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How to study with a full-time job

October 11, 2018 By: chloeburroughs 1 Comment

How to study with a full-time job

Completing a degree or qualification is a hard task. But it is even more tricky to study effectively with a full-time job. On top of commuting and working 35+ hours a week you also need to find the time, energy and motivation to tick off your studying to-do list.

There are a ton of benefits to studying alongside your full time-job.
You will:
– Earn money while you’re learning (yes to not putting your life on hold to study!)
– Gain valuable workplace skills and experience (which may give you a head start against graduates with no relevant work experience)
– Demonstrate to employers your commitment, drive and perseverance.

But there are also disadvantages to being a working student:
– You will have less time to study
– There is a higher potential for stress and overwhelm
– You must sacrifice your free time
– It takes longer to complete your qualification (if you study part-time).

In this blog I’m going to share seven tips to combat these drawbacks and help you study effectively with a full-time job so you can achieve the grades you’ve always wanted – without losing your sanity.

But first, sign up to my free resource library where you can download my bloomin’ awesome study session planner. You’ll also get access to TONS of other printables and worksheets to help you become a happier, more confident and more successful student.

How to study with a full-time job

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1. Plan your week (or plan to fail)

When your weeks are crazy-busy it’s easy to tell yourself you’ll study at some point…but then life gets in the way. Falling behind when you work full-time is terrifying because it’s so much harder to catch up when you’re already short on time.

To keep yourself on track, commit to planning your week in advance. Spend ten minutes every weekend looking at your commitments for the week ahead as well as your course syllabus or outline. Determine how much studying you have to do and book your study sessions into your calendar.

Scheduling your study time will improve the likelihood of you completing your to-do list. If you do this every week you’ll see improvements in your stress levels and grades. Sign up to the resource library above to grab my monthly, weekly and daily planners to help you put this step into action.

2. Determine your productive time

If you want to study effectively with a full-time job then you need to exploit what you can. We each have unique energy levels and there are times in the day when we have the most energy or are the most productive.

Maybe you’re an early bird and feel like you do your best work first thing. Or maybe, like me, you’re a night owl and get into your groove in the evening. Identify your most productive time and exploit it. Find ways to flex your schedule to enable you to study during this time. Do you need to wake up earlier? Could you arrive at work earlier to study? Can you clear your evenings a bit to allow for more study time?

3. Lean on your support network

A strong circle of supportive friends and family is invaluable to a working student. They can motivate you when you can’t be bothered, pick you back up after a low grade or give you a pep talk when you’re doubting yourself. They can be your biggest cheerleader when you do well and your kick in the pants if necessary when you’re slacking off.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. And if your circle is a little lacklustre in the support department then expand it and find some other students who are working full-time that you can share this journey with.

4. Look for support within your company

Sit down with your manager or HR support and ask them if there are any opportunities for flexible working. Being able to flex your working hours or be able to work from home occasionally could save you a lot of commuting time and help reduce your stress.

Alternatively, if your course is relevant to your role and could help the company then ask them if they would be willing to discuss study leave. I sat down with my manager and asked for study leave by outlining the ways I could apply my degree learning to help with specific company problems. My pitch was successful and they granted me two days a month study leave – scoreee!

Even if you don’t think this is possible where you work, I want to ask you, what’s the worst thing that can happen? They could say no but they could say yes. Make sure you structure the discussion by outlining the benefits to the company of an arrangement like this.

5. Study with intention

Traditional students who don’t work can afford to be inefficient with their study time. If you want to study effectively with a full-time job than you need to make the most of your limited time. This means making sure every study session is productive and that you focus on your priority tasks first.

For more advice on intentional, productive studying read my blog posts on the first steps of a great study session , the last steps and the incredible Pomodoro Technique .

