For an increasing number of students, the need to work at least part-time is a reality. After all, the costs of education, personal living, and entertainment seem to constantly be skyrocketing. But maintaining balance as a working student can sometimes seem impossible! The good news is there are things you can do to make the balancing act easier.
1. Think about the demands you’ll face. How much money do you need to earn? How much work time will this require? How quickly do you want to complete your education? How much time do you need to be in class and studying? What personal commitments may place extra pressures on your time (e.g., family, friends, other responsibilities)? Try to be honest with yourself. By thinking about these questions, you will have a better sense of the demands you’ll face and can make solid, realistic decisions about the months ahead.
2. Explore options that give you flexibility. Are there ways to schedule your courses to give you blocks of time to work? Perhaps you can condense your class schedule to 3 or 4 days/week so you can work the alternate days and/or weekends. Night courses or online courses might also offer you added flexibility to fit a job into your schedule. And how can your employer contribute to your success? Ask if you can decrease your work hours to accommodate extra study time during exams. Perhaps your employer would allow you to study during quiet times at work. Or maybe you can trade shifts occasionally with a co-worker. Work with your employer to find solutions that work for both of you.
3. Create a master schedule and work it! Once you have your schedules for school and work, combine them into one master plan and then analyze the time you have remaining. Block off specific study times for each of your classes. [Tip: allow 1 to 2 hours of independent study and homework time for each hour you are in class!] Use spare hours between classes to complete your assignments and study. Plan errands and chores to minimize the time you need to complete them. And identify times when you can take break to do something relaxing. Where possible, try to build a routine that works for you but still build in some flexibility in case important things come up.
4. Be organized. Mark upcoming deadlines (e.g., assignments, tests) on your calendar and start work on your projects as soon as possible. Break big projects into smaller tasks that you can tackle during spare timeslots in your day. Keep a “to-do” list of both school and personal activities — and be sure to update and prioritize it regularly. Avoid time-wasters (e.g., watching excessive television or playing video games) that can eat up the spare time in your week. Finally, learn to say “no” when others put unrealistic demands on your time. By taking time to plan and be organized, you will make much better use of the limited time you have.
5. Maintain balance and manage your stress. Stress is a normal part of life but can become overwhelming when combining work with school. Though you may not have a ton of spare time, it’s critical to plan for times and activities when you can relieve this stress. Be sure to take regular, short breaks during your study times to clear your head and regain focus. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well, being active, getting enough sleep, and limiting your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. And don’t forget to make time (within reason) for people and activities which are important to you. They will rejuvenate you and make your chaotic life seem more enjoyable.
6. Seek help when you need it. Your family, friends, and instructors all want to see you succeed. Don’t shy away from them when you need support. Other people, like staff the Learning Cafe, Counselling Services, and Advising at Lethbridge College have expertise in helping students stay on track. When life seems overwhelming, be sure to seek out their advice — you’ll be amazed how much help they can provide!
When you’re working and attending school at the same time, you realistically won’t have time to do everything you want to do all the time. But if you maintain a positive attitude, keep your personal goals in mind, and follow the suggestions above, it is possible for you to be successful!