Adult students who work: You’ve been to school before, so this should be familiar, attending classes, still working and fitting in time for household and family time. Right? That depends on how long it’s been since you were in school. And did you have a family or spouse at the time? How intense was your work then?
We get into trouble and into stressful chaos when we don’t stop to think about how things have changed.
If you’re starting school in September, start thinking about these suggestions now,. Why now at mid summer? Well, count the weeks to the first week of September. Summertime goes fast, doesn’t it?
My experience is personal and professional. In my household, one of us has been in grad school or a certification program for the past 10 years. I often work with adults returning to school as they juggle personal life, work life and school demands to make it all work together …. and to feel good about the person they are, in each part of life.
3 Organizational/Productivity Questions for Adult, Working Students
Syllabus Deadlines and Regular Study Times
School deadlines: Think of the syllabus as one person’s way to share deadlines. It’s the university or instructor’s approach but it has two problems for the adult student: It’s often not how your mind organizes your work; and the syllabus tells you “results.” So your first paper is due on xyz date …. but to deliver ontime, you need a system to back up that deadline into when you need to start.
Here’s how. Think about how you will approach the paper. You’ll make your topic choice -research-outline mentally or on paper – first draft-review-second draft-citations and bibliography formatting-submission. That’s a lot more steps than you’d see on a syllabus. [Methods to organize can include: calendar, post it notes, mindmap, index cards, talking it aloud with a classmate.]
Regular studying time: When will you fit in your schoolwork? First ask what kind of work you’ll have.
- Discussion posts could be handled before and after work. If that works for you, add short blocks of time to your calendar or reminder system, especially as you start this new routine.
- When you have a paper due, use the steps approach to you chip away at it over time. Don’t let yourself be surprised by a deadline, so you stay up ’til midnight. Is that doing your best work? Will you be tired at your job the next day? Frustrated with your family because your patience is short with less sleep? Yes.
Choose a “Study Space” at Home
It’s simply a home base, where your materials, technology, and notebooks live so they aren’t strewn about the house, getting lost or mangled by adults, children or pets. That’ll cause precious lost time, as you lose it looking for your work, just to sit and get started! This physical space separation also helps your mind stay organized about school, and with boundaries around the time and space for everyone you live with.
If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve attended school, there’s a whole layer of technology you’ll need to learn and keep up with. Do you need a new tablet if you’re self-employed and don’t want to head into “the office” to do your schoolwork? In my program, not only is this it mostly online, but our discussion posts are videos of our answers. So…. which younger person in your household will be your tech support or do you want to check out your school’s resources? Start now.
How Will School Change Home Schedules and Roles
You’re working and doing well, but you want to be an adult student for some reason. What will it mean to you? And to your family? Have that discussion so everyone begins to understand the sacrifices you will make together and why this matters.
And then there’s the practical side. You really can’t ignore this and think life will be the same. That’s far too much burden on everyone else and will create chaos, stress and frustration in your lives.
Managing a family and a household is like a puzzle of routines and chores; the puzzle pieces you have been taking care of are going to have to change because your time will be different.
- You can do more virtually: in our house, we took grocery delivery to save time [and money, because we don’t pick up other items we see while shopping which we “must need.” Put it towards your books.] You, the student, can be the one to call the TV/phone/internet company if something’s awry. You can order more products virtually, like we have through Amazon Smile/Prime. These are tiny tasks, so they can fit into a work schedule during the day or be done as you commute.
- Create a shared family calendar with studying times and family responsibilities so everyone is on the same page and doesn’t forget who is doing what and where you are. It’s harder to remember everything when there is so much more to remember.
- If feasible, for the time you are in school, you can hire a cleaning service, landscaping or mowing, shoveling and plowing. Think of the things you’ve done and how they could be done more easily.
- What are you willing to give up or do less of in order to have more family time, or time for yourself, or less stress ? “Less of” might be eating more leftovers instead of fresh meals nightly. Cook in bulk one weekend day a month creating and freeze several meals. Or “less of” might be compromising to watch the older kids while you study, giving your spouse a break from keeping your whole life together.
Next steps: I’d suggest you print out this post or email it to your family. Share the ideas and start talking about how this can work for all of you. This education or credential is important to your life; start there and then work out the practicalities. You all deserve it, so take some time to plan for success.
If you’ve tried this on your own and need another perspective or have done as much as you can but are nervous about handling it all, call me or message me. 603.765.9267 or Sue@CoachSueWest.com My work is very practical. And it really works; client testimonials are here.