6. Plan rewards to spur you on

Successful studying consists of delaying instant gratification for long-term gain. Ultimately, you must refrain from daily Netflix-binges and study instead so you can graduate with grades you are proud of. To help you ditch the procrastination, plan rewards to motivate you to study when you’d rather be having fun. Look in your calendar for the due dates of your important essays and exams and plan a treat to celebrate your hard work.

This reward could be a new novel, some shoes, dinner out, a coffee date or a day trip – anything that will help you stay focused on your long-term prize.

7. Remember the value of studying alongside working

A full-time undergraduate degree will typically take three years to achieve (120 credits a year). A working student is likely to study part-time so a degree may take four to six years or more to obtain. This will feel like a LONG flipping time so it’s easy to feel disheartened and to start questioning your decision to work alongside.

So I want you to remind yourself of the value of working full-time while studying. As well as continuing to earn a salary you are also racking up years of workplace experience. When you change jobs or ask for a promotion in future you potentially will be in a better position than traditional students who do not have much, if any, work experience.

I hope these tips help you study effectively with a full-time job.

And don’t forget to sign up to my resource library and grab alllll my best resources to help you save time each week, improve your study skills and achieve the grades you’ve always wanted.

How to study with a full-time job

So you have got a full-time job, and this is great. It means that you can support yourself while you are in college or university – or, at least, that some of the bills will be paid.

But now you are wondering how you will be able to study and go to work at the same time. You know that people had done it before and survived it, but you just can’t figure out how they made it.

If it feels like you worry no more. Let’s have a look at how you can study with a full-time job, and still be one of the best students in your class.

The first thing that you will have to do is to consider the time that you have and the tasks and activities that you have to accomplish on a daily basis.

So, get a piece of paper and make a list of everything. And when I say everything, I mean it – you should include time to eat, sleep, have a shower, buy food, everything.

Then group them as it follows:

  • Mandatory: no way around, you have to do it, such as eat and sleep
  • Priority: you should have time for it, such as your assignments
  • Optional: it is interesting and relevant, but you can live without it, such as a second hobby related to your area of expertise
  • Not as important: you wish you could do it, but you know you won’t, or that you can do it in the future (as in, after you graduate), such as gardening classes (except if you are studying on working in landscaping)

After it, go to the next tip.

Now it is time for you to decide what you will still do and what will be left for easier days. Possibly, the “Not as important” category will be ignored for the time being, as the day has only 24 hours, no matter how hard you try.

Then you should have a careful look at what is in the “Optional” list. Is there anything that is relevant to your goals, either in class, work, or personal life? If so, maybe you should try and find time for it. But if not, it also should go in the “Maybe after graduation” list.

When you do it, you will have to deal only with what is “Mandatory” and “Priority”. And it will boost your productivity for sure.

One thing that people usually like to ask themselves is if they should do what is urgent or what is important. And, as a student working full time, you will face this issue very often.

What should you do first: your assignment which deadline is tomorrow or the presentation for an important work meeting?

As you can see is a lose-lose scenario. What you really want is to avoid it at all cost. Urgent is a word that should disappear from your dictionary. And to achieve it, go to the next tip.

Now that your time is limited, you should prepare a calendar for your study assignments and exams. And make sure that you will stick to it.

You won’t have much time to spare, so it is important to know what you have to do in advance, and that you do your tasks step by step.

After you do it, you will also know if you still need extra help to get things done – yes, no matter how well organized you get, you still might not be able to do everything.

But the only way to find it out is by creating a calendar, just start from there.

Yes, you should be ready to call for help when you need it. And it might mean asking someone to revise your assignment, looking for a list of the best writing services, or better sharing the household chores with your roommate.

No matter what you need, never be embarrassed by looking for support. What you are going through is a real challenge, so it is perfectly fine if you ask for help.

What you shouldn’t do is stress out trying to do everything by yourself, and then miss an important deadline. Remember that great leaders know how to delegate and to make the most of it. And so should you.

You should always keep one close eye on your Mandatory list, even if you feel like the world is coming to an end. And by your Mandatory list, we are talking about the one where you have your sleeping hours, eating time, exercise hours, and time to relax with your friends and family.

