How to study when you work full time
In October, the day after finishing my last half marathon, I started my Diploma in Professional Marketing. I decided to study entirely from home, without any in-person classes to attend, which means I'm entirely responsible for making sure I get all my work done and on time!
It's hard work. It's hard work when you work full time and run a blog and run races and want to spend time with your boyfriend and maybe have a social life and just maybe some time to yourself once in a while. It takes a lot of organisation and a lot of discipline.
And a lot of the time, I don't enjoy it. I don't like feeling like my evenings and weekends have been "robbed" by coursework, I don't that I think about marketing all day, every day, Monday to Sunday. I resent having to turn down plans to study or miss watching a film with Phil to do work, but like marathon training, it's all about the bigger goal!
I've talked before about trying to make extra time, but it's often easier said than done! Here are the ways I'm making time to study in my free time...
- Find a space
I found this really hard when we were living in the flat, because the reality was we only had three rooms! I had to put my headphones on and try to not get distracted by whatever Phil was doing (especially when he was doing something more fun than I was!) in the living room. Now I'm back at my parents' I've got a study I can use which is perfect for getting away and focusing,
- Set your time aside
Sundays are my days for studying so I make sure I give myself at least 4 or 5 hours in the afternoon to get through my work, and if I know I've got a lot on, or a busy weekend, I'll make sure I do some work on a Saturday or during the week. I don't always know how much time I'll need so I always massively overcompensate just to be sure.
- And think of your future self
Last weekend I did about 6 or 7 hours of coursework that's due tomorrow, which meant I've only had to do a couple of hours this week to have my submission ready for tomorrow. It was such a nice surprise in the week when I sat down to do a few hours to realise how much I'd actually done the weekend before! So by doing loads in advance I'd made it so much easier for myself this week and this weekend to do the final touches.
I have a huge. huge fan of the Pomodoro technique and I don't think I'd get through my course without it! It's a simple technique - 25 minutes of uninterrupted, focused work, followed by a 5 minute break. You'd be surprised how much you can get done in 25 minutes! I also use this at work a lot and I find it really helpful when I need to focus on something for a while. I use the website Tomato-Timer or you can just use the timer on your phone!
- Remind yourself why you are doing it
There are lot of times, okay most of the time, when I really, really don't want to do my coursework. There are just so many more fun things I want to be doing! But the reality is, I've wanted to do this course for years, it will be incredibly beneficial for my career and I chose to do this! Sometimes you have to take a step back and remember why you chose to do this and how worth it it will all be in the end!
- Don't do it every day
As I mentioned earlier, I study a few days a week, and the rest of my time is mine. This means I can really focus when I am studying and put aside a few hours at a time, rather than an hour here and an hour there.
- Create new routines
Finding routine is all about finding what works for you. When I first started my course, I made a quick dinner and went to a Starbucks round the corner. I realised quickly that it was way too noisy in there, and I didn't like having to cart all my stuff. So I started to do most of my studying on a Sunday, which works for me. It means I have Saturday to make plans and do nice things, and Sundays are for getting stuff done!
- Accept that you can't do everything
I would love, love, love to be training for another marathon right now. I'd love to still be going to choir every week. I'd love to be doing a million other things. But I chose to do this and I've had to make sacrifices. There's no way I'd be able to study on a Sunday after a 15 mile run, and having Mondays with choir would mean one less day for last-minute studying, so I've had to be realistic about what I can and can't do. It's hard, but I have to remember why I'm doing this and know that it will all be done in December and I can go back to doing other things!
I'm very aware that my course is only 4-8 hours a week and it's nothing like people studying for things like Accountancy qualifications which take up almost a full-time job's worth of hours, but it's still hard work to do on top of everything else!
Got any more tips for studying while working full tine? Let me know on Twitter!