Once upon a time, going to school was your only responsibility.
Nowadays, you may balance work and a family, but you still have the desire to learn — you want to continue your education.
The only issue is that it's much tougher to find time for everything now, especially if your plate already seems full sans school.
Fortunately, many pioneering professionals and parents have successfully conquered academia, and they have plenty of tips.
When it comes to studying, for example, there are many ways to sneak a session into your schedule, even if it already seems jam-packed.
Here are six ways to do it seamlessly:
1. Put It On the Calendar
Since you're already busy with work and family obligations, you probably have an agenda or planner that guides you through your full schedule each day. You abide by what you have written down already, so you could simply add your studying obligations to the calendar to ensure it gets done, too.
Scheduling like this counts as a great time management tool and, with it, you likely won't feel as stressed about all of your responsibilities, even if you add academics to the list. One study showed that students who felt they had control over their time management felt as though they performed better and that they had a stronger sense of control over their lives. In the same study, time management proved to be a better predictor of academic success than SAT scores.
2. Remember Your Motivation
Another way to inspire yourself to study is to keep your goal in mind. Chances are, you already have one that pushes you to consider going back to school in the first place. For instance, you might hope to change the course of your career through continued education. Perhaps you want to earn more money with a higher degree. Or, for some people, going back to school means finishing something they started long ago.
No matter your reason, always keep it with you. It will push you to find time to study — and then, motivate you through each session.
3. Ask For Help
You can't do it all on your own, so it's imperative that busy adult learners ask for or hire help to get them through. Your planner can help you with this task — peruse what you have to do each week, and write a list of the tasks that you can hand over to others.
Perhaps it's shuttling the kids to their after-school activities. You can hire someone to take over this task, and the money you pay them will be well-spent since it will contribute to your continued education.
Otherwise, if you ask your spouse, family members or friends to help you while you pursue your education, do so the right way. First, clearly explain that you tried to juggle it all yourself, but it hasn't worked. From there, you should clearly explain your needs, and that you will step up when you need to for them.
4. Create a Study Space and Time
Settling into study at the kitchen table will work, so long as no one will interrupt you while you're there. In most busy households, then, such a plan won't work.
So, find a new space in a quiet corner of your home and make that your study area. Make sure you have all the necessities — a work surface, chair, light and all of the pens, highlighters, post-its, etc., that you could need. A designated study space will help your mindset to set down and get to work.
You can make this easier on yourself by making your study time everyone else's study time, too. If you have kids in school, they can do their homework while you study, and everyone will be productive working quietly in their corner.
5. Plan Ahead
A 2011 study revealed that we derive a whopping 25% of our happiness from our ability to manage stress. And, looking into the ways to do the latter, the study also found that planning reduced that tension.
We already mentioned that you should block out study time in an agenda and on the family schedule if necessary so you can get it done. But you should also be aware of your course schedule so you don't overwhelm yourself on important weeks.
Familiarize yourself with when you have exams, presentations, papers, projects, etc. Lighten your load around these times so you can dedicate yourself to studying and schoolwork without feeling overwhelmed.
6. Take Time to Relax
On that note, make sure you carve out some time for yourself that doesn't involve studying, especially after big, demanding weeks at school. It is a well-documented fact that stress reduces productivity in the workplace, and that will extend to your academic life, too.
Even a few hours for a massage, lunch with a friend or a workout will help you clear your head and re-focus on what you have to do. And, because you gave yourself time to recharge, you'll have the gusto to get it all done.
Study and Succeed
Going back to school as a busy adult can seem daunting and almost impossible, but you can make it happen. And, with the above six tips, you'll find it much easier to manage studying with a busy schedule, making it much easier for you to finish what you started and succeed in school and beyond.
Kayla Matthews, Editor, Productivity Theory