The thought of going back into education can be a daunting prospect. Especially if you have to balance studies with a full-time job.
Except work is just the tip of the iceberg. You also have a partner, children, family and friends to give your time to. Finding a way to manage your studies alongside everything else can almost seem like an impossible task.
Distance learning gives you the freedom to learn when it suits you. That way if you need to study in between shifts, around your children or late in the evening when you have some free time, you can. Moreover, because you are responsible for your learning you can decide the pace at which you learn the material. If you missed something, that’s okay, you can just go back and review it again.
Gaining qualifications or certifications can help you enhance your career or allow you to get a new job entirely. The value of committing your free time to study is clear. But sometimes, juggling your time effectively to fit it in can be tricky.
Read on for our tips on how to manage your studies so you can live, work and study successfully.
Create a Plan
Take some time to consider the prior commitments you have within the timeframe of your course. This will help you see when you’re available, so you can plan out when to study.
Identify important events and obligations like work, birthdays and holidays that you can’t move and plan around it. Trying to study on your birthday or while you’re sunning yourself on a beach isn’t going to happen.
You won’t be productive; you’ll feel guilty in the process and possibly fall behind in your studies.
Instead you are far better to block out that time and enjoy it. Just make sure you’ve left yourself enough time to get the work done.
Having your prior engagements set out clearly in a calendar can help you identify gaps where your studies can take place.
Now you’ve organised your work and personal life, you can see how much free time you have available. Creating a plan will give you a realistic insight into what you can achieve in the time you have. By doing this, you’ll know what and when you are meant to be studying, keeping you on task and on target.
The minute you enrol, you should consider two things:
- The date you want to complete the course by,
- The number of assignments that must be completed before that time.
Once you have this information, divide the number of assignments by your ideal timeframe. To help you with this most courses give you an indication of the number of hours study required to complete them.
With this, you can space them out evenly and provide enough research time in between. By doing this you will see how realistic your timeframe is and if you need to adjust your expectations. Or cancel a few nights out.
Once your plan is in place, consider the goals you wish to set. It’s good to have goals that are both short and long-term as they can make it easier to reach important milestones.
The long-term goal for you may be achieving your qualification at the end of your course. With short-term goals, the path to this end goal seems more manageable. Set yourself a goal for each period of study such as finishing the required reading or completing the first part on an assignment.
Knowing what you want to achieve at the end of each session keeps you focused and helps you mentally prepare.
Create a Mindful Workspace
To get the most out of your study sessions, you need to ensure that you can learn effectively. That means creating an environment in which you can study and learn positively and productively.
It’s easy to get distracted because they are everywhere! The urge to check your phone, join in the conversation someone is having nearby or do a chore that somehow now seems so important. The best way to fight them is to minimise their effect or the likelihood of having the urge in the first place.
Switch off devices, put them on silent and move them out of the way. Putting headphones on and listening to concentration music can help drown out other noise. Asking people to give you a bit of privacy while you focus is also a good idea.
Create a clutter-free environment
When your work environment is cluttered, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed. The more things in the room, the more your attention is being pulled in other directions. Decluttering gives you the mental space you need to recognise and act on your priorities.
A common mistake many people make during stressful times of study is to eat poorly and unhealthily. In place of nutritious meals and snacks are junk food, sweets, energy drinks or coffee to keep your energy up. This actually has a negative effect on your health, concentration and study performance.
Instead, filling your diet with brain foods like oily fish, dark leafy greens and fresh fruit is far more beneficial. Green tea and water also being great substitute drinks to keep you hydrated and energised.
Take regular breaks
Studies have proven that breaks in study routines can have positive effects on attention abilities. Breaking around every sixty minutes improves both focus and attention. Though everyone works differently so just be sure to factor in breaks when you feel you need them. That being said, spending this time on your phone or watching TV might not be so beneficial. Going for a walk, stretching or even meditating can be great ways to spend your breaks.
Allow time to review
Give yourself time to reflect on your session and digest the information you have just learnt. Making sure you have understood and taken everything in.
Don’t Give in to Procrastination
It’s easier said than done. It seems like there is always something else that needs doing with your time. Sitting down to study can be so easy to put off.
Human brains are lazy when it comes to performing conscious tasks. Like a computer they are performing hundreds, if not thousands of tasks in the background. So, when it comes to conscious tasks, they much prefer watching TV, looking on Instagram and others that are second nature to us.
These tasks require little effort and energy. This is known as system 1 thinking, in other words, all the things we can do – effectively without thinking.
When we sit down to learn something new our brains have to work hard. This means concentrating which requires lots of energy. Therefore, we fatigue quickly. Our attention wanders or we try to put it off altogether, to conserve energy. Learning new things is system 2 thinking.
Rather than apply itself to digesting new information and putting it into work, your brain would prefer to take on much simpler and familiar tasks. That’s why you’ll often find yourself staring at the TV or idly scrolling through social media when you’re meant to be focussed on something else.
It takes a conscious effort to learn. That’s why children are always so tired after they start school. It’s a huge mental step up. Learning can be hard, and that’s okay. But give yourself every chance to succeed by removing all distractions from the room. Turn off technology like phones, radios or televisions and anything else that could catch your attention.
Ask for Help if You Need It
Following this advice and sticking to the structure you put in place can keep you on track for success. Getting the grades you need in your qualifications while working a full-time job.
Though we all know life can be unpredictable at times. Things can happen that are out of your control, getting in the way no matter how well you plan.
If you find yourself struggling, each student has their own dedicated tutor to reach out to for advice. So, if you need help with the course materials or how to break down your work into more manageable chunks, they are there to help you.
Just because you’re working on your own terms doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Our tutors are experts in their subjects and can offer you great assistance and guidance on how to manage your studies. Just contact them through the online portal. They want you to succeed just as much as you do.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is one of the UK’s leading distance learning providers. Offering an extensive range of online learning courses including fully accredited Access to Higher Education Diplomas and A Levels that can help you reach your career goals.