How to balance home study with work and family

Going back to school can be a stressful time, especially when you're an adult learner and have made the decision to go back to studying around a full-time job and family. Being in this situation means that people often find home study/distance learning the ideal way to study to further their career or for people looking to change career direction totally.

Studying at home sometimes isn't as easy as it sounds when you have to juggle work and family commitments. Here's some advice to make it easier.

1. Set up a timetable.

Just as if you were in a brick learning establishment, a timetable is a tremendous help to keep you focused on what you're supposed to be doing and when. It can also help you to factor in your family time. Make sure your family know when your studying time is and be strict - let them know you are not to be disturbed at a certain time, but also let them know when you are available for them and schedule in family time, even if it's just an hour on the sofa in front of the television. Remember though, we all need a day off sometimes, so put aside a day a week for fun and relaxation. While you're organising your time though, also organise a rota for household chores. If you're not left to do all the housework and can share it around the family, this will free up more time for you to study.

2. Set up a space for studying.

You may not have the space to be able to take over a whole room for your studying, but whether you are lucky enough to have a home office, or you're just perched at the end of the kitchen table, make sure your family know that when you're in your 'office', that's when you are busy and not to be disturbed. Maybe even get a 'do not disturb sign' - you can hang it over the back of the chair if necessary.

3. Involve your family.

Your family may not share your career goals but if you let them into your learning experience you may find they take an interest and will want to help with research. Talk to them about what you've been learning - at the very least, they'll appreciate you're trying to make them a part of it.

3. Know your energy levels.

If you also have a full-time job you're studying around, you may find that after a hard day's work, you just don't have the energy to study. If so, try getting up an hour earlier and see if that helps. Everyone's different and what works for one person, won't work for another. Don't forget your lunch hour though - that can be spent very productively if you do some studying while you're eating. While you're studying though, don't forget to eat - food is fuel. Bring in a packed lunch so you don't waste time queuing in the sandwich shop or canteen.

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