Our Ready, Set, Grow series is an eight-part series that will walk an adult learner through the process of going back to school.
Ready, Set, Grow! – Balancing School and Life
If you’ve always wanted to advance your education but didn’t feel you had the time to pursue that goal, there may be no time like the present. Your children may be growing more independent or going on to college themselves, leaving you with an empty nest. Your employer may be offering tuition assistance or other incentives to go back to school. Or you may be at a crossroads in your career, in need of a BSN or MSN degree in order to advance and pursue that dream job.
Regardless of the obligations you’re juggling, the first step in balancing school with daily life and work is to gain the support of your friends and family. Let them know how they can help you reach your goals. Explain your needs and set the expectation that they will be met.
The online learning experience comes with tremendous advantages in terms of balancing school and life. It creates scheduling flexibility and allows nurses to pursue programs that might not be available locally in a traditional classroom setting. It can virtually erase time and space challenges, making it possible for you to gain vast amounts of knowledge from a personalized work station at home. Best of all, online learning eliminates what is no longer necessary for obtaining a degree—like the need to battle traffic, find a parking space in a crowded university lot, or fit your life into a traditional semester schedule. You can be at home with your family nearby while you study and do coursework, perhaps while dinner is in the oven and your kids are settled in with their own homework.
You’ll need a time management strategy to help you balance the responsibilities of your new academic journey with daily life. When you’re juggling work, school, and family, you simply can’t rely on blind faith that “it will all get done.” Identify those obligations that are set in stone (i.e. a child’s carpool) and work around them. Often it’s best to keep everything on one calendar—work schedule, birthdays, kids’ playdates, family dinners, and your school project deadlines. When you can see it all at a glance, you can juggle priorities, perhaps working ahead on coursework to make sure you have free time for important family events. Look for time slots you can make use of for school work—whether it’s getting up two hours earlier or delegating dinner preparation tasks to another family member. If you can find a little bit of time every day to spend on schoolwork, you’re less likely to get behind and feel overwhelmed. The farther out you plan, the easier it is to carve out the time for things that really matter to you—a good night’s sleep, an hour at the gym, working in the garden, or movie night at home. When you know that all the high-priority items are covered, you can enjoy free time with peace of mind.
For very specific, targeted time management tips, please see our e-book, Karen’s Corner which is chock-full of tips from Dr. Karen Whitham, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs for balancing school and life. Karen has been where you are and came out on the other side with first-hand knowledge and advice.