The 5 Most Effective Ways to Fit Study Around Work
If you’ve been working for a while and are used to a regular salary, going back to education can be a difficult choice.
Financial commitments can make full-time study inaccessible for most people, so it’s no surprise that online learning – which you can do in your own time and fit around your current job – has become increasingly popular in recent years.
That said, we’d be lying if we said that studying whilst working is all rainbows, kittens and ice-cream. It’s challenging – but it’s also achievable, enriching and fulfilling.
We believe that working shouldn’t be a barrier to your career development. So, we’ve done some research into 5 of the most effective ways that you can fit study around work!
1. Make a schedule
It might seem like an obvious task, but we can’t overstate how important making a schedule is when it comes to fitting study around work. A schedule will add structure to your study plans and allow you to make the most effective use of the time when you’re not working.
To make a schedule that works for you, you’ll need to think carefully about how you study and how you learn. Do you learn better in short study bursts or in long sessions? Do you take in more knowledge in the morning or in the evening? Your preferences will help to define the schedule that you come up with.
Schedule your study sessions in a physical or digital calendar and choose which subjects you’d like to study on which day/time. Devote different days to studying a different topic to spread your learning out and make it more sustainable.
2. Learn during your commute and other ‘wasted’ time
Commuting to and from work can often feel like unproductive time — especially if you’re on a train or a bus and don’t have anything to do except avoid eye-contact with strangers, or stare at traffic jams.
Make the most of this time by getting some studying in. Reading and taking notes is probably the most effective way to study whilst you’re on the move, and commuting on a train or bus lends itself well to this.
If you’re driving, listening to a relevant podcast, an audiobook or even a recording of a lecture can be a great way to study safely on-the-go.
What you read or listen to doesn’t necessarily need to be directly related to the course either — anything that can enhance your understanding of the subject will be useful to you in some way.
Some other ideas for finding pockets of study time during a busy day:
- Read notes while eating breakfast
- Listen to lectures while at the gym
- Study during your lunchbreak at work
- Late night study sessions after the kids are in bed
- When the kids do their homework, do yours too!
3. Set some study goals
Goals are a great way to motivate yourself and to keep yourself focused on learning.
Studying an entire subject can seem like a daunting prospect, particularly if you’re trying to fit it around work commitments too.
Breaking down the subject into smaller sections, each with particular learning goals and clear steps to achieve those goals, can help to make the situation less overwhelming.
When you’re setting your goals, make sure they are:
- Measurable (so you can easily say yes, you’ve completed the task, or no, you haven’t)
- Specific (so that you know exactly what steps you need to take)
- Limited by time (so that you have a set timeframe to complete the task by)
For example, setting a goal like, ‘I will master UK employment law’ is too broad to be effective and to feel like you’re making real progress. Something more specific and measurable like gives you something clear to aim for.
Here are some good goal examples:
- ‘In the next three months, I will complete my module on UK employment law by studying for 2 hours every Monday night.’
- ‘I will prepare to sit my Accounting Software exam in January by studying for 30 minutes during my lunchbreak every Monday to Thursday until Christmas.’
4. Be flexible
One of the most essential traits to develop when it comes to fitting work around study is flexibility.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things won’t go to plan and you’ll need to account for them when trying to fit your study plans around your job. You might have to stay late at work. Your train or bus might get cancelled. Your car might break down.
Life has any number of mishaps it can throw at you, so make sure that you’re able to respond to them by giving yourself enough flexibility in your study plans.
Creating time in your schedule to rearrange study can be a useful way to stay flexible, as can not worrying too much if you miss a particular study session. Put things into perspective and bear in mind that you can always make up the time you lost later on.
5. Learn to take breaks
Working a 9-to-5 job and then studying until you go to sleep might seem productive but it’s a certain way to achieve burnout.
Science suggests that our brain actually needs breaks to learn. There’s evidence that suggests regular breaks when we’re doing an activity help us to consolidate and memorise information, aiding our overall learning.
For example, think of when you’re learning a new skill or when you’re working on a challenging task that you just can’t seem to get right. More often than not, that task is easier to complete the next day, after sleep or a break, when your brain has had the chance to get to grips with the information its learned.
It’s much more productive to pace yourself and to make sure that you have enough time to rest and recharge.
If you insist on spending every spare bit of time you have studying, you’re likely to find that you’ll receive diminishing returns in terms of what you learn. Aim to have at least a 5-minute break for every hour that you study.
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