For many people, the idea of going to college while working can be impossible.
Handling a job and study at the same time requires a good level of planning and focus on priorities. That’s why a lot of students prefer not to work while they are studying. But for some of us, there are a lot of reasons why we have to, and money is one of them.
I decided to work and study at the same time even though I knew it was a hard decision. And these 4 years have served me to learn many things that currently have served me even for my professional life.
There are many sacrifices you have to make in order to achieve this, but if you focus on results, you can do it without problems. This is the way I manage my time working and studying.
The first thing I did when I started this process was to plan my schedule. Planning is the key to knowing if a project will give results in any area of life. Therefore, it is important to know what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it.
As my priority was to study, first I looked for a college that had the degree I wanted at a specific time. For that, I checked the study plans of the universities I wanted to go to and I checked all the schedules until I found the right one.
This way, I could find a job that had a fixed schedule that suited my college life.
To plan when looking for a job, check the hours you are going to be at university, the hours you are going to dedicate to homework and study, and the hours you could dedicate 100% to your work. It is important to understand that you need time to rest and study extra for an exam.
Although many jobs give you the flexibility to study while you have free time, most require that you be completely available for them, so you must consider that the working hours will only be for work.
In my case, I found a full-time job that allows me to study or do my homework when I have free time, so I could find a college schedule of 5:00–10:00 pm and be free on weekends to rest. If you have to be in college at least 4 hours a day, I don’t recommend a full-time job if they don’t let you study there.
Finding the right type of work
Now you must consider what will be the aim of your work, money, or experience? This is important because depending on your answer, you may have different jobs available.
If it’s for money, you must be clear it is probably not going to be from your area. But the important thing is that you will work while you finish your studies, and then you can have your work dreamed of in the area you like.
The good thing about looking for a job for money, even if it is not what you want, is that there are many options and you will even find the flexibility to study.
Something that you can also do is look for a job that is like the area you study, even if it is not directly the career you have. In this way, you can gain experience that can serve you in the future and the money you need now, and sometimes, you will have flexibility.
For example, I was studying software engineering, but my priority was money. In the beginning, I found a job as a technology writer, which allowed me to research and learn everything related to software, and have money to pay my bills.
If you want a job from experience, keep in mind that it will not be a job that pays you well or you will not have a good schedule. But it will allow you to achieve something with the flexibility to study when you can.
For example, there are jobs that pay college students on holiday, or you can work weekends while studying on weekdays.
I always say that the key to success is good communication. Having good communication allows you to know what you can do and what not, which allows you to plan much better. This also will help the people around you know where and when you will be available.
For this, I always told my bosses at the beginning of the college period what was my schedule, so if I had an emergency to attend to, they knew why it was. In addition, communication regarding my responsibilities helped them to understand that I could not attend work while I was studying.
There was a time when I had a job that, although they paid me well, they wouldn’t let me study inside the office and they didn’t let me leave earlier to get to my classes on time.
I told my superiors that I was doing poorly in college and they said the priority was for me to do my job well. At that moment, I prioritized my studies and sacrificed good pay for one that would allow me to fulfill my dreams.
After that experience, I created an emergency fund that would allow me to without work for at least 3 months in which I could pay my school responsibilities and bills. This emergency fund helped me to be a little calmer about my need for work, and to focus on what really mattered, which was studying.
Remember that studying is only for a period and you have to make sacrifices, then you will have better opportunities to progress, so it is better to be in a place that allows you to work your dreams even if is not a good payment, and then when you are professional, think about the money you can make.
This is the most important part when you have all the above resolved. Because it is the part where you need to use discipline and perseverance, and above all be motivated all the time.
The organization depends on how well you can do everything you propose and how much free time you will have left to rest. For this, I will divide it into the following points:
How I planned my week
Every Sunday I planned my week: what is important to do, what can wait for later, and what is urgent.
Always prioritize the activities you have to deliver faster, so you get out of them quickly and you can focus on the things that you can do with patience, leave nothing for the last minute, or you will have to sacrifice sleep and always leave time for rest.
