Q & A: How to Find Work-School Balance

Everyone has just 168 hours in a week, but some folks can magically squeeze more into that block of time. If you’ve wanted to go back to school, but haven’t quite figured out how to do it and work at the same time, this Q&A can help.

Q: Why bother with time management?
A: College takes time. A rule of thumb is to spend at least two hours studying for every hour of class. The typical full-time college load is 12 credit hours, so between classes and studying, you can expect to commit 36 hours to school. If you’re working a 40-hour work week, then you’re already looking at around 80 hours out of your week–not counting life stuff, such as eating and showering. According to the website of Muskingum College’s Center for Advancement and Learning, “The main reason for managing time is to provide structure to one’s life and, in turn, peace of mind. Managing time is just something one does for one’s own psyche, to make one’s days easier.”

Q: How can you get organized?
A: The website of the Career Center at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte advises students to keep only one calendar for work, school assignments, and personal commitments. Consolidating will save you time (because you don’t have to update multiple calendars) and will prevent assignments from slipping through the cracks.

First, collect all of your course syllabi so you have access to your exam dates, paper or presentation due dates, and so on. Karen Jo Shapiro, a career coach and licensed psychologist who helps people manage life balance and avoid burnout, recommends finding out as much as you can about assignments from your professors in advance, so you can break down bigger assignments into more manageable pieces. Dates to complete those smaller pieces should also be included on your calendar.

Be sure to also keep in communication with your boss so that you can manage big work projects and adjust deadlines to avoid having high-value school projects or exams on the same days as high-value work projects.

Q: How can you study most effectively?
A: Shapiro recommends finding a time and place to study that is relatively free from distractions. Andhow you study is important, too. Muskingum College’s website offers these tips to help you retain the information you’re studying:

1. Develop a plan for studying: when, what, and for how long. (Add that to your calendar!)

2. Break your study time into half-hour chunks and mix up the types of activities (for instance, outlining, reading, and writing) to get the most out of your attention span and to decrease boredom.

3. Review materials several times, but space out those review sessions.

Q: How can you tell how you’re doing?
A: Self-assessment is going to be an important ongoing part of your time-management strategy as you move toward school-work balance. If you’re new to time management, take two full weeks to evaluate your strategy’s effectiveness and determine whether your time-management skills are improving. Start by reflecting on the following questions:

1. How is your organizational plan working for you? Have you missed classes? Deadlines?

2. Have you accomplished all you set out to do? If not, why not?

3. Have you taken too many classes? Are your expectations reasonable?

Q: Where can you turn for help?
A: With a limited amount of time, you’ll need to learn to utilize all the resources that are available to you. Shapiro suggests that students gather support: “Speak with your boss and colleagues to let them know what you’re doing and how you think it will help you perform better, if it will–or just that you want to further your education. Accept help offered from family and friends. Make use of resources at your school, whether it is online or at a campus.”

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