Successfully managing a full-time job and attending classes can be like scaling Mount Everest in a go-cart if you’re not extremely organized, possessed with Gumby-like flexibility and have the communication skills of a seasoned diplomat. Oh, and a noggin full of effective stress-management tips won’t hurt either.
Take advantage of your forte — technology — to help get and stay organized. Use your hand-held gadgets to program alarms or reminders when you need to complete certain assignments or attend special study groups. Use old-school folders and binders to centralize your papers, as well as easily viewed calendars to note upcoming deadlines so nothing sneaks up on you.
If you’re really a balancing guru, you might consider marking the aforementioned calendar in increments to eliminate that last-minute “Oh, crap!” feeling for complex assignments that might be better completed in stages.
It’s also important to prioritize, as well as keep work and school separate. That separation can sharpen your focus and ensure that both get your full attention in due course.
Some pieces of your schedule, such as the 9-to-5 or after-work classes, are etched in stone, but employing a bit of creative flexibility can increase your knowledge-retention quotient. For instance, complete homework and study at the same time.
If you commute, the train or bus ride can be an ideal time to crank out some work or stuff your brain with facts. Plan time to study. If you have a thorough and thoughtful plan at the onset, it’s easier to change it in the event of an emergency.
There’s no doubt education and work can take up the better part of a day, but your family and friends might not be aware of the strain or crunch under which you’re operating. If they need to know, inform the influential ones in your life where you’ll be and when. If they’re in the loop, they’re more likely to step in when you need them.
They also might be more willing to ease the burden of traditional chores and obligations that you don’t have time to complete if you want to sleep, eat and not flunk or get fired. Use e-mail to stay in touch and let loved ones know they are in your thoughts when you can’t be together.
Finally, to make it safely to the opposite end of the school-work tightrope, learn to manage your stress. Set aside time to exercise, take breaks and have fun. Otherwise, you’ll get all you need to do done, but you might become a grumpy, boring, rundown/sick techie in the process.
Also, be alert for signs of burnout so that you can make the necessary scheduling adjustments to keep from falling down on the job or falling asleep in class.
Work is a fact of life for most of us, and school is never far from most IT professionals’ minds if they want to keep up with the rapid-fire changes in the technology industry. But humans cannot live by work and school alone.
Stay healthy and keep your personal relationships the same way, and when you get out of school, pass your certification exam or walk across that stage, you’ll smile with pride — not just relief.
–Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org