Before I began my doctorate program, I was terrified of not being able to balance working full time and studying full time. I had heard all the stories of ‘giving up your social life’ and ‘sleeping 4 hours a night for weeks in a row’. As it so turns out, these are slight exaggeration. It is possible to work and study full-time, find a balance, and still see your friends (if only occasionally during finals week).
Eight months into balancing these two ‘full-time’ expectations, here are a few tips some might find helpful:
Keep strict hours between work and study. When not studying full time, many people might find themselves putting in extra hours for their job on the nights and weekends. But you will need to be more efficient with your time at work, and limit yourself reasonable hours (40-50 hours?). The transition is difficult, but eventually equilibrium is established, and you find yourself dedicated to schoolwork during off-work hours. Not working on off-work hours seems fair. Write it in our calendar; establish a routine time to leave the office; tell your colleagues you’ll be leaving; set an alarm on your watch/phone to transitions from work to school (or vise versa)…. There are many ways to establish specific times to work and specific times to study.
Reward yourself with no-work, no-study time….and enjoy it! Like dieting, you will eventually eat a piece of chocolate. When you do so, don’t let the guilt take away from the fun. Set aside time to have dinner with a friend, take a walk around the neighborhood, or go to the movies. But when you do it, shut off your other responsibilities and let yourself enjoy the downtime. This break from school and work helps you rejuvenate and energize for a potentially grueling week ahead.
Establish a routine for studying. If you like studying in coffee shops, find multiple coffees shops that are open late (and let you have more then 2 hours wifi per $5 spent). If you like routine and need a desk that is dedicated only to school work, tape that off with ‘off-limits’ for the duration of your studies. Some are able to study in their workspace, but not most; try not to mix the locations or you may find yourself answering work emails mid-studies. If a cup of tea helps you study, keep the tea drawer fully stocked. Some like music, other don’t. I found myself always getting up to find chapstick – now I keep chapstick on me when studying, lest I use this as a procrastination tactic. Find what works and set yourself up for success.
Remember, there are many benefits to balancing these responsibilities. Receiving a paycheck during your studies makes it easier to pay off loans more quickly, and allows you to enjoy the #2 of rewarding yourself (a $10 glass of wine is less of a hit when you’re working, and boy does it taste good.)
Many who are working and studying in the same industry, find the applicability of school to have immediate payoff in their career; bosses are happy when the concepts your learning about are applied to work. And in a few years you’ll look back and be glad you did it.