There are many tools that will allow you to be organized and plan your day. The ones I used regularly were:
- Trello: This application helped me to plan the assignments of each day, and add time to each one of them, it helped me a lot how flexible and adaptable it is for the prioritization of tasks, and it is easy to use.
- Google keep: I use this application as a to-do list. Normally I used it when I had a list of things to do in the day, to know how much I have progressed and how much I still have to do.
- Mobills: This application allowed me to plan my expenses for the week. In this way, I organized my salary in the things that I needed to pay for both university and personal.
How to say no
Part of organizing is knowing how to say no if you have everything organized and people around you want you to do extra things that correspond to you, it is abuse. Therefore, it is important that you know how to control when you can or cannot perform more tasks.
If you want others to respect your time, you must be the first to respect their schedule. When they request a new activity (especially at work), find out if it is your entire responsibility, if it is a shared responsibility, or if it belongs to another person.
In addition, there are different commitments outside of work and study that can affect your goals, such as going to a bar with friends, a birthday of a family member, or a trip.
Although it is important to carry out these types of activities to maintain your mental health, if it is not possible to do it, the best thing you can do is to say no, since the stress of accumulated tasks will be worse.
How to manage the stress
Stress is an unavoidable part of being a student and a worker at the same time. The best thing is to learn how to manage it. Get adequate sleep, take regular breaks, be active in class and at work, eat well, work out, stretch, and even take a walk. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you manage stress.
Don’t overdo things.
If you can’t do a lot of activities, then prioritize the one that is important for you, is better to choose one important thing and do it well than try to do multiple things and can’t finish anything. If you think you can only take one study course at a time together with your work, then focus on that course, if you think you only can have a part-time, then search for one.
If you work full time, determine exactly how many classes you can take for every semester, don’t think you have to take all the classes for that period, sometimes less is better.
If you are going to study and work, you must be clear that you must make many sacrifices, but remember that none of this is forever and when it’s over, it will be worth all the time invested.
How to be motivated
One of the hardest parts of work and studying is being motivated, especially when you have almost free time. For this reason, always look for ways to remain motivated and understand that this is only part of a process that will be worthwhile in the future.
Self-discipline and self-motivation are among the hardest skills to develop in your life, but there are some ways that will effectively lead you to good study habits.
The most common way to keep yourself motivated is to create small incentives or benefits for yourself so you feel extra motivation to finish your work. After you’ve done a job or studied for a test, take a walk, watch your favorite show, or meet up with your friends.
What I usually did was save a percentage of my work, and each time the semester ended I chose a tourist place to visit. That motivated me to give 100% of myself to travel because it is my passion.
Another motivation for not leaving work while I was studying was to write the things I wanted to buy on a list at the beginning of the month, and each time I got paid I would choose one thing from that list to give me a personal reward.
Incentives, big and small, are a good way to give yourself that extra boost, that little motivation. Resting and do the things you love helps you understand that the sacrifice you are making is worth it.
Another thing that will keep you motivated is to create a table where you can see how close you are of your goals, and when you think you can’t keep doing it, open the table and see how much have you done and how close you are from what you want to achieve.
Remember, any goal that is worth it requires a lot of effort, although it seems impossible there is always a way to do things, and at the end of the road it will be worth all that you fought to get where you are.
Working and studying at the same time helped me learn many things. First, how to take advantage of even the smallest moment of my life to invest in the things I want to achieve. That although the days seem short, with a good organization I could make things happen.
It helped me to value the people who gave me their time to be with me because I know that many of them have many things to do and decided to use their rest time for me.
It also helped me in the working life that I have now and in the personal projects that I am working on, as a well-organized work schedule will allow me to work even on personal projects if I set my mind to it. And that good communication allows my superiors to understand what my priorities are.
Sometimes I wanted to give up everything, that’s normal. It is also normal to decide don’t do certain things to be able to rest, such as not taking so many subjects in a period to have time to sleep. But knowing that I was close to my goal and it helped me to motivate myself every day to continue working, and studying.