Do never go the other way around and think that the Priority list (your job requirements, your assignments, your exams) is more important. And don’t try to twist it either by doing things like:

  • Sleeping 5 hours instead of 8 hours per night
  • Eating fast food so to save time on cooking
  • Not going out at all so you can study more
  • Skipping classes so you can go to work

This type of solution, even though they sound perfect, won’t help you in the long term, believe me. You will only get sick or stressed or both, and not be able to do anything at all except for going to the doctor.

The bottom line

As you can see, you should be able to study with a full-time job if you spend some time getting your time organized.

You should create a calendar, distributing your Mandatory and Priority tasks and activities, so you will know if you have any time to spare on anything else. After you do it, you will know if you will need any extra help, or if you can handle it all by yourself.

In any case, make sure that you keep your health as the most important thing in your life. It will give you the strength that you need so to achieve your goals and have many stories to tell when your circumstances have changed.

How to study with a full-time job

So you’ve decided that you’re ready to make your next move and start a graduate degree program—but your days are already packed with full-time work commitments. You may be wondering, “Can I really manage grad school and continue to work full time?”

The short answer is “Yes.” But as a full time professional, you have to be prepared for the realities of long days and competing responsibilities. Luckily, there are many options available. In some respects, there are actually some benefits to pursuing that degree while working.

What is the best schedule for me?

Adding “earning a degree” to your to-do list will mean that you need to make some schedule adjustments. Luckily, many grad programs—and, increasingly, jobs—provide flexible scheduling options. Consider which of these is most realistic for you in terms of time management and cost:

  • A part-time program. This schedule will allow you to take a class or two per semester, and might work better for those not in a hurry to complete their degree, or in cases where there are just too many scheduling conflicts with your job. If your job has certain times of year that are busier than others, this might be a good option for you as you can adjust your courseload accordingly.
  • A full-time program. The major advantage to a full-time program is that you will complete the degree sooner. While a full-time schedule can seem daunting, according to a 2015 study, 76% of graduate students work at least 30 hours per week. If your degree program is directly related to your current job, you may find it helpful to have that immersion in the field that a full-time program offers.
  • An online program.Online degree programs oftentimes offer the most flexibility. However, you will not have the traditional experience of interacting in-person with professors and other students. Make sure the program is accredited and be aware that although most employers now accept online degrees some may still have a bias toward traditional degree programs.

Tuition reimbursement

One of the benefits of working full time while pursuing your degree is that your employer may cover some of the cost. It’s important that you discuss this in advance with your HR manager to learn about eligibility. Some things to keep in mind:

  • In the U.S., employers can contribute up to $5,250 tax-free toward an employee’s education each year. But you will have to pay the university upfront and wait for reimbursement.
  • In most cases, you must show that the coursework is related to your job in order to take advantage of tuition benefits.
  • You may need to have worked at the organization a certain amount of time before you qualify for this benefit. Similarly, you may be required to stay a certain amount of time after getting your tuition reimbursed, or have to pay it back (if you switch jobs before that designated date).

Avoiding burnout

No matter your schedule, it’s important to get a handle on time management and self-care early on. This will help you avoid burnout and fatigue. A few tips:

  • Try to leave any work issues at the office and switch your mind to student mode in the classroom. Surprisingly, you may find that a benefit of going to class after work means that you can no longer bring your work home with you.
  • When scheduling classes, be sure to take into account your various commutes at different times of the day.
  • Remember that your degree shouldn’t come at the expense of sleep and healthy habits. Whether at work or in between classes, carve out a few minutes to take a break.

If you research your degree program options thoroughly, make the most of any employer cost-sharing, and are proactive about setting realistic schedules for yourself, graduate school can be both doable and beneficial to your career.

Pro Tip: Want to explore your grad school options? Come see us at one of our Idealist Grad School Fairs!

