Whether you are looking to change careers, advance in your current one or just get that degree you vowed you would finish someday, the advent of the internet has made going back to school a lot easier. While online education was once associated with diploma mills, there has been great strides in recent years with many reputable programs being created, both strictly online or as an extension of programs offered at traditional brick and mortar campuses. Easing back into academic life as an adult with a job, children or other responsibilities fighting for your time can be challenging. But, where there is a will there is a way and here are some tips for navigating life and school at the same time.
While I have no doubt that people truly are busy and pressed for time, in most cases, we have a lot more free time than we realize and we just using this precious commodity poorly. Going back to school will no doubt create a time crunch, but with some effort on your part, you will find a way to make it work , probably a lot more easily than it may seem at this moment.
This is such a clichéd suggestion that you probably have never actually tried it, but write down your schedule and the things you need to get done; the power of intention and putting things down on paper concretely is more powerful than you could ever know. Planning out your day on a calendar and getting all the things you need to get done all written down together in one space will motivate you to use your time more effectively; there is great satisfaction from checking or crossing something out that was on your to-do list.
Unless you can move at the speed of light or make multiple copies of yourself, you may find it difficult to maintain your life as it was once you go back to school—studying, papers, reading and all your other academic tasks will take up time you may have spent doing other things. To avoid burn-out, which leads to major time wasting because it makes you want to do nothing—be realistic about your schedule and prioritize. If going back to school is an important part of accomplishing a large life goal you have set for yourself, give yourself permission to let go of lower priority tasks, such as maintaining an absolutely perfect house or saying yes to every volunteering opportunity or committee asking for your time.
There are going to be times when you need to motivate yourself—you will feel stressed or overwhelmed; you will not feel like studying or doing that paper. We all have those moments but if they are frequent and prolonged, you are going to run into problems. The best way to keep yourself motivated is to get clear on your ‘’why’’ and remind yourself of it often. Get at the reasons behind the reasons you are getting this degree…the deeper values you hold, the core desires you have. When these are at the forefront of your mind, you will feel a renewed energy to work towards your goals and you will not give up.
While you may not be 100 percent enthusiastic about your studies at every moment, you will have to work through periods of boredom and fight the urge to do something else. But, then there are times when you may feel so stressed, so unfocused or so overwhelmed, that plowing through is not the best course of action. You will actually be more effective if you take some time away and do something else and recharge. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this…your feelings will be the best guide in determining when to stay and when to go.
If you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, even just 30 minutes here and there, take advantage of that time to get ahead in your studies. While you have certainly earned your do-nothing and relax time, trading in some of your unexpected free time for your academic pursuits rather than leisure will put you ahead of the curve and reduce stress levels—a pretty big bonus. Also, if unexpected issues come up that cut into scheduled time for school work, you will not fall as far behind.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys sharing tips on how people can manage their lives better so they can be more successful in their professional, personal and academic pursuits. If you are looking for an advanced degree, there are a lot of great online masters degree programs to consider.