Balancing Online Classes with Work and Family

Q: Hi Jessica! I am having a tough time juggling classes with the rest of my life. I was wondering if you had any tips on how to balance online classes with work and family obligations?

Balancing online classes with work and a full roster of daily activities is hard. Unlike traditional classes, where you're sort of forced to tune out the world for the hour or so you're in the classroom, there's no such built-in measure with online learning. So it's critical that you spend this time working on balancing school with family and work obligations now, to set yourself up for success.

Time Management Strategies for Students

Take advantage of school resources.

Good, quality online schools generally offer a multitude of useful resources to students who are balancing school with work and other commitments. (See: How to Choose an Online College). These may include academic advisors, career centers, student workshops or seminars, writing or math lab sessions or centers, one-on-one tutoring, or even counseling for things like depression, eating disorders, anxiety, financial difficulties and more. Check out Ulifeline.org, a nonprofit website dedicated to providing information to college students about their schools' counseling resources.

Join or form study groups or social networks.

Finding a community of fellow students to study with, talk about the unique struggles of class, and find moral support in this balancing act can help get you through the tough days.

Buy a good day planner.

To balance my schedule (and I've seen this work for my students), I bought a really good day planner, the kind that hairdressers use. I see a week at a glance, and I can plan my weeks down to the hour. If it's on my calendar, I do it, and I don't let other obligations interfere. Block out your time for study, your time for work, and your time for play. Which leads me to my next tip…

Make time for yourself.

It's the first thing to go when you're busy. But it's oh-so-important that you get a good night's sleep, exercise, have uninterrupted family time or go to dinner with friends. You'll be a better student, a better parent and a better worker when you give your mind, body and spirit the time they need to refresh.

Set boundaries.

You'll need buy-in from your family and close friends. Ask them for their support. Make agreements about the time they'll have you all to themselves and the times they won't. Establish clear boundaries and rules, such as, "When Mommy's in her office with the door shut, that means it's study time, so please make sure you're quiet."

Get out of the house.

I once had a student who couldn't write her paper because her "house was too noisy." A flimsy excuse considering there are so many coffee shops and libraries with free Wi-Fi that would have given her an escape from her noisy house. If the demands of home are too much, try to get away for a few hours.

Use technology.

E-textbooks, podcasts and videos used in online classes can often be downloaded onto smartphones or tablets. Take advantage of that and make use of unused time -- for instance, in the doctor's office lobby or while waiting for water to boil for dinner.

I'd love to hear any ideas you have for balancing online classes with work and family, or about any other questions you have. Just submit them here! Or follow me on Google+ for more insights.