Did you attend graduate school while working full-time? Share your experience with us on Twitter.

How to study with a full-time job

Once you’ve graduated from university and secured a full-time job, it might seem unlikely that you’ll ever go back into higher education but don’t write it off just yet. There are many people, myself included, who decide to study for a master’s degree while working a full-time job.

If you’re considering doing the same, it’s worth saying that there are tremendous benefits to having a master’s degree. It could increase your chances of getting a vital promotion, double your salary or allow you to look for more specialized work within your field. However, as well as these benefits, it will also be intellectually challenging and can be a pain to juggle with your full-time job. Here are some tips to making the balancing act easier.

Keep your manager happy

Combining a full-time job with a master’s degree is always easier in workplaces which actively promote continuous learning but, even if that’s true, you need to ensure you keep your manager on-board with the idea. If you’re thought of positively and demonstrate a strong work ethic, you’re more likely to have requests for flexible working hours or time off for studying approved. Try to think of processes or systems you could implement that will make your workload easier while you study.

Work more efficiently

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, says that, in many cases, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So, if you want to keep on top of both your studies and your work, it’s important that you stop doing things which aren’t having a significant impact on your output. Increase your productivity by leveraging your resources and managing your time better, ignoring non-essential tasks which just eat up time.

Get it down, then it get right

Working full-time means you won’t have all the time in the world to spend on university assignments, so you need to use every opportunity possible. Don’t try and delay starting your uni work until you’re in the “right frame of mind” or have a whole afternoon free to dedicate to it. If you do this, you might never get started and you’ll end up submitting a mediocre piece of work or running out of time.

Once you have finished a piece of work, don’t wait to start the next one. By starting immediately, it’s easier to pick up from where you left off. Even if you only get down some rough notes, it will make the next time you work on it easier and ensure you complete all your assignments on time and to a high quality.

Create your own study hub

Studying from home works fine for many, but you might feel more productive if you have somewhere else to study. Local libraries or coffee shops can be good places to study without the distractions of home, but if you want a base that’s truly yours you could look at renting an office space somewhere. This is likely to be expensive but it allows you to have a base where you can keep all your study books and notes so you don’t have to carry anything around. The lack of distractions should also help you avoid procrastination, while you can always step out and get a drink from a nearby coffee shop when you need it most.

Say goodbye to some of your vices

While you can get away with the occasional weekend spent partying and drinking, you’ll have to trade away some of your leisure time if you’re planning to study while you work. This also applies to other regular commitments, whether it’s sport you normally play every week or volunteer shifts at local charities. Be prepared to spend your weekends doing assignments and preparing for exams.

Felix Rante is a lead Java Software Engineer and a part-time professional MSc student at Oxford University. He likes travelling, taking awesome photos and having a nice cup of a specialty coffee.

(Lead image: Gabriel Rojas Hruska (Flickr))

I have been asked many a time by many CCI members and students “How to Manage Your Studies with a Full Time Job?.” I am writing this article to try and remove some doubts associated with “Continuing your studies along with a job”. I am writing this article purely based on my experience and my observations in case of some other peoples.

Some of the disadvantages which we always find are:

1) Very little time to study.

2) Physically demanding.

3) Effect of Mental Stress Associated with Job.

Look, managing your studies with a full time job is difficult, but it is difficult because we think so. In fact I will say doing a full time job helps you in your studies. Now the question is how? Let’s check out.

Advantages of Studying with a full time job:-

1) Security: – Yes it will be most beneficial in your studies. When you are already on a full time job, you will have a sense of security. You don’t have to worry about passing to get a job. Most students put a lot of stress on them by thinking they have to pass to get a job, to start earning their livelihood. When you are employed you don’t have to worry about that part. And this works in your favour, it makes you relax and enjoy your studies. I have seen this happen not only with me, but many others too. So being employed works as boon for you.

