While managing a full-time job and holding down a family of 5.
Going back to school is a big time decision for most. For me, it was something that I had to do for myself and I needed to go back and finish what I had started. Only problem was, getting a four year degree is no walk in the park. I was working a full-time job and in addition to that, we have a full house at home with three little girls. For anyone who has three kids, you know what the studying environment can be like pretty much — nonexistent.
I had made the decision to go back to college and get my degree. This meant that regardless the circumstances or barriers that presented themselves, I was going to find a way to complete the mission. Spoiler Alert: I completed my four year degree and it was one of the best decisions that I made for myself. Not because of the degree, but more because of the process and what I took away from it.
I want to share these tips that helped me get through school, while managing a full time job and balancing my time with my family.
Create a plan
Family time for me is most important. I believe that if you have children, then you should be there for your children as much as you possibly can. So, making sure that I was available to my family was important. I created pockets of time throughout my day to make sure that I am present and in the moment. Ensuring that my children were emotionally taken care of.
Moments like dinner time, bath time, or bed time are really great areas of opportunity to look at. In addition to making time for my family, I also needed the right focus at work and school in order to be successful. The work schedule I could not control, but the school schedule I could. I decided to schedule in a 4 hour block time everyday after getting home from work. It would start by eating dinner, spending some time with my family and then starting my school work. Basically, I created a block time schedule for myself and I stuck to it.
Stick to your plan and tweak as needed
Anyone can create a plan, but that plan is nothing without execution and consistency behind it. I am sure that most can relate to that time where you created a plan, but that plan goes no where near as planned. Yeah, so this is why it’s important to stick to your plan and adjust as much as you may see fit. Maybe, you feel better studying in the mornings versus the afternoons. Or maybe you prefer to adjust your work schedule by finding a new job that will support your new goals. There is alot that can be adjusted in your day, in order to find that rhythm. The only way to really figure this out, is to stick to your plan. As the days go by, you will begin to identify what is working and what is not.
Wake Up Earlier
When people say “ but I just don’t have the time” it really means, they just don’t want it bad enough. Time is available to us. It is spread thin sometimes. But if you want to accomplish something bad enough, believe me, you will make the time.
Waking up earlier is a great example. If you find that you need some quiet time for yourself, some uninterrupted time for you to sit down, read some chapters, write a paper or just study in silence, then waking up earlier is a great option.
Now, before you say “but I would have to wake up early” — well, yes you do need to wake up earlier, but the good news is that you will learn to appreciate this alone time.
I know that it can sound difficult, but like I said, if you really want something, you will make it work. Waking up earlier, can create a nice block of time to accomplish anything you need to.
When you have alot that you are balancing at once, organization becomes your friend. Creating, or finding a system that helps you stay organized is important. The more streamlined a process is, and the more organized it is, the more efficient things become. When you have a family and you are working a full-time job and then you throw college right into the middle of that, any type of tips or help that can help make your life easier is something you welcome with arms wide open.
What has always helped me to stay organized is to write things down. I own a moleskin notebook/calendar and here is where I would break down my assignments to the day and I would attack a little bit of work each day. The important thing is, that you define exactly what needs to get done each day.
A clear and concise vision helps you to not only stay organized, but it gives your mind a clear direction of what assignments need to be completed in order to reach deadlines. The last thing you want, is to be scrambling last minute all because you didn’t prioritize organization.
A good night sleep goes a long way for us. I learned College and late nights go together. I also learned, it doesn’t always have to be this way. If you plan properly you can avoid this trap. Most of the times anyway.
Sleep is extremely important. Not only is it necessary to maintain optimal cognitive function, but it is tied to our over all mood and how we react to stress and challenges.
Let’s face it, going back to college when you already have alot of responsibilities on your plate, is just asking for added stress somewhere along the line.
By prioritizing your sleep and ensuring yourself that you are getting adequate amounts of sleep is going to help you in the long run. Going back to college is a 2-4 year process on average. This means, that you will be working day in and day out consistently for years at a time in order to complete your education. Sleep is something you will need in order to handle each day.
Let Your Manager Know You Are Back In School
I prefer to keep as much as my personal life private when it comes to work and work environments. It’s just been my preference. However, I informed my manager at the time that I was returning to school and she was very supportive.
When someone hears that you are returning to school when you have have a full time job and three kids, they immediately see it as a courageous and admirable goal. It takes a lot of guts to take something like this on, so most people are supportive.
Communicating with your supervisor sometimes can open up some help on their part. Most managers are happy that you are sharing goals as such. Any type of flexibility that you can get is going to be of value. Maybe, there is no flexibility available, but maybe there can be. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to communicate.
I have fallen victim to this trap and it has always turned out with the same result. Me scrambling last minute, stressing out to the max because time is running out before I need to submit an assignment, and all I have is the date written on the paper with a blinking cursor. It is never fun! Never have I had a procrastination scenario where I said to myself “that was awesome.” So, no matter how much this may seem like an option to consider, don’t do it.
For some reason, we all procrastinate in some shape or form in our lives. I don’t know about your experiences with procrastination, but they always end with a lack of sleep and a shot of stress.
Procrastination happens by leaving something for the last minute. If you have three papers that are due on the same day, then do not leave all three papers for the last day. It sounds like such a sound and simple decision, but if not taken seriously, you can easily fall victim. This is where all the tips come together to avoid this one stress inducer. Don’t Procrastinate!
Stay the course! There are going to be alot more times where you don’t feel like doing something that you know needs to be done. School work can be one of those somethings. You get out of a stressful day at work, you come home to a loud household with three kids running around and now you need to sit down and study for a few hours. If your day looks anything like this, you may find yourself trying to find an excuse as to why you shouldn’t put the time in.
Don’t fall victim to procrastination. Discipline yourself to do the things you don’t feel like doing.
In the beginning, I said that the degree was not my biggest take away from completing this journey. My biggest takeaway, was the discipline that I instilled in myself that is most valuable to me. A strong self-discipline can be very valuable if you cultivate it properly.
Look Into Online Classes
Online classes are becoming more and more popular these days. In fact, for people like me who are looking to complete a college education, but still have a family and are working full time jobs, online classes can be just what we need to fulfill your dream.
I can’t tell you how many people I have ran into and when the talk of going back to school comes up, they just don’t have the time to drive to the campus and sit in a class. This is where the flexibility of online classes comes in. Maybe this is something that can work for you.
Never, Never, Never Quit.
Taking on a goal like this for yourself is not going to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. You can bet that within those 2-4 years of college (can be longer) you are going to run into some long, hard, stressful moments. But, you just make sure that you never quit on yourself. Never quit on your dream.
One bad day, or one bad assignment grade is just a drop in the bucket of the hundreds that you will be doing. Do not let it discourage you. You take the bumps, pick yourself up, keep moving forward and you put your focus into getting better everyday in order to accomplish your mission. You can quit – just not today.
A college education is something that one should consider, and if you feel that within your life it is something that is going to be of value to you and your future, then I say shoot for it. Just remember, that once you decide, you commit to it. And once you commit to it, there is no stopping until the goal is complete.