Thanks to Careers Australia for sponsoring this post.
Words and opinions are my own.
Parenthood has a profound effect on every part of our lives. Including our careers. Sometimes we choose to close doors when we become mothers. Sometimes the doors are closed for us. But I also believe windows of opportunity open.
The average person will have a number of different careers within their lifetime. There are natural stages in life when we seek a different direction because priorities and perspectives change. And often that change in direction will necessitate new learning. Early parenthood is certainly one of those times. Many mothers choose to study whilst their children are small.
But how do you do it?
How do you manage a household, look after your kids, potentially hold down a job AND study? It is a very different looking set of challenges to what you may have faced fresh faced out of high-school, in your first year of univeristy.
Study Tips for Parents
Think about WHY you are studying.
What will it enable you to achieve? How is it going to make your life better? What dreams will it help you realise? Write it down, draw it, workshop it on a vision board – whatever floats your boat. Then put in a visible place where you study. When the going gets tough, remind yourself why you started in the first place. When the minutiae of study threatens to swallow you, remind yourself of the bigger picture.
Before you embark on study, get family buy-in, commitment and support.
Make sure that the people around you understand how important your study is to you AND what you will require from them in terms of support. You may need to seek that support outside of your immediate family. Make sure that you have your team fully behind you. Make sure that your kids understand that study time is your time and it needs to be respected.
Find your best “brain time” and do your best to maximise it.
You know whether you are a morning person or an evening person. There are certain times of day we are more likely to think clearly. Do what you can to maximise that time. For an early bird, that may mean waking an hour earlier and going to bed before 10pm. For a night owl, it may mean that your hours directly after dinner need to be dedicated to your work. You can use this handy tool to figure out your spare hours within the day and when are most likely to be productive.
Schedule your time.
Make a weekly schedule which incorporates everything you need to do. Include the time you will be spending with your family and the times when you will be studying. Put it somewhere prominent and ask everyone in your household to respect the study times.
Be strategic with where you spend your time.
Let’s face it – time is a scarce commodity as a parent. Look carefully at your assessment and the weighting given to it. If an exam is worth 80% and an assignment 20%, spend 80% of your available time on that exam. Even if the assignment seems more fun. Treat each minute like gold and spend it wisely.
Break down your work and batch as much as you can.
As a parent, you are unlikely to have three or four consecutive hours to dedicate to a task. You are much more likely to have half an hour here and there. With every task you need to achieve, break it down into ten-minute sized pieces. That way you won’t be tempted to put study off under the guise of not enough time to get anything meaningful done. Try to put like tasks together so that you can batch them within the same space of time. For example, deal with study related email in one batch, write in one batch and research in another batch. Concentrating on one type of work at a time will increase your efficiency.
Be realistic with your expectations.
What are your study goals? Are high marks important to you? Are you happy with a pass or credit and the degree at the end? You may not have the time and resources to be a straight seven student. If that’s the case, make your peace with it. Don’t load unrealistic pressure on yourself. Study is not the only focus in your life.
Turn off ALL distractions and do ONE thing at at time.
Parents are excellent multi-taskers. We now know that multi-tasking is actually spectacularly inefficient. We don’t do more than one thing at a time, rather we make tiny micro-switches between each task. Those micro-switches mean that our brains need to constantly redirect their thinking. It’s not an efficient way of working. When you are studying concentrate on one thing at time. Have one browser tab open at a time. Put your phone somewhere else. It may take a little while to get used to concentrating on one thing at a time. Parenthood necessitates constant quick switches in gear in order to manage kids. You need to change that mode of thinking for focussed study.
Study where the distractions are mimimised.
Study consistently in the same place. Make that space as distraction free as possible. If you cannot possibly study in a house where washing needs to be done and floors need to be mopped, move. Maybe study in a coffee shop or a library. Wherever you choose to study should be conducive to getting work done.
Use ritual to get you in the right frame of mind.
It can be helpful to use ritual before you sit down and study to place yourself in the right frame of mind. That might mean tidying your desk first, spending ten minutes on a meditation, making a cup of coffee or writing a task list. Having this repetitive marker will help you move from “parent” mode to “study” mode.
Give yourself a break when you need it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You have chosen to do something amazing for yourself and your family but it may not always be easy. If you have to decrease your study load, that’s okay. If you don’t get a distinction, it’s not the end of the world. If you need to ask for an extension, do it. Be gentle with yourself.
Have you studied as a parent?
Any tips to add?
Thanks so much to Careers Australia for the opportunity to write about this important topic. I have been paid to write this post. All opinions and words are my own.