Maintaining a productive balance between work and online learning

Learning should be a lifelong activity, and many of us want to continue our education even after we enter the world of full-time work. But finding the time to study for a qualification can be difficult when you are focused on advancing your professional career or just earning a living. Even though completing the course will make you more employable, and may open up new areas of opportunity, fitting it in around the 9–5 can be a daunting task.

Online learning is one solution, as this can be done at your own pace, with flexible timetables you can tailor around your own existing commitments. You can work from home, without having to attend classes in person. Wilkes University offers an online Ph.D in nursing that runs over nine flexible terms, each lasting 12 weeks, and consists entirely of coursework that is completed remotely.

Even with online learning, some people still find it difficult to juggle study and a career. Here are some tips for managing your time to achieve a productive work-study balance.

Stick to a schedule

Even though online lectures and tutorials are often recorded, so can be watched at any time, try your best to attend them as if you were attending in person. Putting off a lecture just because you can is the surest way to slip behind. If a remote class is live, turn up on time so that you can contribute and ask questions, rather than watch it later. With pre-recorded materials, watch them at your earliest convenience and write up your notes afterwards.

Be organized

Set aside time in your day to study. This could be first thing in the morning before work or in the evenings when you return home. You might prefer to dedicate weekends to studying or keep them free for family time and relaxation. Find the time of day when you are most awake and productive, and schedule study hours then.

Prioritize learning

Be realistic about how many hours a week you need to dedicate to research, revision, and writing essays, as well as your scheduled lectures. Ring-fence that time and do not let any other distractions intrude upon it. Make sure that your family and friends understand why this is important to you and talk to them about managing chores and social obligations while you are studying.

You should also discuss your course of study with your employer and work colleagues. Reassure them that it will not interfere with you doing your job, and explain how it will make you a better qualified and more skillful employee when you have completed it. Hopefully, they will cut you some slack when it comes to overtime and out-of-work activities.

Look after your health

Staying healthy will help you work and study more effectively. If managing to do both means you are missing out on sleep or not getting enough fresh air or exercise, try to adjust your schedule. Poor health will increase the chance of stress-related burnout, setting you back in both your job and your course.

E-learning courses should have student support services that can help if you are struggling. Getting into good habits from the start is the best way to balance work and school. Remember, you are doing this for you, and at the end of your course, you will feel a great sense of achievement as new opportunities unfold before you.

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