2) Value of time: – Since time for studies is very less you will start to give more value (Importance) to time. It is a well known fact that when things are scarce we tends to give it more value, we emphasize more on its proper utilization. Student who is only studying tends to think I have got lots of time and most often do not utilize the time properly. To the contrary when someone studies along with a full time job knows the worth of time and ends up utilizing it lot better.

3) Experience helps: – Practical experience of being in job also helps in your study. When your area of work and area of study are same, your job will be very helpful in your study. Say if you are working in Accounts & Finance department and you are pursuing CA/CWA, you will get lots of benefit from your on job experience. Say if you are looking after direct or indirect taxation you will be better prepared to face taxation exams. When you start studying you will come to know that you already know a lot about the topics of your syllabus because of your job requirement. When you do something practically it stays embedded in your mind for long. So from this perspective also job is helpful in your studies.

4) Enjoyment in study: – Sometimes when you study of hours you can loose enjoyment factor. For doing anything effectively you have to enjoy what you are doing. Because of Job you will get less time to study. So ultimately you will be able to enjoy your studies. Because you study little and study tension free you will able to enjoy and ultimately make your studies more and more effective.

So we can see that Studying along with a job is not that bad and if anything the job helps in our studies instead of hampering it. But ultimately it all boils down to your point of view. Be positive and take it in your stride, it will make a lot of difference.

Some tips for managing your studies along with job:–

1) First and foremost, study to understand the topic and to learn, not only to pass the examination, as if you perceive your study to help you in your future jobs and assignments.

2) Make a habit of studying at least 1-2 hours daily depending on time at your disposal. Even if you study for half an hour make full use of it.

3) Utilize your holidays and leaves properly.

4) Plan how you are going to approach your syllabus. Because of time constraint it might not be possible for you to complete your syllabus. So plan accordingly, which chapters are important and to be completed first. Plan in advance and study accordingly. For planning use scanner and also check current question paper patterns. Proper planning is most essential in cracking professional examination.

5) Make your own notes of what you study. It will help you in revising in short span of time. Self made notes are also easy to understand.

6) When exams are nearing try to increase your study time compared to earlier.

7) Be relaxed and confident as you have managed lots of things in practical field.

8) During examinations be relaxed. Ultimately those 3 hour will matter rather then the time you have spent on your study. Being relaxed will make you do better in examinations.

So just enjoy your studies and your job. Be positive and be successful in life.

Last but not the least I will end this article with a few lines in our beloved language “HINDI”……

“Raah mein kaante ek do nahi hote

raah kaanton se bhari hoti hai

Manzil us raah ki aakhiri chor par khadi hoti hai

Jahan har kadam par milti ek nayi choti hai

Dekh use jinke hounsle dagmagaate hain

Ve manzil ko bhula kaanton mein ulajh jaate hain

Jinki nigaah manzil par hoti hai

Ve kaanton pe hi chalkar manzil ko paate hain”

How to study with a full-time job

Tip #1 – Start Now

stretch your prep out over 4-6 months

We generally recommend prepping for at least 3 months, even under ideal conditions. But if you’ve got a full-time job or a heavy college course load, you’re probably going to want to start prepping sooner.

I was working full time while I prepped for the LSAT, and I was able to do it in 3 months, but I had everything else going for me: no overtime, a peaceful home environment out in the country, good natural ability at the LSAT, and an active job that kept me moving during the day so my brain wasn’t already exhausted at night.

Current research suggests that people can only do about 6 hours a day of good quality intellectual labor a day. If you are using all that up on the job, studying is going to be very difficult.

If you aren’t prepping under ideal conditions, consider a longer course of study, at least 4 months or longer, depending on your situation. Our 4 month LSAT study schedule is a great place to start, and if you can’t keep up, just work through it at your own pace. This doesn’t mean you can slack or study once a week, but it will mean you are under less mental pressure and can study for 1-2 good hours most days, rather than the 3-5 hours per day that I think it takes to study properly in 3 months or less.

