Going back into education when you are already deep in your career can be daunting, but it can also be the best move you can possibly make. In some career paths, going back to school can help you redirect your career. In other career paths, furthering your education can help you specialize and become a specialist in your field. Going back to school never means you give up what you currently have; you just expand your skillset, your network, and your qualifications. Some roles even demand further education in order to keep advancing in your career.
Regardless of which situation you are in, this guide will help you juggle your degree, your job, and also your personal life in 2022 and beyond.
What to Understand About the “Juggle”
Juggling your responsibilities and your life makes it sound like you can manage it all, so long as you stay on top of your time and energy. While you can certainly manage more with the right strategy and also with a healthy can-do attitude, know that you will not always succeed.
Rather than perfectly juggling your every responsibility and commitment, learn to prioritize. There will be responsibilities or relationships that take precedence and others that can be dropped.
In this analogy, consider that some of your responsibilities are made of glass. If you drop them in your juggle, they break, and the damage will have to be dealt with. Other responsibilities are durable and can be picked up again later.
An exam, for example, is a glass ball. While you can retake exams, you must prioritize them and try your best. A dinner date with a friend, however, can be easily rescheduled to when you have more time – it can be picked back up.
Looking at your responsibilities like this and prioritizing them in a healthy way can help take a lot of pressure off of you. It can also help you set healthier boundaries that allow you to more successfully work, study, and live your life.
Ensuring You Have the Right Resources
The second thing to have a good long look at is what resources you have available to you. The first resource in question should, without a doubt, be the university or program you are looking at enrolling in.
Not only do you need to ensure that the course you have chosen is designed to be completed online, and more importantly, completed by working students, you also need to know that the eLearning infrastructure is cohesive and intuitive enough to seamlessly teach you what you need to learn.
Correspondence degrees have been around for decades. Online degrees, however, have only recently truly come into themselves, and that is mainly due to massive investment during lockdown. The good news is that the new infrastructure is incredibly intuitive and works to take advantage of your personal device and how you learn.
Having a strong infrastructure is just a starting point. You should also have access to a student success advisor, a careers service, and more. Attending university offers many five-star services and levels of support, and attending an online program should offer the same.
A good example of a great online provider is nursing colleges. These accredited providers typically accept working professionals as their students and know just how demanding the careers in question are (and how essential). There are many exceptional examples, like the programs offered by Marymount University’s online nursing school, which offers multiple paths to become both an RN, an APRN and to earn a DNP.
Preparing and Upgrading Your Routine
Big changes take a lot of energy. Our minds are trying to get used to the new stimulus and don’t yet know how much energy is needed. Trying to jump into a new routine, especially one as difficult as managing a degree, a career, and your personal life, is not something you want to do when your degree or career is at stake.
Instead, start preparing in advance. This could be when you first decide to apply for a degree, when you start sending in the applications, or even once you get the acceptance (so long as there are at least a few weeks before the intake).
Improve Your Diet
A good place to start is with health habits, particularly those that impact your diet. Just like alcohol or drugs, foods can also be addictive, and getting off them also causes withdrawals. The withdrawals are nowhere near as serious and not life-threatening, but they can cause strain and stress while you adapt.
Foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar will all weigh you down. Sugar causes short-term energy, and then energy crashes. Fats and salts can cause lethargy and multiple health issues. Working to replace foods with alternatives that have been proven to provide a slower release of energy will help you in the long run.
Improve Your Sleep Routine
Sleep well, and you can take on the day, sleep well consistently, and you can take on the world. Sleeping well, especially if you live in an urban environment that results in artificial lights, noises, and distractions, can be difficult. The secret, of course, is deceptively simple.
Yes, you can improve your bedroom. You can choose sheets that help you better manage your internal temperature, and you can also set your HVAC to a cooler temperature so that you can sleep better. All of that will help, but none of it will be the magic solution you are looking for.
What will work, however, is consistency. This means not only should you aim to sleep at the same time, but you should also aim to set your bedtime so that you can naturally wake up in the mornings. Winding down before your bedtime is also important so that you can help your brain slow down and prepare to sleep. With this routine, you can make your internal rhythm work with you, not against you.
