As the saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Full-time students will tell you they wish they could start working already, while full-time employees will reminisce fondly on their free-wheeling days at university.
But what color is the grass if you have a foot on each side? For people going to school and working full time, coveting the commitments of others is not an option.
So, when you’re trying to tackle two of the toughest, all-consuming endeavors a person can pursue at the same time, how do you do it without getting stuck in the weeds? These three tips can help. Class is in session.
#1 Tighten Up Your Time Management
This tip is a classic, but it needs to be said. When you’ve given yourself a feat that many would deem impossible, time management is key.
Here are some tips to make you a master of your time:
- Write out your schedule – Make it a daily or weekly task to jot down all your school and work assignments, meetings, classes, exam dates, and events on a productivity or calendar app, plus a distinct breakdown of how you’ll be using your free time to study or catch up on work. You can also go old-school by writing it all in a charming bullet journal (a habit that doubles as a therapeutic and creative exercise!).
- Optimize for excellence – Take advantage of those small fifteen-to-twenty-minute breaks between work and classes to do menial school tasks like answering emails, writing down homework assignments, or organizing your desk. Use longer stretches of time to hunker down and study.
- Schedule the fun stuff – Allot time for recreational and social activities like going out with friends, finishing that embroidery project, or playing video games. Not only will this give you something concrete to motivate yourself with, but it will also keep you from overstaying your welcome at game night and under-studying for that exam.
#2 Plan Your Course Schedule Strategically
If you attend a college or university, you know that there are only so many seats in the classes you need to graduate. When it comes to planning your schedule, you need to snag those essential classes.
But how do you do that while also working full-time?
Pure strategy. Here are a few for starters:
- Speak to your academic advisor about nabbing the earliest registration date possible.
- To make adequate time for both school and work, try front-loading your classes each day, so you’re done by, say, 2 p.m. (and can start work at 3 p.m.).
- Alternatively, front-load your weeks, so you’re only taking classes from Monday through Wednesday, and then working from Thursday through Saturday, as an example.
If you’re pursuing something like MLO training or a BCA program online, you have even more flexibility around your education. In that case, you may want to plan your work schedule first and schedule-in classes after.
#3 Don’t Just Manage Time, Manage Energy
Any full-time employee or student will tell you: burnout is real. And when those two are the same person? Burnout is very, very real.
That’s why juggling school and work is about more than getting your schedule right—it’s also about recognizing that you are a human, not a machine. That means that, even though you have sixteen waking hours available to you each day, you shouldn’t be filling all of them with school tasks and work shifts.
To stay cool under pressure and avoid burnout, try these strategies:
- Communicate with professors or managers about extra busy weeks. Let’s say you have a big presentation on the same day as a huge exam. Instead of stressing over it alone, notify both your manager and your prof far in advance to see if either of them can finagle the dates in your favor. While this isn’t always possible, it’s certainly worth a try.
- Invest time in self-care, like occasional facial appointments, naps, or meditation sessions. Try to allot time each morning and night to a consistent skincare routine and an hour each week for rejuvenating yoga. Whatever your self-care ritual may be, it will do wonders for your productivity.
- Plan breaks into your schedule so that you’re not constantly over-planning and under-delivering. Instead, observe how your energy levels shift throughout the day and create a study schedule that aligns with your most energetic states (maybe don’t plan that one-hour meeting during your classic post-lunch slump).
Be Proud of Yourself, No Matter the Obstacles You Face
Before diving into a planning frenzy, take a deep breath, remember why you’re doing this, and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You are pursuing an education and a career at the same time. That is no easy feat. When things get tough, and you feel down, remind yourself that you are strong, brilliant, and resilient.
Good luck at work and in school! You got this.