Josh was able to improve his score from a 152 to a 177 within 3 months, but he was self-employed when he studied for the LSAT, so his schedule was very flexible. Would Josh have gotten a 177 LSAT score if he had a 9-to-5 job? Probably… but he thinks it may have taken him 4 or 5 months to get there, maybe longer.

When I asked Josh what he would have done differently if he had a full-time job, he said: “well, the first thing that I would do is call my boss and schedule vacation days during the 2-3 weeks leading up to LSAT test day.”

Which brings us to tip #2…

Tip #2 – Finish Strong

Clear Your Work Schedule and Focus on the LSAT

“Those last 2-3 weeks are ultimately the most important,” Josh told me. “A month before test day I was still prepping in the 165-168 range. That final stretch was my most intense, focused period of preparation. I lived and breathed the test during those final weeks, which allowed me to break through my plateau into the 170s. On test day I got a 177. Mentally, I was at peak performance, and I have those final few weeks of prep to thank for that.”

Tip #3 – Prep Fresh

Study for the LSAT in the Morning

Study in the morning during the week if you can. Most people tend to do better studying when it’s the first thing they do rather than the last each day. This is especially true if your job/classes require exhausting intellectual labor. The LSAT requires intense focus and attention to detail, and mental fatigue negatively impacts cognition, including motivation, planning, and attention. It’s better to feel shot in the afternoon, having already got some good study time under your belt while you were fresh.

Simple lifestyle changes can also improve cognitive function, allowing you to make the most out of your precious prep hours. It’s a great idea to exercise, sleep well and not drink heavily, if at all. No one has time to go to work or school full-time, prepare for the LSAT, AND maintain an active social life, partying ’til the wee hours on the weekend. I was a big partier through my 20s, and even I was able to cut it out while studying for the LSAT. In all honesty, I think that may have been the single-most important thing I did.

Partying not your thing? Maybe your thing is watching TV. Maybe your thing is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest. Maybe your thing texting or talking on the phone. Partying was the thing that I had to cut out. Yours may be different. But everyone has a thing. If you’re honest with yourself, then you’ve probably already thought of at least a couple of things that waste your time & could easily be cut out of your life (at least temporarily). If you don’t have something in mind already and you truly can’t think of anything that you waste time on, then you’re either the most INCREDIBLY productive person ever… or you’re not being totally honest with yourself.

Study hours can’t come out of sleep time, either. I saw a lot of New Yorkers try to do this when I tutored there, and it really didn’t work. Prepping for the LSAT isn’t like cramming for finals in undergrad. All-nighters may have been helpful when you had to get that paper in before the deadline, but that strategy isn’t going to work when it comes to prepping for the LSAT.

Even moderate sleep deprivation has a significant impact on cognitive abilities. You’ve gotta be well-rested when you prep or you’re just going to be wasting your time.

Tip #4 – Patient Commitment

Be driven. Be flexible. Be prepared.

Be patient and flexible, but committed. You may have to postpone to a later test date if you aren’t making the progress you desired. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens— the majority of students I’m seeing hit the 170+ range on test day have either postponed to a later test date than they first signed up for OR they earned that score on a retake.

When you do decide to take the LSAT, you need to commit 100%. If you shirk your LSAT duties, you are just wasting your own time and won’t be prepared no matter how many times you push the LSAT back. If you find you don’t have the mental energy to commit to both the LSAT and work and/or school now, stop studying and figure out a way that you can make the commitment for real in the future. I have literally never seen anyone get a good score by just poking at the LSAT once a week in a haphazard fashion. It just doesn’t happen.

Our study schedules give you a good idea of the total work that goes into this. It’s a lot. If you want to maximize your score, you need to have done that amount of prep in a focused manner before you walk into a test center.

Hope this helps!

If you’re really serious about crushing the LSAT, I’d love to see you join the LSAT Mastermind Group. Once you join, you’ll have access to the private forums 24 hours a day + live office hours/webinars every week.

