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Going Back to School: Fitting Everything In

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

Adding the role of student to your already busy schedule will take some planning and creative time management.

Time is your most precious resource. Think about how you spend your time now, and how you could 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?

Use the suggestions in this article to manage your time more effectively:

  1. Decide what’s most important. You probably won't be able to do everything you would like to do or used to do, but you shouldn't have to give up activities that are really important to you. Recognize your limits, decide your priorities and organize your time with them in mind.

  2. Use a calendar. Keep track of all the things you need to do, in one place—on paper, a laptop or a smart phone.

  3. Make daily "to do" lists that include everything you have to do that day—appointments, assignments, errands, chores, etc.

  4. 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.

  5. Ask your family members and friends to help you reach your goals.Encourage them to do whatever they’re capable of doing for themselves. Help them learn not to expect you to do all the things you've always done for them, such as driving them whenever they need a ride, making all the meals and doing all the laundry and dishes.

  6. 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. Allow yourself a specific amount of break time daily for these activities and stick to it.

  7. 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.

  8. Know when to slip into survival mode. Mid-terms, final exams and major papers or projects require 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 a point after exams or project deadlines.

  9. Be ready to compromise. Excelling at school and work, keeping a spotless home, staying in touch with friends and family—chances are you will 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.

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

Sample Weekly Schedule (PDF)

Manage your time effectively for success at school

Going back to school may not make your life easier in the short term, but the long-term benefits make it worthwhile. Managing all the competing demands for your time and energy can seem overwhelming. You’re more likely to succeed at school, and in all your other roles, when you organize your life, get the support of your family and friends, and use your time well.

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