You’ve seen the ads promoting an online course that can fit in with your work and personal commitments. You’ve heard about your colleague who completed their MBA online while working full time. You may be starting to think about studying for a new qualification to reinvigorate your interest at work, take the next step in your career, or embark on a career change.
Whatever your motivation, there are some things you should consider as studying while working full-time can come with a new set of challenges.
Things you need to know about study and full-time work
- You Need Support You will need the support of your partner, family and friends, as it can be a difficult adjustment for them when you start studying. You may not be able to participate in all of the social events you used to do, or spend the evening watching TV with your family. You will need to plan your time and find a quiet place to study without any distractions. Speak to your manager and look up your company’s policies to see if you can take time off to study. Negotiate any leave with your manager ahead of time.
- Time Management Skills Your school will most likely have a benchmark for how many hours you should dedicate to your study per week. But sometimes you will have your best friend’s birthday that week, or your kids are sick, or there’s an urgent deadline at work. All of which means you need to find some extra time to get things done. One way to manage your time is to break up your study plan into smaller tasks. Say you have 180 pages to read in a week, divide 180 by the number of hours you have available to allocate study time to, and then aim to read that number pages in the study session. The key here is the actual number of hours you have available, not the number of hours you would like to study for. Make sure you don’t let your study hours pass you by. Schedule appointments with yourself for all your commitments – social time, exercise, life admin, and study – and don’t miss them. Keeping on top of things will mean that you can study effectively, because everything else is being taken care of, too. Once you enrol in a course, your university will have resources, support and advice to help you.
- Commitment There is no point at all if you aren’t committed, that’s a bit of a no-brainer. The reality is that you’re sacrificing your personal time to further your career: that means saying no to social engagements and having a different set of priorities to pretty much everyone you know. Your conviction is important because sometimes it can be hard to stay committed. Check in at the beginning of each teaching period to remind yourself why you’re studying for a new qualification. Motivation will help you stick to your study plan. Remind yourself that you can do this.
- Adaptability You may need to shake things up a bit. If you’re a routine person, prepare yourself for that routine to change. You might find yourself reading textbooks in the evening instead of your favourite fiction novel, or listening to talking books while you go for a walk after work to get that information into your head. If you’re not a routine person, you may need to find ways to introduce some structure into your life. Make sure that you take care of your physical and mental health alongside your work and study schedule. Perhaps you’ll be listening to a talking book while on the treadmill at the gym, or taking some time off from a book club for the teaching period. You’ve got to be open to change and sacrifice. There are many tips out there on how to study while working full time – prioritise sleep, get regular exercise, reward your hard work – but only you can know what is going to work for you. Keep an open mind and stay in tune with yourself.
If you’re struggling with any issues and need support, you can speak to one of our counsellors.