By Jan Lindeman
Probably one of the most frequent questions online learners ask themselves when considering distance education is: 'Will I be able to handle both my job and studies at the same time?' The answer is Yes.
Although clearly, studying and keeping one's job requires more sacrifices compared to a regular full-time student, you shouldn't worry! Thousands of students have proved this is not only feasible but, in fact, quite manageable. The degree to which you will succeed depends entirely on you.
1. Prioritize your daily tasks and learn to manage your time
Anyone has gone through a situation where they had to figure out how to perfectly organise their tasks in a time frame.
Once becoming a distance learner you will sooner or later embark on the journey of prioritising your life, starting from the effort to come home from work as quick as possible (so you would have time to study), to limiting your leisure time activities and adjusting to a new daily and weekend routine. This will be the first important step.
The second step regards your time management and the ability to organise your time will be crucial in order to succeed. Most distance learning students assume that distance learning is something very different from regular full-time studies and perhaps even easier to handle. In reality, most distance learning programmes are designed in a way to reflect the same (or almost the same) number of hours a student should dedicate to studying as any standard full-time programme/course does.
Studying for an online degree programme is going to be almost as demanding as if you were a full-time student and you should allow in average approximately 40 hours a week to study. Hence, the importance to organise your time since the very beginning.
However, 40 hours a week does not mean about seven hours daily. Most of the time you will dedicate to studies will be during weekends, resulting in going out on Fridays nights less frequently, for example. One important thing you should remember when planning your time is to try to keep the deadlines for submission of all kinds of assignments (essays, final papers, research papers, discussion papers etc.). Otherwise, the workload may become somewhat unbearable once the number of unfinished assignments starts to grow.
2. Good planning helps you stay on top of things
Time management includes a thorough planning of your monthly, weekly and daily studying activities. Once you have become familiar with the study plan for particular semester/trimester and learnt about what is expected from you in terms of time you should dedicate to studies, this will be a guarantee of half of the success.
One useful tip for a good planning of studying for your online degree programme is this: print out your study programme for the whole trimester, with details about each courses, topics and deadlines for submission of assignments.
Even though wise planning of studying is essential, you should not neglect the fact that you will need to be ready and fresh for work each and every day.
Don't forget to take a break once in a while
The most common question that all online learners will ask themselves is this: 'Is it even possible to keep oneself constantly fresh and fully concentrated on both work and studying?'
Honestly, there will be days when you will feel extremely tired and there might even be days you will tell yourselves that is better to give up either the studies or the job. Therefore, keep in mind that it won't be just the distance degree that will take a big part of your time.
Both studying and your job are equally important, but allow yourselves time to relax, even if for half an hour each day. Most times, a break where you simply relax and log off from your daily routine, will inevitably have a positive effect on your overall energy and efficiency once you get back to your job or study activities.
Re-discover the true meaning of time
To sum up, the moment you decide you want to become a distance learning student, this will lead to a whole new meaning of the word 'time'.
Time will firmly settle in your mind for the entire duration of studies and it will become your partner whether you like it or not. However, time is manageable, so you will surely find a solution that will help you deal and manage with all personal and professional responsibilities.