Whether you are young or old, balancing your life when you are a working student is always a difficult task. You must have enough time to attend class, study hard, complete all of your assignments in excellence, put in the hours at work, and deal with anything else that comes your way.
It’s seemingly impossible.
Well, it won't always be easy, but it certainly is still doable. We completely agree that some days there just literally won't be enough time. But there are also plenty of instances where without even realizing it, you won't make effective use of your time.
On the days when your time management skills are less than desirable, you will notice yourself struggling to complete everything that needs to get done. And, if it happens too often, you can feel like giving up.
However, that is where we come in! Check out our guide below of our seven tips for working students to help you manage your time constructively and strike up that study-work balance you desperately need.
Never Underestimate a Routine for Studying
Routine can evoke negative feelings in a lot of people. Sure, a lot of people love the idea of routine and order, but for others, the word routine is almost like a synonym for boring or unexciting.
But for studying, a routine is a must. When you have a lot on your plate, frequently switching between tasks or projects is highly ineffective. Our brains need to focus on one thing at hand to do it well, and this is where a routine comes in handy.
If possible, dedicate some time to study — preferably each day at the same time. This way, your body and mind can develop a habit and routine of knowing that this is study time and a hundred percent of your focus and concentration can be given.
If necessary, use aids during this time to help you block out the world and concentrate better. Maybe you could try some headphones that are noise-canceling or soft background music that you don't find distracting. Set a relaxing mood with candles if you want, anything that helps you settle into full focus.
Take Your Studies with You
How many times have you been on your way to work or college by bus, mindlessly scrolling through your phone? Probably most days.
How many times do you scroll through your phone while waiting for dinner to finish cooking or for your friend to be ready? Again, probably every day.
There are a hundred different scenarios where we are all guilty of wasting time while on our phones; you have to start making use of these snippets of time.
Try keeping important notes on your phone or in your bag, take any books or other resources around with you, or keep any recordings on your phone. (You may need to ask your professor if there is any extra material you can listen to or any parts of the lesson that you are allowed to record for study notes).
Then any time you are tempted to scroll through your phone, whip out your notes or put on an audio lecture instead. A mere ten minutes here and there can make a real difference, especially if it happens regularly.
Set Goals for Study Time
If you speak with your professor, they will tell you the minimum amount of time that they recommend you study for the course per week. Do your best to study this amount at the very least.
As a general rule for studying time, you should be studying two hours for each credit hour per course. If your course is worth four credit hours, you should be studying eight hours per week.
So, make a note of the amount you need to be studying and keep a tally each week to ensure you don't fall behind. To make it easier, you can make a chart to keep track and distribute your allowance of time efficiently based on what is a priority, or what you need to study the hardest on.
Under no circumstances should you ever leave big assignments or projects to the very last minute. Work on these first. They will always be worth a bigger percentage towards your grade, so the bigger the project the bigger the priority.
Be Consciously Wise with Your Time When You Are a Working Student
Things like calendars or diaries can be extremely useful at helping you become an expert at time management. It is quite possible that you will have a schedule at your place of work. Schedules are a great way for everyone to know who is working at which time and the workplace can run smoothly.
Here's a similar system you can use for your studying:
- Write up a schedule and mark off which times you are working
- In another color, mark off the times you are free
- Includes the time you are free from lectures and other regular responsibilities you have
- Now fill in the times you have available to study and complete assignments.
Use this time wisely. It does not matter if you have three hours free, or an hour free because it all adds up. When the end of the week comes, you'll be thankful you had every opportunity to study during the week.
Another way that you can be wise with your time is when it comes to sleeping. Don't think that staying up a few hours more to complete college work is a good use of your time — it will actually have the opposite effect in the long run.
If you stay up late, we can guarantee that you will feel sluggish the following day. If that happens a couple of days in a row, then your brain will not function as well.
So, for the sake of pushing yourself too hard one night, you have now slowed yourself down during the week. It is never worth it; get the amount of sleep each night that you need to function well because you will do better quality work by being alert and rested.
Don't Do Too Much Too Soon
Having a job while you are in college doesn't mean that you have to work a forty-hour week, and it doesn't even mean that you have to work a twenty-hour week. If you can, a job that has flexibility and the least required hours is the best kind of work to have when you are just starting school.
During your first year, everything is going to be new and exhausting. It is going to take some time to not only settle into your surroundings but also your studies. So, for the first year, at least, it is not always a good idea to take on too much workwise.
A side job such as baby-sitting or brand ambassador is a great way to earn some money without having a huge commitment. Once you feel comfortable that you are settled into college life, then you can look at taking on a more serious job with more hours and more commitment. But again, your schoolwork should never suffer for the sake of you having a more demanding job.
If You Need Help, Then Ask
Never forget that your professors or your boss will most likely be very accommodating if you need help. Most people have been in the situation that you are in and understand how it feels to be juggling studying and working.
So, if any part of your studying or working life starts to get too much, then reach out to your boss or your professors and tell them you need help. If you need an extension on a deadline then ask for it.
If you need to swap a shift at work to get more studying done during a particularly important week then just ask. And, if you need clarification on anything then simply ask too.
Most worries or problems that you will face as a working student can be solved by asking for help, so never feel embarrassed if you need it. It's completely normal and you will feel a lot better afterward.
Use Effective De-Stressing Methods
We all use different methods to help us de-stress, and what works for others might not work for you. But with so many different ways to relax, one can always find something for themselves. Below are some great methods to help you keep a calm and relaxed head as often as possible.
You will have heard this a hundred times before, and it's because it's completely true and very valuable. We all know that exercising helps with the release of endorphins. These happy hormones will work wonders on lifting your mood and clearing your head. If you are not a fan of exercise, just a twenty or thirty-minute walk a day could be all you need to perk up and feel less anxious.
Napping is not a sign of laziness. Napping for around fifteen to twenty minutes has been proven to completely refresh our mind and body. It is so effective that a nap is a standard part of the day in many countries.
However, don't nap for longer than twenty minutes because your body will fall into a deep sleep thus making you feel groggy when you wake up. Twenty minutes is all you need to wake up in an optimal state.
Water, Water, Water
Oh, and did we mention water? Stay hydrated by regularly drinking water. Water is essential to keeping our minds and bodies in tip-top shape. Just think about the headaches you feel when you are dehydrated; drinking water is an easy way to keep your body working well.
Don't Use Electronics Too Much in Your Bedroom
At the end of each night, allow yourself to have ten minutes or so of nothing: no phones, no tv, no games, just nothing. Lay in bed, breathe and relax. Having some time before you fall asleep without anything to stimulate you is great for our minds and helps us sleep better.
Be Social but Within Reason
Of course, you cannot spend your whole college life switching between your bedroom, your lecture rooms, and your work. You need to socialize and have recreational activities; otherwise, you might just go insane.
However, don't go overboard. Being with friends is great for your mood and well-being, but hanging out with friends every night when you should be studying is not okay. Be social, but don't make it more important than your studies.
As a side note about how to stay de-stressed — don't drink too much caffeine. Zero caffeine is ideal. You can still have coffee, just make it decaf. And don't take on more classes than you know you can handle. Everyone has limits, and it is okay to admit that you can only do so much.
As a working student, you need to have your expectations set and know that your time at college is going to be tough. You are not superhuman, and no one can perfectly deal with studying and working. But by being realistic with your limitations, and managing your time as efficiently as possible, you will be able to get through college without too many hiccups. And who knows, you might just have fun along the way!