If you are looking to combine working with studying, you may be considering studying by distance learning. The flexibility that distance learning offers enables you to spread your study over longer periods and arrange your schedule to fit in with your lifestyle. However, sometimes juggling study with work and personal commitments is easier said than done. Here are some useful tips to help manage your studies with your schedule.
1. Choose to study something that interests you
It may sound basic, but if you’re going to stay motivated over the course of a degree, it’s much easier if you’re studying something you either are very interested in and/or will be a benefit for your career. If you like what you’re learning, you’re much more likely to make time to study.
2. Be realistic
One of the advantages of distance learning study is that you can spread your degree out over a number of years. If you’re working full-time, it’s probably better to take things slow and only take a couple courses per year, at least at first. You don’t want to try and fit a full-time study schedule in with full-time work and then find you have no time to absorb what you’re learning. If you find you’re easily coping with the workload, you can always take on more in subsequent years.
3. Make a study schedule
If you’re going to do well on a distance learning degree, you need to be organised. The first step is creating a study schedule. It helps to first break your study down month by month, taking into account any deadlines and making sure you have time to cover all the topics and fit in revision. Your daily and weekly schedule should detail specific study times and goals. You should make sure you factor in some recreation time, so you have time to absorb what you’re learning and don’t get burnt out. Most students recommend trying to fit in some study every day, but this is really up to you. Don’t be afraid to revise your study schedule if you get off track or realise it is not working for you.
4. Work out how you study best
Everyone is different when it comes to studying. Some people are visual learners – who like to use highlighters and make extensive notes and diagrams – while others learn better listening to lectures or audio books. Similarly, some people work best in the morning, while others are night owls. You need to work out what works best for you, and adjust your study plan around this.
5. Learn to prioritise
Sometimes it just won’t be possible to fit in everything you’d like to do, as well as study. If you’re feeling under pressure, make a list of everything you’ve got to do (e.g. study, cook dinner, finish a work project, child care) and categorise them as negotiable or non-negotiable. Make sure you finish the essentials before moving on to the less important tasks (domestic chores can wait!).
Even taking this approach, it’s inevitable that things will crop up that will put out your study schedule, or sometimes you just won’t feel up to studying. Don’t beat yourself up over it if this happens, you’re not superhuman! Some disruption to your study schedule should not be a problem as long as these ‘time outs’ are not too frequent or too prolonged.
6. Take advantage of short pockets of time
One of the keys to balancing study with work is feeling comfortable fitting study into your normal routine. Even 20 minutes is enough to get some meaningful study done, so take advantage of downtime during your commute, lunch break, or even just waiting to pick up your kids. If you travel for work, flights present an excellent opportunity to get some extra study time in. We’ve even heard stories of some University of London International Programmes students listening to audio presentations while doing the ironing or having a bath!
7. Get your family, friends and employer on board
University of London International Programmes graduates often credit their partner, families or friends with helping them to get through the course. Whether it’s taking on some more of the family responsibilities around exam time, talking through ideas, or just being understanding of the time you need to study – it’s important that your loved ones recognise and support the commitment you’re making to your education.
It really helps to have your employer on board too. Support from employers could range from financial support, to paid time off for studying, to permission to study in the office after hours.