Juggling multiple commitments is no easy task. When those commitments include mastering an academic discipline alongside trying to earn a living, learning how to balance everything can seem impossible. But with a bit of planning and organisation, it can be done. To show how, we’re going to detail some advice on how to manage based on different students' needs, be it someone in a full-time course (undergraduate or postgraduate), someone working full-time and studying part-time, etc.
Getting advice from those who know
Griffith College has a dedicated team of staff available to support current and future students. Before undertaking any course, students can meet with the admissions team on campus and the faculty for their course. The admissions team is experienced and is an excellent 'first port of call' to learn about options and to think everything through. Many students may choose a blended programme that combines online learning with in-class days. Getting help from the admissions team means prospective students know what to expect from their studies and can maximise their time on the go.
Talking to someone who is currently working and studying or someone who has done it before is also a great way of preparing yourself for the experience. There is no better way to get an understanding than from someone who has already done it. So if you know a friend or colleague who has studied while working, grab a coffee with them and have a chat about anything you need clarity on. Even if you don't know anyone who has done the same, talk to the admissions team about setting up a meeting with a student or alumni that may be able to help.
Setting up a dedicated workspace
Creating a space only used for study will cut down on distractions and keep all your study materials organised. Not only will it aid your study by allowing you to concentrate but it will also allow you to detach from the workload when you need to. This area should be a strict work zone and the rest of your living space should be kept separate.
Depending on how much space you have access to in your home your workspace may vary, but ideally, it will be a well-lit desk with a sturdy straight back chair helping you keep good posture as you spend long hours studying, writing essays, etc. When you're not working, all of your notes and tools live here, making them impossible to misplace.
Crucially, you only use this desk for study, creating the boundaries around study time that are essential for good time management.
Making your initial schedule
For any student, part-time or full-time, CAO or a parent returning to education, a schedule can be one of the most valuable tools they possess throughout their studies. Some students only work weekends after a full week of college, some will be full-time workers with only one day of classes, but a schedule can allow them to make sure that they are staying on top of all their coursework as well as making time for their jobs and - not to forget - some free time.
This doesn't need to be a very strict schedule that limits every millisecond of your day down to when you can take a breath. This is simply a tool to help keep you focused and on top of the different aspects of your life. There is nothing more stressful than your coursework or your job getting on top of you and it can be tough to reel it back in. So start with a planner from Monday-Sunday (it can be as detailed or as simple as you like based on your own needs) that details your on-campus or online classes, your job commitments, your assignment deadlines and anything else you might need to add to this. If you are in a creative course, or you're just a creative person in general, you may even like the idea of designing up a larger, more flashy schedule and detailing your journey throughout your course on social media like Instagram; you never know what potential employers might be watching!
Discussing your plans with your employer
Going back to education, whether it's an undergraduate degree or a short course, displays to your employer that you are eager to grow professionally and personally. If you are planning on undertaking a new course, it’s advisable to talk to your employers about your plans as there are many factors they may be able to help you with. For example, you may be working full-time and undertaking a Diploma in Project Management part-time one night a week. If your usual work hours clash with your course times your employer might allow you to work alternative hours or let you go early on the day of your classes.
Another conversation to have with your employer is to see if they will contribute towards your studies as you are up-skilling, which may benefit your work. You may not even need to bring this up to your employer – who knows, maybe they will see your willingness to improve and grow professionally as a reason to offer to help you out in some way!
Combining all of the above information can be a great way to prepare you for the work/life balance you need to maintain, but much of this can also be taken in bite-sized chunks with what works best for each student. Every day is a school-day and you may find that something that worked for one person you spoke to, may not work for you. It is about constantly learning what process suits you in order to give you the best opportunity to succeed as you undertake, or continue in your studies. But one final bit of advice - embrace the experience and enjoy it as best you can!