We are always more than happy to help our members with the specifics of their schedule & you’ll also have the full support of hundreds of other members, many of whom are also trying to balance full-time work/school while they prep. If you’re really serious about getting into a great law school, then I think you’d fit in really well!

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or click here to sign up for the LSAT Mastermind Group.

How To Study While Working A Full-Time Job

How to study with a full-time job

Today we want to share great tips for learning how to study while working a full-time job. Making money and getting an education at the same time isn’t easy. Here are just a few tips for successfully juggling the two.

How to study with a full-time job

Consider Accelerated Courses

Accelerated courses allow you to complete a course in minimal time. This will give you more motivation to invest your time and effort into it, as you’ll be able to reap the rewards sooner. The wilkes accelerated nursing program is a great example of this kind of course.

Study online – or find a job with flexible hours

College and work are likely to clash if you’ve got set times for both. Consider making one of these commitments flexible so that you can fit it around the other. An online course such as this MBA program online could allow you to study in your own time alongside a job with fixed hours. Alternatively, you may be able to find a job with flexible hours such as writing or graphic design to fit around a fixed study schedule.

How to study with a full-time job

Let your tutor/employer know

Telling your tutor about your job could be necessary, in case work gets in the way of studies. Your tutor may be able to also help you create a study schedule. As for telling your employer about your studies, this may not always be appropriate – especially if you’re studying to get a new qualification so that you can get a new job. That said, telling an employer maybe important if you have exams to take on fixed dates and need permission to take the time off.

Use your commute and lunch break to study

There could be ways of fitting studying into your working day, so that you’re not spending as much of your evenings and days off studying. If you commute to work, you may be able to use this period to study. Similarly, you may be able to find time to study on your lunch break.

Schedule your free time

It’s important that you still have free time to relax, otherwise you’re likely to suffer burnout and your studies and job will then suffer. Finding this time as it comes may not be easy, so it could be worth scheduling your free time so that you know you’re always guaranteed this leisure time. This could include having at least one free day off and one free evening per week.

My PhD and my business career are not connected and they are both demanding. But I’ve found there are benefits to my double life

‘Now I can apply an academic approach to resolving business problems.’ Photograph: Alamy

‘Now I can apply an academic approach to resolving business problems.’ Photograph: Alamy

Last modified on Mon 24 Sep 2018 13.19 BST

I took a while to tell my colleagues that I was studying for a PhD in my spare time. I was concerned that they might question my ability to balance a full-time (and full-on) career with doctoral studies in a topic completely unrelated to the industry I work in.

But I began to realise that, although the topic I am exploring is not directly connected, the skills I am acquiring are hugely valuable. The process has given me new perspectives and added value in ways I had not expected.

My approach to innovation has evolved, for example, as I apply academic questioning and analysis to business problems. I have completely refined my prioritisation skills. And mentoring graduates and helping them to realise their potential has inspired me to solidify my own thinking about progression.

Studying part-time for a doctorate can be a lonely experience; I have met only a small number of people in the same position. What’s more, there isn’t a huge amount of advice on the topic, so here are lessons I have learned about managing it so far:

Choose a topic that you love

Your choice of subject has to be so appealing that you can keep yourself motivated for the duration of your studies, in the face of the stresses and strains of work. This project may take six years (or more), so it needs a topic that you can’t leave alone. I’ve come to realise that much of a PhD is just getting through it, proving to yourself that you can persist and keep going.

Find the right supervisor and the right programme

Before you begin, it’s important to spend a significant amount of time finding the right supervisor – someone who can appreciate and support your approach. They will need to understand your priorities and your study pattern, which is likely to involve short bursts of activity. Look for someone experienced and who can understand your end goals. You are CEO of your project, so choose your supervisory team well, just as you would do in business.

Set the ground rules

Agree the minimum face-to-face and remote contact required with your supervisor. Document a clear plan of work and activities to reassure people around you – your supervisor and your colleagues – that you are in control.

