For many of us, striking a balance between work and family obligations is an ongoing struggle. Finding a happy medium that allows us to meet the responsibilities of all of our various roles without feeling as if we are not performing our best at work or doing the best for our families is an aspect of daily life that we continually evaluate.
For adult learners, the need to strike this balance is a key component to being a successful student. Studies suggest that among the most commonly cited reasons for dropping out of an online program are lack of time to complete school work, and conflicts among school, work and family obligations.
Taking on the additional responsibility and role of being an online learner will inevitably require a sacrifice in other parts of your life. For some, that might mean missing a family event to complete homework or take an exam. For others, it might mean reducing their workload or not taking on new responsibilities. For most, it likely results in reducing the amount of time spent on leisure activities.
How well students can balance their numerous roles – and reduce the amount of role conflict they encounter – is an essential component of their educational success.
Taking a proactive approach to your classwork is a great way to prevent future work-school-life conflicts. Students in Florida Tech’s 100% online degree and certificate programs have the advantage of being able to access their entire eight-week course from the first day of the term. One tip is to create a master schedule for the next two months then build artificial deadlines for your school work. For example, if you know you have a research paper due in Week 4, set the deadline for the assignment in Week 3 of your master calendar.
This approach will prompt you to get an early start, which will not only build in some extra days in the event an emergency arises, but will also give you time to reflect on the content and quality of your work.
Establishing a master calendar for the term will also allow you to honestly assess your limitations. You will have to say no to people and you can’t be afraid to do so. Sorting out your priorities and restructuring your life to accommodate your coursework is necessary.
Celebrate the Little Achievements
There are many people in your life who have a stake in your educational success. Calling on these stakeholders to support you as you go through the program can alleviate some of the pressures you may feel from trying to do it all.
Another important component is to set time aside to disconnect. Being on the computer all day at work and then going online to do your assignments – not to mention the time spent on social media sites – can quickly become overwhelming. Set aside specific times to power down. Use the time, instead, to connect with your family, get some fresh air or exercise.
This valuable time away will help you feel refreshed when you go back to your coursework. It will also help you regain your focus.
Last, celebrate the little achievements. The journey to earning a college degree can be a long one, and one filled with moments of exhilaration and moments of exhaustion. Celebrate completing all of your assignments on time for the week or earning a good grade on a midterm. Find the balance that works for you.
And remember, striking a balance is not a problem to be solved, but rather a situation to be managed.
Jarin Eisenberg is Project Manager at the Women’s Business Center at Florida Institute of Technology and previously was coordinator of online degree programs at Florida Tech’s Bisk College of Business. To learn more about Eisenberg, read our interview here