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Education & Training

Going Back to School: Fitting Everything In

If you’ve been out of school for a while, chances are you already have lots of roles and responsibilities, such as worker, homemaker, spouse, friend, parent, and volunteer.

Going back to school means adding the role of student to this schedule. To succeed, you’ll need to do some planning and creative time management.

Time is your most precious resource. Think about how you spend your time now, and how you can free up the time you need to succeed at school. What can you stop doing or do less often, at least for a while? What can you ask others to help with? How could you get things done more efficiently?

You’ll be happier, healthier, and probably more successful in the long term if you let go of the need to be perfect.

Time management tips:

  • Decide what’s most important. You probably can’t do everything you want to do or used to do. But you shouldn't have to give up the activities that are important to you. Recognize your limits, decide your priorities, and organize your time with them in mind.
  • Use a calendar. Keep track of all the things you need to do in one place—on paper, a laptop, or a smart phone.
  • Post a family calendar where all family members can see it. Ask people to write their own activities on the calendar if they can. This will help the family stay organized.
  • Make daily to-do lists that include everything you have to do that day—appointments, assignments, errands, chores, etc.
  • Focus on your goals. Set deadlines for each task you must complete to reach your goals, include them on your to-do list and mark them on your calendar. Give yourself small rewards for completing tasks on time.
  • Ask family members and friends to help you reach your goals. Encourage them to do whatever they can themselves. Help them learn not to expect you to do all the things you've always done for them. Let them learn about making meals, doing the laundry, or taking public transit.
  • Identify your time-wasters and avoid them. If you spend a lot of time surfing or chatting online, texting or playing video games, you’re not alone. But schedule in a specific amount of daily break time for these activities and stick to it.
  • Find quicker or easier ways of doing necessary chores. Shop online or when stores are less crowded or send someone else. Run errands on the way to or from classes instead of making extra trips. Combine activities to save time, e.g. visit with a friend while you walk the dog.
  • Aim for a balanced life. Eat properly and get enough rest and exercise. Make time for yourself
  • Know when to slip into survival mode. Mid-terms, final exams, and major papers or projects need extra focus and energy. Let your friends and family know well ahead of time that you’ll be less available during these periods. Schedule time-consuming activities, such as routine dental appointments or major household tasks, for after exams or projects are finished.
  • Recognize your limits. You might not be able to do everything you’d like to do. But you’ll be doing the things that are most important to you.
  • Be ready to compromise. Excelling at school and work, keeping a spotless home, staying in touch with friends and family—chances are you’ll run out of time and energy to do it all. You’ll be happier, healthier, and probably more successful in the long term if you let go of the need to be perfect. Recognize when good enough is good enough.

Create a weekly schedule

Once you know your class times, draw up a weekly schedule and post it where your family and friends can see it.

  • Fit in your priorities first.
  • Allow 1 to 2 hours of study time for every hour of class time.
  • Schedule frequent short study periods. When you do have to study for longer, take a 15-minute break for every 60 to 90 minutes of study time.
  • Remember to schedule time for your favourite activities and for relaxing with your friends and family.
  • Leave some flexibility in your schedule so you have room to cope with unexpected demands on your time.

In this video, consider what strategies Teneille is using to help her balance school and family:

Balancing School and Family at an Indigenous Peoples College (2:48)

Teneille is studying to be a nurse at an Indigenous Peoples College. Learn about her experience balancing home and academic life while studying in a small classroom setting.

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