Take real holidays

Much of the leave I take from work is focused on catching up on studying, but a break away from everything helps to clear the mind and restore the balance between work, study, home, family and friends.

Accept support

Help is there if you look for it and are open to receive it. Once I started being more open about what I was doing, the support I received from my colleagues hugely increased.

Only do what you need to

Accept that you cannot do everything. If your studies are not intended to further your career, you don’t have to give papers, or participate in teaching unless you want to. You need to be clear about the reasons for pursuing your studies. If it is not for a career in academia, then why put yourself under that extra pressure?

Value yourself

Work out how your studies will make you different – value the unique perspective they will enable you to bring to your organisation. Being able to articulate the extra benefits that you bring to your role may be useful if you need leniency around working hours or have to ask for study leave. There are more options than ever before to study remotely or part-time. Pursuing something that you are really interested in can be intensely fulfilling and help you to move towards a rounded and holistic approach to life.

How to study with a full-time job

Many college students work part-time jobs. And a growing number of full-time employees also study part-time. With the rising cost of tertiary education, online and distance education options are becoming more popular every year for those who want to maintain their current income and benefits while also improving their skills and knowledge.

The statistics speak for themselves. According to the Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa released this year by the department of higher education and training (DHET), distance learning is now a more embedded feature of the higher education landscape, comprising 34% of total enrolment at educational institutions. The study also shows that part-time enrolment numbers have slightly climbed 6.8% (21 487) since the turn of the decade, from 316 349 in 2009 to 337 836.

Learning How to Successfully Manage Studying While Working Full-Time can be difficult to accomplish, however, taking advantage of the study opportunities your employer has to offer can help you effectively manage a work-study balance.

Employers are becoming increasingly open to the idea of employees dividing their attention between work and education, especially if they feel that your studies will benefit the company in some way. When speaking with your boss about your study plans, our content partner, Hippo.co.za, suggests you find out if your employer will be able to accommodate you in the following ways:

Help with funding

According to digital education company, GetSmarter , over 25% of their online students were funded by their employers. If the course you’re signing up for relates directly to your company’s field of activity, you can ask your company if it has any study assistance programmes or training funds available. For example, the Old Mutual Education Trust awards bursaries for part-time study to members or employees of one of the participating trade unions. Your HR department should be able to facilitate access to the company’s resources for education. Your employer’s contribution may not be enough to cover the total cost of the course, so you may need to look at other sources of funding such as a small Personal Loan or contributions from family.

Be sure to also check which colleges and universities offer bursaries for part-time studies. The National Research Foundation usually has study support available to students wishing to complete a part-time postgraduate degree. Keep an eye on their website for regular upcoming study opportunities.

Check if your employer offers flexi-hours. If they do, you can adjust your schedule accordingly and successfully divide your attention between work and study. For example, you can ask if you can clock in two hours earlier and commit the afternoon to attending your lectures.

If flexi-hours isn’t an option, you can either register for an online course which you can access anytime, or attend after-hour and evening lectures offered by institutions such as the University of the Witwatersrand, University of the Western Cape , and the International Business Training College.

Study leave

If you’re signing up for a course that runs for a week, you can request absence from work for the period, provided you’ve been employed for at least one year. The subject of study leave is still a grey area in South African labour law and is therefore at the sole discretion of the employer. The company may have a study leave policy, awarding a number of study leave days per annum, or subtracting it from your annual leave.

Working remotely

If you need to relocate temporarily in order to enrol for a course, working remotely is another flexible arrangement you and your employer can consider. The internet and digital communication tools have made it possible for various types of professionals to work away from the office as long as they keep their employer in the loop and deliver quality work on time.

Being able to develop your skills when you’re already employed full-time can help you take the next step up the career ladder. All it takes is developing a complementary balance between work and your studies, and you could be on your way to success.

Featured image via Pixabay