Many full-time workers feel like they are at a loss for advancing in their careers when they need their job to make ends meet. The truth is that, even with full-time work, there are ways to move forward by using part-time coursework that aligns with your next career goals.
Managing a class load when pursuing a certificate or degree from Portland Community College is entirely possible. Still, you'll experience your days as less hectic if you do some serious prep before starting the work-plus-school lifestyle. Here is how to balance classes and full-time work because you still want your life to have balance during this busy season!
Create Time Block Scheduling That Accurately Reflects Class Commitments
If you take as many classes as you can fit into your days, you'll realize that you've got no time for studying and absorbing any outside-of-class practice or homework. Instead, consider that each credit hour of in-class time should also have 2 hours budgeted just for studying and homework, even if you might not need them every week.
Many full-time workers balance their work and school by taking a part-time course load of only 2 or 3 courses per semester. If you realize that your own life accommodates more, that's great, but make sure you're budgeting on the low end first, so you don't feel overwhelmed and ready to quit. Time block scheduling is probably the best way to handle this: look at what times you have caregiving commitments, sleep, eating, and work, and only budget school and studying for the hours that remain.
Place Tasks In Your Day Based On Energy Level Rhythms
Many people observe that their physical bodies can do tasks like washing dishes or folding laundry even when their minds are sluggish and not ready to dig into academic topics. Part of what makes some people consider themselves "morning people" or "night owls" is that their minds are wide-awake at different times, full of energy that they don't have at other times of the day.
If you work carefully with your schedule, you can put your studying hours and intensive work hours when you consistently experience a lot of energy. If you have more rote tasks, like filing invoices or making copies at work, try to put them at the times of day when you are the least energetic, since they can still get done, and you will have your energy conserved.
When Remote-Friendly Options Exist, Cut Those Commutes!
Not every workplace offers remote work, but more are considering it now than ever before. If you're trying to fit classwork in, consider how cutting even one or two commutes a week might free up time to take a class or two. If your job has multiple locations with the option for requesting transfers, think through what it would take to cut your commute by moving to a location closer to your in-person classes at Portland Community College or closer to home, freeing up a little more time. Everything in your schedule is up for grabs when trying to implement strategies to balance work and school.
Remote options apply to your courses, as well. If you have the opportunity to take either fully or partially online classes, using those will also shorten your commute times. It's easier to be present for class when you can go to a local library or your bedroom to attend them. When working, that added flexibility can be hugely beneficial.
Ask For Flexibility Ahead of Time at Work or School
Not every workplace or classroom teacher can offer you flexibility with deadlines or work start and stop times. However, if a scheduled class almost works with your work schedule, there is often a way to ask for flexibility. If you know that crunch time for a particular assignment coincides with a crazy time at work, you can ask a professor if they could get you the details of the assignment early enough to turn it in before work gets busy. The key is to ask ahead of time so that you're demonstrating an interest in using this flexibility to accomplish work and school fully, not just to let one fall by the wayside.
Use Your Support Network When Possible
Not everyone has people who can help, but if you have people who can help in your life, a little can go a long way. Even asking your teenager to take on dinner prep on the nights you have class or getting a couple of time-consuming errands off your plate because a roommate or spouse can handle them for the weeks of the course can be enough to make things a little more doable.
Regardless of whether they can help with specific tasks, communicating with them what your schedule and responsibilities are during this period will make the process smoother. It allows you to set boundaries to let you focus on your coursework, and it manages everyone's expectations as to how much you're capable of helping.
Batch-Prep of Meals and Coordinate Housekeeping
If you notice yourself running to the grocery store often, spending tons of time in the kitchen, or running a bunch of small loads of laundry, try implementing strategies for organizing household work to increase its efficiency. It seems like the current system is working, until you feel like you're always running out of time.
Planning out meals in advance to buy groceries in bulk saves you time during the week when buying groceries. Making meals around batched ingredients lets you make things like pasta or rice well in advance, so it's on-hand for quick meal preparation. These will help you cut down on time, and it will make your nights smoother because you've made all decisions in advance. It is less mentally taxing when there are fewer decisions to make each night, and the pre-planning will help you focus more on the tasks at hand.
Mental Health Breaks Improve Concentration
People who feel stressed often skip needed mental health breaks and even sleep because they have 'too much to do,' but research studies have shown that people are less effective when they've been working for too long. Think of mental health breaks, and sufficient sleep is key to doing your work in a reasonable amount of time and doing it well. If you need to take a semester off or only take 1 or 2 classes, that's a good option. Portland Community College’s non-credit courses make it possible to have an affordable, flexible education that fits around your busy life. A little organization can help you thrive even when figuring out balancing classes and full-time work.