Adulting Career Student Life

3 Ways to Balance Work and Study

April 6, 2021

You’ve probably always had a certain subject that fascinated you. In your free time, you may find yourself reading about new innovations and insights in the field. You constantly have ideas on the topic that start with, “It would be so cool if they…” 

Sound familiar?

The only downside is that your field of interest has zero to do with your current job. 

It may be a great time to take the leap, study your chosen subject, and get a degree or certification that would allow you to channel that passion into a career that inspires you every day.

Studying and working simultaneously can be a daunting endeavor. But it can be done! Some sacrifices and strict budgeting will be required, but only for a finite period of time. 

Here are three tips for how to make the most of your schedule when balancing work and study:

Maximize your available “ear time.”

There are more times during the day than you realize when your hands may be busy doing something, but your ears are available to study. This is why it’s a great idea to get assigned reading in an audio version if available. 

Record all of your lectures and corresponding notes that you take yourself. You can even create “audio flashcards.” Record a question or definition and leave a few beats of silence for you to drill your responses as you listen.These recordings can be used when you’re driving, working out, cleaning, cooking, getting ready, waiting in line, etc. 

Also, be sure to take advantage of the time immediately before bed. Our brains retain information that we consume right before bed the most clearly into the next day. Wake up and refresh the information as you get ready, and you will have successfully “locked it in.” 

Another great idea is to use repetition immediately after hearing a lecture. Take several minutes to go over the notes you just took and “teach” them to yourself out loud as if you were the professor. This will solidify connections between ideas and make them far easier to remember in the long run. 

All of this will help the information you’re learning to become information that you know. Which means you won’t have to desperately cram before a test. Instead, you’ll be refreshing thought connections that have already been solidified with personalized associations.

Break apart your workload into bite-sized pieces.

A great method for managing your study load is to chop up your reading and studying into smaller goals for each study session available over a given period of time.

For example, you’ve been given a 50-page reading assignment due in five days. First, determine the available time you have outside of work and family obligations. If you have four hours over the course of five days, you can estimate your target per-hour page rate. For that particular week, it is 12 and a half pages an hour. And, depending on how long your time blocks are, you will divide your page goal accordingly. So if you have 15 minutes while you’re waiting for something to cook, try to read about three pages.

Breaking up your reading and studying into smaller, more manageable chunks will help you avoid the stress of trying to find huge blocks of time to complete larger assignments. And preplanning the proportions helps alleviate the constant, “I have so much to do!” feeling. You can relax a little, knowing that as long as you successfully accomplish each predetermined portion in the schedule you created with your free time, you will reach your target goal for the overall assignment. 

Take advantage of vacation days.

This tip is likely not a crowd favorite. When taking on the added workload of balancing a job and study, sacrifice will be needed on some level. The things you should not sacrifice entirely are as follows: sleep, exercise, meals, hygiene, your job, and at least some quality time with family and friends. 

But the things that you will need to be willing to sacrifice are watching TV, viewing social media, partying, and sadly, vacations. You will still be utilizing your vacation days but as brief rest days and pre-test or presentation prep days. 

When you get your syllabus, mark out when events like this are happening and put in your request to use a vacation day for the day before well in advance. This will allow you a dedicated chuck of time to refresh everything you’ve learned and finalize any preparations you may need.

A major benefit to this: it will decrease your anxiety leading into a test or presentation day. Increased anxiety will only undermine your performance, so take that vacation day to prep and gather focus.

Throughout your time as a working student, have your “why” handy. Write a mission statement for yourself beforehand and read it whenever you feel a bit like tearing your hair out. Writing down your “why” will also help you understand where this motivation to study and shift gears is emanating. If at first, your “why” is only “to make more money,” you may want to do more research into careers that can make you more money but also genuinely interest you. 

When you read your “why,” you want it to touch something deeply motivating and energizing within you. Once you have that, it can act as a pair of jumper cables when you feel depleted and fuel you as you master the balance between work and study.

BIO: Kristie Santana is a life coach based in New York City. She is the founder of the National Coach Academy and co-founder of Life Coach Path. Her mission is to help prepare aspiring coaches for a thriving career doing the work they love.

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