THIS POST IS FOR THOSE THAT ARE JUGGLING A JOB AND EDUCATION, WHETHER THAT’S UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE, OR AN ONLINE COURSE. I KNOW ALL TOO WELL THAT THE STRUGGLE IS REAL; I ATTENDED A 3-YEAR FULL-TIME, UNDERGRADUATE COURSE BUT I ALSO WORKED MANY HOURS PER WEEK IN ORDER TO PROVIDE FOR MYSELF WHILE LIVING IN LONDON. SINCE I STARTED WORKING FOR MYSELF I ALSO INVESTED IN MANY ONLINE COURSES BECAUSE I BELIEVE YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING AND I WANT TO ALWAYS BE UPDATED TO SERVE MY CLIENTS IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY. YOU MAY BE WONDERING HOW SOMEONE CAN MANAGE BOTH THINGS WITHOUT FAILING OR HAVING A MELTDOWN, AND I CAN TELL YOU IT’S NOT EASY BUT YOU CAN DO IT. SO TODAY I’M GOING TO SHARE WITH YOU SOME OF THE THINGS I DID IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO ACHIEVE MY GOALS, GRADUATE, AND ALSO MAKE A LIVING.
I want to start by saying that if you are someone that manages work and education, you deserve a round of applause. Not everyone is cut out for this because it’s genuinely not easy to do and you will have to make sacrifices, so when you go through difficult seasons don’t be too hard on yourself and learn to be patient and take it one day at a time.
Having to work while in uni, for me was non-negotiable; yes, I’ve always been blessed to have my parents help me if I needed something, but they couldn’t afford to support me completely, so I had to work. Because I had previous experience as an au pair, I decided to look for nanny jobs because I loved children, the pay was wonderful, and the schedule was very flexible; plus I could also go home during half term or holidays as the families I worked for would usually travel, so it was a perfect fit. However, I couldn’t work every day because of uni but I also needed to earn a certain amount each week, so I’d work really long days and often do evening or weekend babysitting to earn some extra money.
If you know anything about looking after children, you will know it’s INTENSE. Of course, I love little people, but by the time I’d come home in the evening, I had no energy left and was ready to go to bed. So managing this job with university wasn’t easy, but I always pushed through and I had to be very organized. Here are a few steps I suggest you take if you find yourself in a similar situation as me.
How to balance work and study
ESTABLISH HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK YOU ARE GOING TO WORK AND HOW MANY HOURS YOUR STUDIES REQUIRE FROM YOU.
Of course, if you work a 9-5 as an employee those are the fixed hours and there’s not much else you can do apart from studying in the evenings and on weekends. But if you work part-time or can decide how many hours you want to work each week, figure that out and write it down. Then do the same with your studies; do you have lectures to attend, webinars, meetings with your tutors? And how long do they take? Once you know how many hours in total you are required to commit to per week, then you will be able to start planning your time.
PLAN A SCHEDULE.
You will literally have to keep things in a planner with dates and times, cause it’s going to get busy and you’ll most likely be unable to remember everything. If you have a flexible job like I did, wait for your course timetable to be published and then plan your work hours around that. You don’t want the two to be clashing; unfortunately, I had to miss class several times during my 3 years at university because the timetables were often changed and I had work booked. But if your schedule is fixed, then book your work hours in advance according to the course timetable. Stick to your schedule no matter what. Right now, because I’m freelancing and I’m taking online courses, I have the freedom to choose when I want to do my courses, but I need to actually write it down otherwise it won’t get done. I prefer to do it in the evening after I’ve finished with work as that’s my priority, but if you’d rather do it early in the morning then go ahead. As long as you plan a schedule and stick to it (as much as possible) you will be fine.
MAXIMIZE THE USE OF YOUR TIME.
When I worked as a nanny, I always had very young children to look after, so they would usually nap once or twice a day while I was with them. Initially, I didn’t think about it, but when I started to realise that their nap time was precious time to me, I started bringing my laptop to their house, or any coursework that I needed to do. And because I knew that I usually had only 45 minutes to 1 hour of time, I knew I had to be productive and get as much work done as possible. I’m not saying you should neglect your work because of your course or the other way around, but if you genuinely have free time somewhere, then use it wisely. The kids’ nap times were basically break times for me, so I chose to use them well.
BE WILLING TO MAKE SACRIFICES.
I can’t even count the number of times I had to say no to going out with friends because I had work booked; it was never easy, but it was something I needed to do. I spent countless Friday and Saturday nights babysitting and working on my laptop till late. I was rarely ever able to hang out after uni because I was rushing to work or I had to go home to work on my assignments. I know people must have thought I was a boring workaholic, but I did what I needed to do, keeping my goals in mind and focusing on my journey. Eventually, the sacrifices do pay off and I try to always plan some social time in my schedule as I believe it’s important, but when certain seasons required me to miss out on events, I did it with no regrets.
STAY FOCUSED ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
Whilst I love multitasking and maximizing my time, I know that can’t apply to everything. I learned the hard way when I tried to multitask during my lectures or seminars and do other things and let me tell you for free, it does not work. You will think I’m contradicting myself since on point 3 I invited you to make the most of your time, but I meant your free time. When the kids were asleep, I had free time; when I was waiting in the cafeteria between lectures, I had free time. But working on my assignments while the kids were running around? Impossible, and unprofessional. Planning the kids’ activities during lectures? No one would fire me, but I surely did not benefit from it. So focus completely on what you need to do at a specific time and if you have free time, then use it to do other tasks to be as productive as possible.
Let me tell you that I am the biggest advocate of meal prep. I wrote a whole post about it here, but I’m also quickly going to touch on it in this post, as meal prep is a lifesaver. If you have a full-time or part-time job to handle AND study, the last thing you want to do (and have time to do) is to spend hours in the kitchen every day. By meal prepping once a week, you will save yourself time and energy (and money!), so that you will be able to dedicate yourself entirely to more important things.
I hope these 6 tips will help you better manage your job and education, I know it’s going to be hard at times and there is no one size fits all to handle it, but time management and productivity did wonders for me. I was never a top student (but that’s another story for another day), but I can say that if I hadn’t been this organized I would have probably given up halfway through my first year, so I hope that by sharing this, I will also help you too.