It’s hard to find time to study when you’re juggling work and home commitments. These three tips will help you find time to study while adulting.
The face of the average higher ed student is changing – it’s no longer the domain of school leavers.
Mature-age students make up around 41% of higher education, with 67% of students working and studying at the same time.
Studying while juggling work and family life presents a set of challenges you don’t have when you’re fresh out of school.
The good news is the maturity you bring means you’re well-equipped to overcome those challenges.
You’re already adept at juggling multiple roles. You do it every day. But if you’re worried about how you’re going to study with a busy schedule, there are three strategies to use: schedule study, snack study and sneak study.
1. Schedule Study
According to research, the average adult without children has about 30.4 hours of leisure time a week, while those with children have around 24.5 hours. On average, if you’re a woman, you usually have a few hours less leisure time than your male partner, especially if you have young kids.
If you’re wondering where those 25-30 hours are hiding, you’re not alone. The best way to find those hours is to keep a time diary for a week and to analyse how you’re spending your time.
When I did this exercise, I was shocked at how much time I spend on social media. What feels like a few minutes scrolling Instagram can quickly turn into half an hour wasted.
Once you know how you spend your time, it’s easier to manage your time and set aside study blocks. You can either use your existing calendar, like Google Calendar, to block time for study or use a free study planner tool like this one to allocate your study time around work, sleep, and family commitments.
If you’re working and/or have children, study time is going to occupy the margins: early mornings, nights, naptimes and weekends. When I asked mothers on Facebook when they study, the overwhelming response was mornings and nights.
When planning your study schedule, it’s also important to consider your energy levels.
I prefer to study early morning because that’s when I have the most energy. If I scheduled it at night, it would never happen – I’m usually in bed by nine!
On the other hand, if you’re a night owl, the quiet nights after everyone else has gone to sleep might be the perfect time to study distraction-free.
As well as scheduling time to study, you will want to create a study plan so no time is wasted during your precious study sessions.
One way to keep track of your study time, exams, class timetable etc, is to use a dedicated app. Study apps include:
2. Snack Study
If you’re juggling study with other commitments, you might not have the luxury of long marathon study sessions, especially if you have children. Your schedule might look more like confetti, with little bits of snack-sized study time scattered here and there.
This may actually be an advantage, not a disadvantage.
Studies reveal that the optimum time to spend on focused work is 52 minutes. The famous Pomodoro time management technique suggests just 25 minutes.
The reason is that our energy to stay focused gets depleted pretty quickly. We’re more productive when we have short breaks regularly, rather than slug it out for hours because it gives our brains time to refresh.
Here’s how to make snack studying work:
1. Break down your study into bite-sized chunks. At the beginning of your course, you’ll be given readings, assignments, and other study tasks. Break all of these tasks down and start working on them straight away, even assignments, a little each week.
2. Snack study when there are no disruptions. That means before the kids have woken up or after they go to bed. Turn off Facebook notifications, shut the door, and focus on your study for a set amount of time, somewhere between 25 minutes to an hour – find the time that works best for you.
3. Then take a break (which may look like folding the washing, getting the kids ready for school, or going to work).
If you do find you have a stretch of hours for study – maybe a weekend dedicated to study, you’ll find you’ll study more effectively if you break your study into snack-size sessions, taking time to have an off-screen break in between sessions.
3. Sneak Study
How do people with a job and kids find time to study?
“I study while my son is at soccer practice.”
“I study at the library on Saturday afternoons.”
“I study during my lunch break.”
“I study while I’m cooking dinner.”
“I study while I’m breastfeeding.”
“I study on the bathroom floor while my kids are in the bath.”
“I study while my kids are doing homework.”
“I study in a tent in the backyard.”
These are the answers mums gave when I asked on Facebook: how do you find time to study?
You don’t have to wait for perfect conditions before you study because that might be never.
The good news is you’re already an expert at being creative with your time – you do it every single day.
There are lots of opportunities for sneaking in study during the day. Waiting at the doctor’s surgery is a good example. Make the most of it by carrying your notes, your textbook or a cheat sheet of info you need to remember.
(As a side note, waiting for the doctor would count as leisure time in the research.)
Commuting is another perfect time for study.
Some parents sneak study in by reading their textbooks to their kids or telling them about what they’re studying (which is a great way to memorise it).
Others listen to lectures while folding the washing or cooking double-batch meals so they have more time to study later in the week.
You don’t have to fill every spare moment with study; in fact, you’ll burn out if you do, but there are always ways to sneak a little more in if you need to.
It’s harder to find time to study when you’re juggling a range of other commitments, but by scheduling study time into the small gaps and doing it consistently, you’ll be acing your classes in no time.