Thinking of taking up or returning to study but unsure how you’ll manage the juggling act? Fear not. Master’s student and doctor Carolyn Neil proves it is possible, after taking up a degree while working at Royal Perth Hospital. Here, she provides her top tips for combining study with family, work and other commitments.
1. Be mobile
Make sure you can study anywhere and everywhere, either by carrying your data on an external hard drive/USB or storing it somewhere like Google Drive. And backup – religiously! You don’t want to ever lose your work.
2. Combine tasks
If I’m cleaning/cooking/driving, I’ll likely also be talking to a friend, listening to a lecture or podcast or catching up on a TV show.
3. Protect your sleep
I did loads of research about this. If you’re not getting enough, your brain won’t work as well and you’re basically going to find everything harder and you’ll take longer. That was a hard one to take on board but has definitely worked. Also protect your time with the people you love.
4. Create time
Don’t forget to use your professional development leave. You can get an enormous amount done in a day of PDL, so use it.
5. Make your study mode work for you
Consider studying online if the option is available, as it cuts down on travel time, and you can access the material at times that are convenient to you. And look at the options offered: doing something intensively over a 1-week period where you can use your PDL and only have one assignment to submit may be much more manageable than something extending over the course of a whole semester.
6. Limit your commitments
Remember that uni only goes for a small number of weeks per year, so cut down on everything else during those times to make it easier on yourself.
7. Set realistic expectations
Remember that you don’t need to get stellar results. It is more about what you take away from the experience. Nobody is going to ask what your grades were so don’t put yourself under that pressure.
8. Lower the cost
Studying to upskill in your current job is tax-deductible so consider that. It can ameliorate the short-term costs and you potentially will have long-term gains in terms of career progression and income.
9. Use the resources available
Utilise the library resources and make sure you know the easier ways of doing things like referencing – don’t just try to struggle through on your own. The library staff are always willing to help and can book you in for training and help you set things up on your computer.
10. Do an emotional cost-benefit analysis
Unsure whether to take the leap? Just think: will you be happy if you never take on that challenge or will you always wonder?
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