Are you thinking about going back to school while keeping your full-time job? Or maybe you’re already doing both but are struggling to strike a balance. When the world went virtual amid COVID-19, it gave people the flexibility to take on more from the comfort of their home office. But that also introduces the importance of setting specific goals and boundaries to make sure what you’re spending your time doing is on track with your aspirations. Having the right mindset will go a long way, and for the rest, there are a few tools that may help you feel less stressed and more in control.
Read on to achieve a better work-life-school balance.
Having forethought is the best solution for managing your workload. Before accepting a new job or starting a new class, be sure you understand what will be required of you. A hiring manager can explain your daily responsibilities and a syllabus will lend insight into the required coursework. Know your deadlines at work and school — and map out when you plan to work on each project. That brings us to the next tip.
OK, you may not be able to predict everything that will happen at work or school that will get in the way of your neatly laid plan. Because of that, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude and be optimistic that you will be able to accomplish everything you want. You may face a setback, but you can analyze the new situation and make a game plan for completing the tasks at hand. Recognize that change is constant; you can’t control what comes your way, but you can control your reaction to it.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Tackling a full-time job and school all at once probably means you’re pretty motivated. But even those with the purest intentions have obstacles. There are several ways to make sure you’re living up to your expectations and flourishing both at work and school. Consider a buddy system and find someone who will be no-nonsense with you about keeping on track. It might be a fellow classmate, a friend or a family member. Another way to make sure you’re doing what you need to, when you need to, is to block out distractions. Set time limits on social media apps that prevent mindless scrolling or block certain apps during certain periods of time when you’re supposed to be doing homework (Think: Netflix). You’ll have no other choice than to do what you set out to do.
Set SMART Goals
Setting your sight on the end goal (that degree!) will help keep you motivated while taking it all on at once. But putting milestones in place will allow you to take a bite-sized approach to realize your achievement. Each goal along the way should be:
- Specific: Make sure the milestone is clear and identifiable; consider the who, what, where, when, why and how.
- Measurable: Put metrics around your milestone so you can determine progress.
- Achievable: Be sure it’s something that can be checked off your list (do you have the tools and skills to accomplish it?), so you can move to the next one.
- Relevant: Align your milestone to the overall objective; it has to make sense in the grand scheme of things.
- Time-based: Setting a date will make sure there’s an urgency to complete it.
You’ve got a lot on with trying to juggle work, school and life, in general. It might be hard to say “no,” but you might have to, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. It can be a slippery slope raising your hand for every project at work, so make sure you’re prioritizing the ones that are directly assigned by your boss. And if there are other asks coming your way from coworkers or other departments, determine how you can help the requestors help themselves. Maybe training someone how to do something for 30 minutes will save you 10 minutes a day for the rest of the month. That is worth it! Commit to the time upfront and consider what you’re going to gain from setting boundaries at work. The possibilities of what you can do with that time — whether it’s more focused work or school commitments — are endless.
Deal With Stress
It’s a tall order to pursue your education and continue working full time. A little stress should be expected. Believe it or not, stress can boost brainpower, increase immunity in the short term, make you more resilient and motivate you to succeed, according to Health’s “5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You.” But too much stress or long-term exposure does have harmful effects on your mental wellbeing and overall health. Eating healthy, exercising and meditating can help combat anxious feelings about balancing the workload. Pro tip: There are some great meditation apps to help reduce stress like Insight Timer, Headspace, Buddify, Ten Percent Happier and Calm.
Consider an Online Education
There are pros and cons to pursuing an online education over a traditional on-campus experience. One of the benefits of an online experience is flexibility. You may be able to take self-paced classes, so you can fit them in on your own time, or sign up for shortened terms, so you finish your degree quicker. It also eliminates commuting time to class and allows you to travel freely for work if required. Of course, the pandemic has opened up additional opportunities for virtual learning that are worth your consideration.
It may be a challenge to further your education and career at the same time. But know once your degree is complete, you’ll look back and realize the time and effort you put in was worth it.