We choose to work and study at the same time for all sorts of reasons. Laying the groundwork to move forward with our lives and careers while maintaining stability is one. Changing career tracks is another. Finally having the money to go back into education is a third.
Either way, I don’t think it’s easy. It is, however, incredibly rewarding. Your life becomes more worthwhile, and you feel more fulfilled. Even if your job is not what you really want to be doing, you can appreciate it more because it gives you the money to study. Even if you’re a bit stressed and tired from having less free time, you have intrinsic motivation because you’re moving a step closer towards where you want to be, every day.
In September 2018 I started a long-distance MA in Illustration at Falmouth University, UK, while working full-time in Tokyo, Japan.
These are some of the methods that helped me to keep on top of things.
1. Break Down Your Week
One week is 168 hours. I am at work 8 hours 9-5 including a 1 hour lunch, with 3 hours total commuting time each day. I am studying MA Illustration, which has a recommended study time of 20 hours a week, but in reality I think the work takes me closer to 30 hours. I’m going to say I need 8 hours sleep, because without sleep I can’t function at all.
So, my week breaks down like this:
84h of Unusable Time
Work – 35h/wk (7 x 5)
Sleep – 49h/wk (8 x 7)
27h of Time for Doing Other Things*
Weekdays: 15h/wk (3 x 5)
Sat/Sun: 12h/wk (6 x 2 )
20h of Semi-usable Time**
Commute – 15h/wk (3 x 5)
Lunch hour – 5h/wk (1 x 5)
30h of Usable time
Weekdays: 10h or 2h/ day
Sat/Sun: 20h or 10h/day
* Like getting ready, having food, chilling out, other work or cleaning the house.
**This time is suitable for doing a bit of reading or watching a webinar, but nothing too intensive.
So, my week effectively boils down to this. If I do 2h study on weekdays, and 10h on Saturday and Sunday each, I will make up the 30 hours that I have found I needed for my studies.
I also have 20 hours in bits-and-pieces during my commute or lunch hour which I can use to reduce or supplement my serious study time.
Of course, this is not clear cut. It’s very important to be flexible, but its also good to know on one level, just how much time you are able to put into the work, if you need to.
You also probably don’t need to spend so much time on your work every week. You’ll do more on some weeks, and less on others. Try to work out the schedule that suits you, and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day.
The point here is to put in the time steadily and consistently. If it becomes a habit, all the better.
2. Learn Smarter
There are broadly four types of learners; Interpersonal, Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Do you retain information best if you read or write it, if you see it in a graphic, if you hear it, or if you simply do it? Find the point of least resistance for your study methods.
For example, I struggle with understanding very abstract ideas when they are explained solely in writing. In this instance, I might search for a video on the topic to help me out.
I like listening and find I absorb information very well like this. In this case, listening to the audio transcripts of my lectures, or record myself reading my materiel to listen to again later. Note taking and writing things down based on my own recollection also helps me understand better.
3. Digital Tools
Flexibility and using the little bits of time that crop up in my day really help me keep my head above water. It perhaps goes without being said, but Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Microsoft’s OneDrive can be very useful for working on the go. I do however find that formatting can change when transferring between Google Docs and Word on my desktop. This means I usually use Word on my computer for actual essay drafts, but write notes using Google Docs on the go. Keeping your reading material in Google Drive can also mean you have access to it where ever you go.
4. Be Honest With Your Employer
This may not be possible for everyone, but as far as you can, I do think it’s good to give your employer the benefit of the doubt, and tell them that you are or will be studying while working. Employers do really want their employers to be happy and productive, so having someone who is more motivated to finish their work efficiently while also moving forward in their careers is, I believe, not a bad thing. My personal experience was extremely positive, and I do think that since my employer understood my position, there was no unnecessary burden placed on either side.
There you have it. My four very basic tips for working and studying at the same time! There might be more to come on this topic as I become a better “double-timer,” but in the mean time, good luck with all your projects, and I hope you find this useful.