Balancing study, work and play is difficult. Difficult, not impossible. With a little bit of planning and time management you can be well on your way to that First Class Degree, even if you are working full-time!
Being a part-time Open University student/full-time office bod myself, I have learnt a thing or two about using my time wisely. I’m here to share what I have learnt with you so that you can stay ahead of the game.
Create a Schedule – and stick to it!
Creating a weekly schedule is a great way to keep track of your time and where your priorities are. When I first started studying part-time, I found it really difficult to manage my ‘free’ time (or time not at work). I decided to draft out a weekly schedule, broken down into hours so that I knew exactly where my time was going. It not only helped with allocating time, but also reviewing where I have spent my precious time once the week was over.
Get your chores out of the way
Now that you have your schedule drafted, it’s time to set priorities! You must get any chores out of the way first. There is nothing worse than sitting down with your books and the pile of washing in the corner of the room keeps whispering your name. Get it out of the way and it won’t annoy or distract you. This is even more important if you live with somebody. I can guarantee you won’t have the time or energy to ‘do it later’ and they will end up picking up your slack. Spending a quick hour getting things done before settling down will be totally worth it.
Take time out
Between work and study it may feel like you don’t get time to relax. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take time out. Not only for yourself, but for the people around you. It is so easy to get into the habit of not making plans because, well, your plans are to study. But you will soon start to feel lonely and tired and your friends will think that you’re ignoring them. It’s all about balance. A monthly (or even twice a month, go mad!) blow-out with friends will do you good, you are a university student after all!
When actually studying this is important too. Take regular breaks. Your eyes will thank you.
Learn to say No
It sounds like I am contradicting myself here. ‘But didn’t you just tell me to take time out?’, again It’s all about balance. After years of studying I have only just learnt to say no to friends, and sometimes even work. You need to remember that you are investing time (and money for that matter) into your education and saying no once in a while will not harm you. Knowing when your assignments fall is key, because you can plan around them. When working to a deadline, keep focused and say no. Say no to overtime, say no to parties, say no to your gran’s dinner, say no to everything, and just get it done.
Have a dedicated Study Space
One of the great things about studying with the Open University is that most of your course books etc. can be found online. This means that studying on the go is easier. I often read my course books on my daily bus commute to and from work. Just reading is definitely not enough though. To really get the information into your brain you need to make notes, draw diagrams, work out equations and do whatever else your course work asks you to do. Having a dedicated study space at home will help you stay motivated to do this. With all of your study materials close to hand you can pick up where you left off with ease, saving you valuable time and keeping you in the studying mindset.
Make friends, family & employers aware
People aren’t mind readers. You should make it clear to everyone who is significant in your life that you need to prioritise studying for a while and may have to turn down overtime or meeting with friends. If they are aware from the start they will be less likely to complain or ask too much of you. Letting them know when you are actually studying is a good idea too. There have been plenty of times when I have got stuck right into an activity only for my phone to ring and an hour later I’ve lost all sense of what I’ve been studying. Just a polite ‘do not disturb’ will do!
Plan your meals
What does food have to do with studying you ask? Everything!
Firstly, what you eat can affect your mood, motivation and brain power, so make sure you are eating all of the healthy stuff, leafy greens, oily fish, you know the drill.
Secondly, having a meal plan that runs along your weekly schedule will save you that all important and very precious time. It will help you to make sure that you don’t have to run out to the shop for ingredients last minute and also motivate you to stick to eating the good stuff.
Focus on your goal
It can feel a bit daunting when you have so far to go to accomplish your First Class Degree, especially when you have a full time job but you would rather be dedicating your time to studying! Don’t get too overwhelmed and just remember the reasons why you started doing it in the first place. Take one assignment at a time and focus on smashing those grades. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger – You can do it!!