When I was 8 or 9 I remember watching a performer describe how he learned to juggle. He began his demonstration with just one ball and informed us that it wasn’t really juggling until you were using more balls than you had hands. Then he added another, and another until he was juggling like 10 of them.
I’ve decided, as I’ve grown older and wiser, juggling school, work, and family responsibilities is the ultimate juggling act.
We start off as kids with just one or two things, and eventually we end up with a whole bag full of balls that we’re trying to keep in the air. Think about all the hats you might be wearing: wife, military spouse (this technically falls under “wife” but it brings its own set of challenges so I think we can call it out separately), mother, daughter, employee, as well as more individual things like PTA member, church committee chair, blogger, book club member, etc. Add the coming holiday season on top of that and you’re BUSY!
So, if you’ve made the decision to go back to school (or are already back in school), how do you add one more ball and keep everything in balance? We’ve collected a few tips for you on balancing school and work and everything else that comes with being a bonafide grown-up.
How to Balance School, Work, and Family
Set Priorities and Realistic Goals
Not everything can get done all at once. It’s important to prioritize your tasks and responsibilities and focus on the most important ones first. Setting realistic goals—and writing them down—can help keep your priorities in line. Making realistic goals across all of the areas of your life will make it easier to see how everything stacks up.
Decide what you’d like to get done today, next week, and next month, then prioritize all of those smaller tasks so that you can hit your big goals. This works particularly well when you’re working full time and going to school full time.
Remember Why You Started
When Elizabeth Morgan (another CareerStep success story) became a mother, she wanted nothing more than to spend time with her daughter. After trying to return to her job in retail, she knew that she needed another option.
“I thought, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t leave my baby.’” –Elizabeth Morgan, military spouse and mother.
That’s when Elizabeth chose to enroll in CareerStep’s online training to become a professional medical coding and billing specialist — a job that she could do from home. She later shared with us, “I have been able to be there for my daughter in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to before, so I am very, very grateful for Career Step.”
The decision to return to school is rarely made lightly when you’re already juggling other responsibilities. Whether you’re looking to improve your career possibilities, increase your earning potential, achieve a lifelong dream, or provide a positive example for your children, it’s important to remember your motivation along the way.
Print out a picture or some visualization of your goal and post it up in your study area. Write yourself a note about why you’re in school and put it with your books. Find a way to remember what you’re working toward. And be patient with yourself. Remember, learning how to balance school, work, and family is tricky at best, but it is possible.
Simplify Where You Can
When you’re juggling school, work, and family responsibilities, there’s not too much room for anything else. Take this opportunity to simplify life where you can. Maybe you can relax a little on your strict vacuuming schedule or say no to baking that extra batch of cookies for the church auction or hosting an event.
Be honest with yourself and acknowledge your feelings—if there’s an area of your life that you used to enjoy but now doesn’t offer the same return on your investment, put it on the shelf until life has calmed down a little.
Take Care of Yourself
Even though you’re busy, it pays to invest a little time and care into yourself. Things like a healthy diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep ensure that you have the energy to accomplish everything as well as help to relieve and prevent stress. Taking breaks and taking the time to enjoy life can also help manage your stress level so you don’t become overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities.
Set Aside Study Time
It can be tempting to just assume you’ll study when you have time—especially if you’re taking an online course (which is a great option for balancing school and work). However, often that time just never appears. It’s important to set aside designated study time—even if it’s only a few minutes here and there.
The most successful learners develop a daily routine of their study time amidst their other responsibilities. For example: get up, eat breakfast, study, go to work, study on lunch break, run errands after work, cook dinner, family time, study before bed. This builds study time into your day while giving you the flexibility to deal with other things as they come up.
Elizabeth, our CareerStep learner, made time to pursue her career during the hours that her new baby slept. “I could complete training when my daughter was sleeping at night and during naptime, and whenever I could.”
As you practice how to balance school, work, and social life, it’s imperative that you stay organized. When you’re already busy, being unorganized makes it even worse. Keep your study materials in one place, set important reminders on your phone, and use a calendar to keep track of important deadlines, test dates, and other appointments and responsibilities.
