Finding the time to fit in the demands of your job and meet deadlines as well as time to socialise with friends, attend a parents evening or have a family day out can often feel like a squeeze. When you throw returning to education into the mix, there is a good chance that you may feel like you could fall off the work, life, study balance beam at any given moment.
While this may cause you to think twice about returning to education, it is important to remember that a healthy balance is possible to achieve. Thousands of people step up onto this balance beam every year, and while there may be the occasional wobble, they successfully manage to complete their studies around jobs and families.
To help put your mind at ease, or even provide those of you already trying to balance this trio of seemingly conflicting priorities with some help, UCEN Manchester’s dedicated support service Future U has pulled together some top tips on finding your balance with us.
To really give yourself the best chance of achieving balance it is important to plan ahead. You will receive all your study deadlines in advance, meaning you can plan time in for completing work or revision, so you don’t feel like you trying to cram to much in.
If you supplement this with any work deadlines or family commitments that you know you have, you will be able to see where conflicts may arise and factor this in. Instead of feeling overwhelmed in the run up to a deadline, you can start study projects sooner and give yourself more time to complete them.
The chances are that, if you are returning to studying, your day job is likely to be the factor that is least flexible. It is therefore important that you schedule time for study and time for play accordingly.
Set yourself specific study times throughout the week and try to stick to them so that studying doesn’t start to creep into your downtime. Also, make sure you factor in relaxation time and don’t be tempted to cancel plans at the expense of your studies. It is as important to be as strict with your ‘you’ time as it is to make time for studying.
Tracking your time is a simple way to help identify when balance is starting to be lost. Keep a note of the amount of time you are spending on your studies and if it is exceeding what your tutor has recommended, look at how you can reign it in in favour of some time with the children or grabbing a coffee with friends.
Of course, there will be times, such as the run up to a deadline or exam, where you need to give more time to your studies. However, it is important that once this period comes to an end you ‘reimburse’ yourself with additional time in those other areas of your life. Having this record will give you an honest assessment of how good your balance has been and give you everything you need to address things when the balance has had to shift to prioritise work, life or study.
It’s inescapable that, at different times in your study journey, any one aspect of the work/life/study balancing act will require slightly more attention than the other two. Frequently this leads to guilt, self-doubt and a feeling of failure.
However, it is important not to be too hard on yourself or to beat yourself up. Giving something the required focus at the right time is a necessary part of the balancing act; and providing you re-centre yourself when that time comes to an end, you are succeeding in your efforts to fit everything in.
By keeping this firmly in your mind – and making sure you compensate according to the plans and schedules we’ve already discussed – you will not only achieve a happy balance but also give yourself the best chance to succeed.
Finally, it is essential that you remember you are not alone. There are thousands of adults that will make the same decision as you to return to studying and fit it around a job and family.
At UCEN Manchester, we understand how challenging this balancing act can be and make every effort to make our courses as flexible as possible.
We’d encourage you to keep your family, boss, tutors and anyone else important in the loop about what you’ve got going on so they can understand your priorities and help you keep that balance where they can.
Additionally, we’ve developed a range of support and guidance services to help you successfully navigate the work, life, study balancing beam. Find out more about our dedicated support services Future U.