If the stress of juggling school, work, and family is making life difficult, you are not alone. In 2011, 71% of the nation’s 19.7 million college undergraduates also worked while getting a degree. Two in five worked at least 20 hours a week. One in five worked at for least 35 hours. A quarter have dependent children.
Not surprisingly, time-shortage is one of the biggest reasons for students dropping out before completing their degree. So how do you make sure that you stay the course? Here are top five tips for managing your time for academic – and professional – success.
Does your college offer courses that work with your life rather than against it? You’ll have a better chance of attaining your life goals if they do. So, talk with the admissions counselor and find out if courses are available online as well as in class, whether courses are flexible, and whether you can complete your program at your own pace. Many campuses offer help with time management, so try to find out what support is available. You could even consider setting up a peer mentoring program to give and get support from fellow students if your college doesn’t have one.
You should also talk to your employer. Assess when busy periods are likely to be, and try to avoid big assignments at the same time. Show commitment and consideration, and you are more likely to get your boss’s support. If you can, look for assignments where you can exploit your professional experience – it’s a more efficient use of your time.
Busy, successful people understand what they can do each day, how they use their time, and what can realistically be accomplished. Learn from their techniques and you can do the same.
Record your daily activities to find out how much time you really have. Assign a specific time to important tasks rather than hoping they will happen at some point. Get smart when prioritizing tasks so that ‘clean the attic’ does not have the same weight as ‘write term paper.’ Build in buffer time for the inevitable interruptions. And set time limits for each task to stop it spreading into the rest of your day.
Once you have your schedule, beat procrastination by breaking down massive projects into manageable blocks. Work is usually the best way to get working: so start with small tasks to get the ball rolling. Finally, once you’re in the zone, note any good ideas that pop up and move on. That way your ideas for your company’s Sales Conference won’t distract you from your revision – and you won’t forget them.
John C. Maxwell, author of How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life put it best: “If something can be done 80% as well by someone else, delegate!”
Clear out the clutter of unnecessary tasks and make more room for more important activities. Evaluate your commitments, discuss realistic goals with friends and family and then learn to make use of other people. It can be hard to let go sometimes, but you don’t have to do it all. There are almost certainly tasks in your daily routine that can be done easily by others, even if your only available resource is a willing spouse or child.
Stay in the here-and-now and focus on one class at a time. If you complete one or two courses, you’ll be motivated to take another. Equally, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to complete your degree within a certain timeline.
Success is the biggest motivator so acknowledge a job well done but don’t allow yourself to be distracted when things don’t go according to plan. Learn from mistakes and then move on. Remember that learning is a cumulative process: you won’t be judged by one project alone and you don’t have to be perfect every time. Sometimes, good enough is just that.
Extra-strong coffee is not a long-term study aid! When schedules fill up, sleep is often the first to be sacrificed. But lack of sleep actually makes your task much harder: your mental health, physical health, stress levels, and schedule are all affected.
Make sure you take time to look after yourself. It doesn’t take long for the constant round of class, study, work and more study to take its toll on your ability to perform. Plan time to relax and be social – and treat it like every other commitment. It will improve your productivity overall.
Time management isn’t a skill you pick up right away. Ironically, it too takes time. But the good news is that more and more students are managing to earn a degree while working full-time. The even better news is that the time management techniques you learn when balancing your various commitments can be applied throughout your career to enhance your chances of future success.
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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