Another benefit of being organized is that writing things down and making lists gets all of that worry out of your head. So instead of trying to remember when little Timmy’s soccer game is, when you planned on finishing your latest unit in school, and when you’re working late, your calendar keeps track of it for you and you can focus more completely on the task at hand.
Take Advantage of Support Groups
No matter how busy your life is, we all need positive interactions with others. Having a good support group makes all the difference. When you’re in school, take advantage of all your support groups—whether it’s family or friends who can take the kids for a bit so you can get in some study time or a close friend who can listen to you vent when things get hard.
Many schools, especially online schools, have online forums and networks where you can connect with other learners. Take advantage of these resources to find study buddies and friends who can support you throughout your education time.
Relevant support groups can also provide you with assistance and insight that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Even after Elizabeth Morgan had completed her CareerStep training, she continued to advance in her career by staying actively involved in our online community.
“I utilized all of the Career Step forums,” she stated, explaining how she was able to gain helpful advice from other learners who were pursuing the same path.
This one may be the most fun of all of our tips. When you achieve a goal or a milestone in school, celebrate it! Make cupcakes, have a mini dance party, go out to eat—whatever sounds like a celebration to you, make it happen. Knowing you have something to look forward to at the end of each of your goals will help you stay motivated, and little celebrations can give us a break from the everyday grind.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
Juggling school, work, and family responsibilities has a tendency to take up all of your time. Rather than isolating yourself and spending every free minute committing to obligations and responsibilities, make it a priority to get out and socialize.
We’re not suggesting that your social life is more important than academics — it’s not; however, it is still important. According to a dozen different studies, we are social creatures by nature. We need to interact with others to maintain a healthy state of mind and physical condition.
Schedule a weekly coffee date with a friend or a group outing with your coworkers, and don’t bail. It can be easy to replace social outings with more pressing responsibilities, but learning how to balance school, work, and your social life will set you up for a healthier, happier, more enjoyable journey toward your big goals.
How Do You Maintain Your Work Life Balance?
Once you’ve mastered the art of juggling school, work, and family responsibilities, you’ll need to make conscious efforts to maintain the balance. The best way to do this is by checking in with yourself on a weekly basis to review your week.
Divide your responsibilities into a list of categories such as work, school, social life, housework, quality time with the family, etc. and jot down everything you did that week in each category. If you notice that you’ve neglected a certain area of your life (or dropped the ball) make a plan to rectify the imbalance the following week and schedule a time and place for it in your calendar.
The Importance of Balance
The importance of balancing school and work and everything in between can’t be understated. Without structured balance, it’s all too easy for us to develop a detrimental case of tunnel vision.
Without a plan for juggling work, school, and family responsibilities, we can easily become so consumed with just one area of our lives that we fail to notice when we start neglecting our well-being, our relationships, or our livelihood.
Balance is the key to a life well lived. Without it, you’ll find yourself constantly feeling overwhelmed, behind, and struggling to keep your balls in the air. You may even drop a couple and have to start all over.
It may be tricky at first, but you’ll find the rewards are well worth the concentrated effort. Here are just a few of the very best benefits of learning how to balance school, work, and family.
- A noticeable improvement in your mental health that will replace stress, anxiety, and feelings of discouragement with positivity, confidence, and time to acknowledge your latest set of achievements.
- Better physical health from taking good care of yourself, getting a good night’s rest, making time for physical activity, and avoiding burnout.
- An increase in efficiency and productivity: when you commit to dividing your time across several different areas of your life, you’ll need to make better use of the time you have available to complete a given task.
- A refreshing and beneficial boost in your personal relationships with your spouse, children, friends, and family.
- Far more time to spend on self improvement, whether that’s creating a vision board for motivation or going on a solo hike to get some fresh air and give your mind a break.
You Got This
Take it from any of our successful CareerStep learners like Elizabeth: juggling school, work, and family responsibilities is 100% possible. You can do this. We believe in you. And if you need a little help along the way, we’ll be ready for you with flexible online training programs that open the doors to a wealth of lucrative career paths.
Learn more about our online opportunities to find out how CareerStep can help you move forward in your career while balancing work and life.