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Managing your time whilst studying and working

How do you balance the competing priorities of employment and academic study?
When people talk about “creating time” of course they mean “setting aside time”. Time is one of the things in life you can’t create. It’s how you manage your time that counts, especially if you are working and studying at the same time.
Here are some tips to help you:

Make a schedule

The most obvious – and best – a place to start with time management is to create a schedule.
It is very difficult to plan and organise without understanding what your current commitments are. A timetable will help you to create a practical and realistic schedule.
You may be familiar with the acronym SMART
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timebound (or Timetabled)
  • It’s a goal-setting term used by coaches, tutors and managers when they talk about getting things done effectively. If you don’t set objectives within a timetable, your goals may be specific and measurable but are they achievable and realistic?
    Divide your week and months into segments and start by timetabling everything that is non-negotiable such as examination dates. Next, mark in the dates of your modules and assignments. Particularly if you are working full time, you need to schedule your study hours.
    Make sure you add the dates in a way you can remind yourself of them – in a diary, app, online calendar or on a wall-planner.
    When is studying most effective? Some students are happy to study on an evening after a full day’s work; others prefer to study at the weekend. Whatever your chosen time, study in regular chunks of time that are substantial enough for you to learn something.
    Once you’ve written your schedule, stick to it. If the schedule is not working, go back over it to amend and adapt. Keep a flexible approach to creating a schedule, things may crop up that require an ability to adapt.

    The right place as well as the right time

    Where do you study best? Where can you study without being disturbed? Could you negotiate with your manager to arrive early to work or stay later and benefit from the quieter environment?

    Be prepared to give some things up

    Have you worked hard this week? Studied hard too? Don’t forget you may need some downtime, some rest and recreation or a treat. But sometimes you may need to postpone that reward you had in mind – just to make your deadlines. It’s best to be realistic about that so you can manage your own expectations. Keeping a flexible approach will allow you to remain positive when you have to make any last-minute adjustments to your plans.

    Curb inaction

    Procrastination can occur because juggling priorities seems too difficult. Inaction seems preferable or doing household tasks even though they aren’t urgent. Then the guilt can kick in: “What have I been doing with my time?” Cue more time doing non-urgent chores to prove to yourself you’re being productive.
    Don’t fall into this trap. And if things seem overwhelming talk to your tutor.
    Likewise, if you have a genuine emergency that takes priority over study and work, don’t hide from it. Talk to your tutor and your manager at work – to friends or family or to a professional guidance expert… anyone who might be able to offer support and help.

    Be assertive

    Say no to people and events who insist that time doing what they want is more important than the need you have to combine work and study. Unless, of course, those people are children or partners or friends in dire need in which case, make sure you can make your commitments to them before you embark upon your studies. Even then, sometimes you may have to temporarily say no to allow you to retain control over your schedule. Offer to undertake the task or commitment at a later time, preferably, after your exams etc.
    Well done for combining work and study. Look after your health and enjoy time with yourself, those whom you care about, and your personal interests.

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