Adult students who work: You’ve been to school before, so this should be familiar, right? Attending classes, working and fitting in time for household and family time. 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? Do you have ADHD?
We get into trouble and into chaos when we don’t stop to think about how things have changed.
If you’re in school now or starting school in September, think about these suggestions now. Think, then plan, then practice, as it takes time to iron out the pieces. School affects every other aspect of your time and life, including the people around you. It is not a small thing to figure out on your own.
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 role they play, in each part of life.
It doesn’t have to feel so chaotic, like you’re letting everyone down, including yourself.
Syllabus Deadlines and Regular Study Times
School deadlines: Think of the syllabus as one person’s way to organize materials.
This has two problems for the adult student: It may not be how your mind organizes work; and the syllabus tells you results only. So your first paper is due on xyz date …. but to deliver ontime, you need a system to back up that deadline to when you need to start. And if you need this, you also need a way to keep track of multiple deadlines (for those of you with ADHD, this is a classic example of Executive Function capabilities).
Suggestion: Think about how you will approach the paper. You’ll make your topic choice, then research and outline mentally or on paper. Then you’ll have first draft, review it, second draft, citations and bibliography formatting, and then submission. That’s a lot more steps than you’d see on a syllabus. [Methods to organize can include: calendar, academic calendar, post it notes, mindmap, index cards, talking 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 or maybe during the day. If that works for you, add short blocks of time to your calendar or reminder system. Tiny task example!
- When you have a paper due, use the steps approach (above) 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 due to less sleep? Yes.
Choose a “Study Space” at Home
You need a home base, all yours, where your materials, technology, and notebooks live so they aren’t strewn about the house, getting lost or mangled by adults, children or pets.
If not, you’ll lost precious time, as you look for your work and materials. You’ll also need to explain the space and the importance of privacy (a boundary, right?) to your family. This physical space separation also helps your mind stay organized about school instead of other things on your mind.
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? Is your program mostly online? Which younger person in your household will be your tech support or do you want to check out your school’s resources? Start now. The technology is potentially is a big piece of your learning curve.
How Will School Change Home Schedules and Roles?
What will finishing school 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.
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.
- Do more virtually: grocery delivery can save time [and money, because in our household, I have trouble sticking to my list when I go to the store, but not online!) You, the student, can be the one to call the TV/phone/internet company if something’s awry. Order more products virtually to save time. These are tiny tasks, so they can fit into a work schedule or be done as you commute in those small slivers of time. This also means you need a shareable list.
- Create a shared family calendar with studying times and family responsibilities so everyone is on the same page and respects your study time. It’s harder to remember everything when there is so much more.
- If feasible, for the time you are in school, hire a cleaning service, landscaping or mowing, shoveling and plowing, trash pickup, etc. to release weekend time for studying. Think of the chores you’ve done and how they could be done more easily.
- What are you willing to do less of or do differently to have more family time, 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. Or splitting your morning exercise time between morning and evening, and studying while you exercise (sometimes).
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 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.
Have you tried this on your own but something is still not working? Or you need to figure out what to do, where to start because you’re about to start school? I offer a 20-30 minute “Meet each other and walk away with at least one new strategy session.”
Call me or message me. 603.765.9267 or Sue@CoachSueWest.com My work is very practical (literally, we look at your calendar together, figure out routines, habits, whatever will work in you life.)
And it really works; client testimonials are here.
If you have ADHD and are newly diagnosed or newly paying attention to it because life has become more complex, check out my workbook, “Change Your Habits: ADHD Style”. I also offer pricing if you’d like different levels of my support, coaching or guidance as you go through it. More details and previews here.