and prioritize accordingly. This way you can leverage your learning/ productivity habits to create the most efficient schedule. Another tip is to schedule your midterms and finals when you receive your school syllabus to keep track of important dates and take days off from work accordingly.
Tools: I rely heavily on Google Calendar to manage my week and set reminders.
In order to successfully schedule, you will have to master setting SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. In order for your goal to be specific, ask yourself the five “W” questions: What am I trying to achieve? Why? Which resources? Who is involved? And where?
Additionally, it is important to make your goals measurable so you can track progress and stay motivated. Using quantifiable metrics like the number of sub-tasks is a great way to track progress. In terms of achievability, try to keep your goals as realistic as possible with pertinent constraints but still stretching ability as much as possible. Making your goal relevant means that the goals align with your essence and matter to you. You want to ensure your time is being consumed by goals that you deem worthwhile. Finally, make your goals time bound by setting deadlines and breaking them down into tangible tasks.
Tools: Trello is an online task board which is very helpful in setting up SMART goals and tracking progress of your action plan to stay motivated!
Streamlining means finding the most efficient methods to organize a system. Streamlining your tasks helps cut down on wastage and creates more time to be spent meaningfully. An example would be cutting down on commute time by finding a job on campus. One silver lining of the pandemic is that working remotely definitely helps create more free time in between school and work. You can also schedule multiple classes on the same day to avoid unproductive gap time while remote. Another example would be to meal prep ahead of time and cook in bulk. This way you can bring prepared meals to school/ work and save time on cooking or standing in queues to buy food while staying healthy.
Tools: Subscription based meal kits drastically reduce cooking time and save trips to the grocery store!
Communicate and Network
Be sure to maintain an open stream of communication with your professors, peers and employers. Keeping them in the know makes it easier to ask for time off from work when you are overwhelmed, ask for an extension for an assignment from school, or even create a study group with peers. Your professors and employers will be more understanding of your elevated stress levels and try to help you out whenever possible. Networking with peers will also help you stay focused, inform you of activities and resources on campus, and, above all, collaboration with peers will contribute to streamlining of course loads.
Above all, maintaining a healthy state of mind is most important. Be sure to get a good night of sleep, this will keep you focused and productive throughout the day. Taking at least an hour a day to destress through yoga, or watching your favorite show or reading is also key to practicing self-care. Do not look at this as a waste of time but rather as investment in your mental health as taking breaks is proven to increase efficiency in daily tasks. Furthermore, it prevents burn-out, reduces chances of both physical and mental exhaustion and keeps you motivated for the long haul!
Tools: Journaling and meditation apps like Headspace are a great way to practice mindfulness and distress throughout the day.