If you’re considering finishing a degree or staring a new educational path, you’ll soon discover that graduating as an adult learner is a great deal different from graduating as a young adult. A few time management tips gleaned from personal experience can help you adjust to college life as an adult a little more easily.

Going back to college as an adult learner presents more challenges than I originally anticipated. I did well while earning my Associate’s Degree just out of high school, earning my Bachelor’s Degree should be no different, right? I soon found out going back to school as an adult student was anything but easy.

This time around I was struggling to read through a chapter of easy text while dealing with constant interruptions from my kids, husband, and the constant reminder from the clock ticking toward the end of my allotted study time. I realized I was going to have to make some changes to manage my study time more effectively before my grades suffered.

Time Management Tips for Adult Students

  1. Outsource whatever you can.To make room for study time, I took a look at my finances and determined what I could spend on babysitters, housecleaners, takeout food, and extra trips to the library for some peace and quiet. By outsourcing as many of my usual tasks as I could, I carved out a significant portion of my week to devote to schoolwork (and part time work to fund my outsourcing).
  2. Create a firm schedule. If I was going to stay on track and meet my educational goals, I needed to replace my flexible stay at home mom routine with a firm schedule. It was difficult to adjust at first, especially for my children, but the end result was a significant increase in my productivity.
  3. Naps rule. In order to carve out quiet study time, I gave up several hours of sleep a week to study while my family slept. To stave off the effects of sleep deprivation, I learned the value of a power nap. 15-20 minutes of rest in the afternoon was enough to keep me going for the rest of my day. I popped in a movie for my kids, created a nest behind my knees with blankets, and encouraged my baby birds to curl up in the nest for the duration of the cartoon. Sometimes they napped, sometimes they just cuddled, but I always got my power nap in and made it through the day.
  4. If you can’t beat ‘em, enlist ‘em.On days when I absolutely could not get away from my kids to study, I made flash cards and let them quiz me on terms and study questions. The kids enjoyed helping and they learned a few facts along the way. My five year old became an expert in labeling the parts of the brain, and would quiz me every night while taking his bath.
  5. Create a buffer.One of the most valuable time management lessons I learned was to provide a time buffer in my schedule every week. I allotted time for schoolwork early in the week and set a goal to turn in assignments early rather than at the last minute. This gave me enough flexibility to allow for all those unexpected things in life that happen when you have a family (like the stomach flu at 3 AM, trips to the Emergency Room for stitches, and in-laws dropping in for an unexpected visit).

Higher learning can be an enjoyable experience for the adult learner, and the entire family, but your approach to the changes you’ll need to make will help determine how your family views and adjusts to those changes. Keep a positive attitude, de-stress often, and set achievable time management and educational goals that fit your lifestyle. Managing your time effectively when taking classes as an adult student requires a good deal of preparation, juggling of responsibilities, and setting a strict schedule.

Jamie Simmerman is a registered nurse and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter

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