Getting fit doesn’t have to mean losing weight or gaining muscle. Rather than focus on fitness from an aesthetic point of view, you need to consider it from a stamina point of view. Stamina helps you do more with less energy, especially if you are on your feet a lot during the day like nurses are.
On top of increasing your stamina so that the physical aspect of your job and life takes less effort overall, exercise also works to increase blood and oxygen flow. You become stronger, and you can also think better and feel better overall.
Exercise is also recommended for its destressing benefits. Once you make it past the first hurdles that come with exercising regularly after not exercising at all, you’ll find that exercise can feel great. This is due to endorphin release, which works to help you feel great, powerful, and capable.
Start Your Study Routine Before You Start
Whatever your routine consists of, it’s a good idea to get started early with it. Starting anything new is going to take up a lot of mental capacity and feel daunting. When you start a new job, it can be exhausting because your brain is working overdrive to pick up and learn its new surroundings and situation.
The same could happen when you start your degree while you continue to work. That’s why you are far better off changing up your routine before your degree starts.
Tips and Tricks to Help You Manage Your Responsibilities
Everyone’s ideal routine will be unique to them. Your job, your responsibilities, and your needs will directly impact how your routine will look on any given day. Getting used to a routine and making it feel natural is a great place to start, especially if you get started before your degree does.
To practice, find a fun, free online course that you can take. Commit time to it during the same periods you will eventually be spending working on your degree. This course could be related to what you want to do or are doing, or it could be a purely passion interest – it doesn’t matter! What does matter is that you get into the swing of learning before your degree so that you can successfully adopt the degree into your routine without stress when the time comes.
Break Up Your Study Periods
On top of upgrading your health and wellness routine, remember to add in study periods. A full-time degree requires between eight to 12 hours per day, but part-time degrees designed for working professionals are a lot kinder.
To help you manage the extra effort easier, remember to break up your requirements. Say you wanted to invest four hours per day around your workday. You can start with thirty minutes in the morning, then use another thirty minutes during lunch. After work, you can do something for an hour, then take a break to run errands and have dinner, and then finish the day off with the final two hours.
Getting used to a consistent routine can help you keep up with the routine you have set for yourself and make it easier to memorize and learn.
Use Up Dead Time
Don’t forget to use dead time up, either. If you have a long commute, you can listen or relisten to lectures or even voice notes you have made for yourself. If you take public transport, you could do your readings. Any time you spend a long period of time waiting in one way or another, you can use that to comfortably study towards your degree.
Take Advantage of the Resources Available to You
Know what resources are available to you and use them. This will be through your university, but don’t be afraid to explore outside of your institution as well. There are programs for students that allow you discounts on products and services that you can only gain access to while you are enrolled in your degree.
Rely on Your Support Network
Your support network is made up of your family, your friends, your peers, your co-workers, mental health services, and more. Know who you have and rely on them. By spreading out and ensuring your support network is as large as possible, you can vent to friends, ask for advice or help, and not overload any one of your loved ones. They want to help, so let them, and remember to make time for them, too, as time spent socializing is an excellent way to destress and improve the quality of your breaks.
Improve Your Breaks
Take breaks but don’t scroll or watch television during them (at least, not during the short breaks during study sessions). Instead, make yourself something to eat and drink, do some light exercise, get outside – in general, try to do something that is the complete opposite of studying that works to help you feel great. This is how you’ll give your mind a break and stay motivated throughout your degree.
Listen to Your Needs
Though this guide will help you manage the juggle between a career and a degree, do note that not everyone is going to be ready to handle the extreme workload. If you find yourself slowly losing your grasp on both of them and cannot seem to get a break in either direction, then it’s time to reconsider your approach.
At the end of the day, it isn’t the end of the world if you have to take time off from your career, especially if it is to change careers. If you wanted to change your career into nursing, for example, you are almost better off taking time off from working to instead enroll in the accelerated nursing degree program that is full time so that you can get started with your new career sooner (on average, around 16 months).
This is just one example. At the end of the day, it is entirely up to you, and what you need will depend on your personality, how you learn, and how you manage stress. It isn’t a failure if you cannot juggle both, but it is if you force yourself into a situation you aren’t built for. Work with your strengths, and then no matter what, you will be taking positive steps towards your dream goals.