Working and studying: How to find the balance

More and more students are working while they study – either to pay off tuition fees or to gain valuable work experience. Here are some tips to help you juggle both.

Working and studying at the same time is no easy task. It’s time-consuming and demands a lot of energy, forcing you to dig deep into your reserves. But if you’re on this path, it’s not impossible and you’re not alone. More and more students are choosing or being forced to work while they study – either to pay off tuition fees or to gain valuable work experience before they enter the permanent working world. And, more employees are opting to study to improve their prospects or to enable them to change careers. Here are some tips to help you juggle both.

Manage your time

Having two equally important and equally demanding commitments on your hands means you’ll have to learn how to manage your time. Prioritise your tasks every day, keeping big deadlines in mind so that they don’t suddenly creep up on you. While you might have to turn down the occasional braai so that you can study or work, it’s critical that you factor in time to exercise and relax, too. These breaks will help keep your sanity in check.

Use your commute

Travelling to and from university or work every day gobbles up valuable minutes that you could be using to prep for your next test. Make sure your notes are accessible if you’re travelling by public transport. If you’re driving, see if you can download audio versions of your textbooks or relevant podcasts to keep your education on track.

Communicate

It’s important that both your university lecturers and your managers know about your other time commitments. This shouldn’t be used as a Get Out of Jail Free card, but might be useful when you need to write an exam during working hours, or when an important work meeting prevents you from attending a workshop. Keeping the channels of communication open may help the people you report to be more sympathetic and understanding.

Create a support system

Your studies and your work are likely going to impact your relationships. Talk to your family and friends about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Help them to understand why this is important to you and they’ll be more likely to cheer you on. You might also consider creating study groups to make sure you’re consistently getting through your coursework.

Get enough rest

Implementing a healthy sleeping routine is crucial. Don’t assume you can get by on four hours a night for weeks on end – you’ll just head straight into burnout. Be as disciplined about your sleep as you are about your studies and your work, and the mental freshness and agility you reap will help you in the long run.

When it comes to working and studying at the same time, there are alternatives. If you’re not coping, take a look at your options. Perhaps you could study part-time rather than full-time, or find a job that offers flexitime or that you can do remotely. Be honest with yourself about what you’re capable of: even if it takes you a little longer, your drive and ambition will ensure you reach your goals eventually.

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