Few Americans can afford to take any time off work to pursue education — in part because education itself is so expensive. However, advanced education is sometimes essential for workers interested in reaching the next level of their careers, which could increase their earning potential and allow them to achieve their professional dreams. As a result, many professionals need to balance work and school — but they can’t forget about the rest of their lives, either.
A work-life-school balance might seem impossible to achieve, but with the right tools, any professional can maintain a full-time job, complete their studies and enjoy life with loved ones. Here is what every professional needs to establish an optimal work-life-school balance:
A Flexible Program
When trying to balance so many responsibilities, it is imperative that each component of the work-life-school balance remain flexible. Some weeks, work might require more time and attention; other weeks, there should be more space in one’s schedule for studying. To make it easier to keep everything in balance, professionals should opt to enroll in online master’s programs.
Unlike traditional graduate programs, which require students to travel to a physical campus for strictly scheduled courses, online programs tend to be asynchronous, meaning they can engage with lectures and complete assignments on a much looser schedule. Then, they will be able to fit their schoolwork more easily amongst their other responsibilities.
A Personal Support System
No person is an island. It is impossible to manage any degree of responsibility completely and utterly alone; as social creatures, humans need one another, especially during times of stress. Professionals need to ensure that their systems of personal support are strong before they engage with education and increase the pressure they experience in their day-to-day lives.
It might be wise for a professional to talk openly and honestly with loved ones — like their spouse, their children, their roommates or other close friends and family members — about how their participation in a master’s program might impact their time, attitude and energy levels. It might also be prudent to think about what kind of support a professional might require from their loved ones and communicate their needs early. Then, when stress from work and school intensify, they can lean on their support system for survival.
An Understanding Employer
Employers want top talent on their staff, and top talent tends to have enviable education credentials — like master’s degrees. Thus, a professional’s current employer is likely to be excited by the prospect of their employee seeking professional development — but excitement and support are not synonymous.
Professionals might approach their superiors about their intentions to enroll in a master’s degree program to determine whether their employer will be supportive of this pursuit or not. During weeks when schoolwork is more demanding, professionals may need to devote less time and energy to work projects, and employers should be understanding and flexible to their needs. Signs of a good employer include a willingness to shuffle responsibilities to other team members or perhaps even to cover some tuition expenses. If a professional determines that their employer is less than sympathetic to the difficulty in balancing work, school and life, they might consider finding a position at a new company before beginning their graduate school journey.
An Organized Desk
After the pandemic, most professionals have home office spaces, where they occasionally — or perpetually — complete their work. For some professionals, this office space may be a corner of their dining room table; for others, it may be a dedicated bedroom. In any case, these office areas will need to expand to accommodate study materials during a professional’s online master’s program, and that might require a change to ensure efficient organization for the duration.
An organized desk makes it easier to manage both work and school. Professionals might take advantage of productivity guides that assist with desk organization, which can involve the addition of organization tools like letter trays or document boxes. It might also be prudent to move one’s home office to a larger and more permanent area, like a guest room or garden shed, to ensure sufficient space to focus.
Balancing work, life and school is no easy task, but it can be immensely rewarding. With the right preparation, the work-life-school balance is achievable, and professionals will likely find their work and lives richer for the short-term responsibility of school.