Studying is a great way to learn new skills and further develop the ones you have, helping you land a promotion, attracting prospective employers and achieving your personal goals.
Nevertheless, it’s not easy being a mum, partner, student, employee and everything else in-between.
So I am sharing some tips that I collected along the way, to help you study with children.
When I started my second year at university I had a newborn baby boy, and I greatly underestimated how difficult it would be to look after my family and study.
It wasn’t long before the lack of sleep, house chores and university work began to overwhelm me.
I needed to do something to help me reach my goal of achieving my degree.
So what did I do?
I developed a plan to get organised.
The key to success is planning, especially when you have children. The more you plan, the less time you'll waste, and the more you'll achieve.
Let's face it, children aren't predictable, but by organising your (and their) time effectively, you can achieve your goals.
PLAN YOUR TIME
You can invest in a diary or use the one on your phone. I used a hand-held diary (and saved the dates on my phone calendar), to keep up with my assignments and revision goals.
I'm a visual person, so I also invested in a yearly wall planner. This allowed me to see, at a glance, what was due when, and what days I had assigned to study and revise.
Here's some hacks for you to organise and plan your daily activities so you can find the time to study.
Write down all of your family commitments. Your eldest has a birthday party to attend? Write it in the diary. Your in-laws are coming over for dinner Friday night? Note it down.
Ensure you write your commitments in the correct times slots, so you can easily see what time you have available. Don't forget to pencil in your family time!
A TO-DO LIST
Chore list. Boring I know, but unless you can afford a cleaner and cook, it's essential to your end goal, not to mention your sanity.
Be sure to include the days and times of each one. Having your chores written down gives you a realistic overview of your 'free' time.
If you can afford it, you may consider hiring a cleaner to help with some chores around the house.
Get your family involved too. Your partner can wash the dishes while you get the children bathed and in bed. Plus to keep things organised your children, even the youngest, can clear their toys away before pulling out another.
Giving children age appropriate tasks will help them develop their communication and motor skills, build their self-confidence and autonomy. Plus they will get plenty of praise from mummy for being so helpful.
PLAN AND PRIORITISE YOUR STUDIES
Assignment deadlines. Write these in your calendar a few days early to allow you extra time to make any amendments before hand-in.
When baby naps you can dedicate twenty minutes to type a section of your assignment. Although it doesn’t seem like much time, you may find you focus more with a goal and time limit in mind.
Plan your assignments. Include an introduction, the main body, and ending. Use bullet points, post-it notes, or whatever works for you to outline what you want to include.
Check the marking criteria to ensure you're meeting the requirements of the essay. Set a deadline for each section and add it to your diary.
Prioritise your work. Ensure you include time to research, read the recommended books and articles, and writing time. This can help you concentrate on your goals without you worrying about what still needs to be done.
Also remember to include revision time, recapping what you've learned each week and in the weeks before your exams.
PLAN YOUR MEALS
Cooking well balanced meals for your family is beneficial in helping your family stay health, maintain their cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease and depression.
A healthy life style improves your mood and gives you more energy, which let's face it, you'll need while juggling your studies, work and family. The NHS website has some great tips on what to include in your diet, check it out here.
Meal planning helps to ensure you are eating a well balanced diet. You can plan your meals for the week, plus save time and money by ordering your food online. Plus it reduces the risk of you impulse buying!
Here are some tried and tested tips to organise your meal times:
Order your weekly shop online
Ordering your shopping online and having it delivered can save you valuable time.
Plan your meals
Weekly meal planning can help you save the pennies as well as your time. I initially struggled with this one. I like to eat what I fancy each day. However, once you try it for a few weeks, you'll discover it's so much easier.
I batch cooked, which meant that when I did fancy a particular meal for lunch or dinner, I simply took it out of the freezer, and placed it in to the fridge in the morning.
Cooking larger quantities of your favourite meals, (think lasagne, cottage pie and hot pots), and putting them in the freezer can be a lifesaver when time is limited. Plus you know you and your family are eating a healthy, well balanced meal. Don't forget to buy enough ingredients!
Make quick meals
Why not try making quick and easy meals like, omelettes, stir fry, or pasta? They require little prep time and reduce cooking time.
Use your slow cooker
Simply throw your ingredients in to your slow cooker before you leave for the school run, and come dinner time you and your family can sit down, and enjoy a delicious meal.
Order a take-away
An occasional take-out can be helpful on those stressful days. You can use them as an incentive to complete your first assignment draft.
Whether you are studying at university, college or online, a support network can be the difference between reaching the end of the course with a First Class (Hons) or a Third Class degree. From your personal tutors, to supervisors and friends, it really can affect your progress and success.
In my experience a strong support network helps keep you accountable, offers you a safe place to ask questions, and an opportunity to bounce ideas around.
Additionally, when you can't quite seem to grasp a concept, find your confidence waning, and feel you're about to reach your limit, they will be there to support and encourage you. They will push you and give you constructive criticism to help you better yourself.
Having people that believe in you, gives you the courage to keep pushing through the difficulties until you get to the other side.
Today, most educational institutes have the course information you need online. From the lecture slides to online journals and books, you can do your research and reading anytime, anywhere.
I would read journal articles on my mobile while breastfeeding and write notes either in the notes app on my mobile, or on the journal itself when using my iPad.
There are a number of note taking sources you can use online. Some people create their own, while others use Evernote or OneNote. Using technology means you can edit out any mistakes, add to ideas and revise it as many times as you want. Of course you can use good old fashion, pen and paper too.
Whichever system you decide to use, be sure you back your notes up. It will save you a great deal of heartache, trust me.
If you get easily distracted with social media, or find you procrastinate using your mobile, it may be worth using a mobile blocking app. These apps lock you out of your mobile for a set amount of time. This ensures you don't get distracted and helps you focus.
Arranging childcare is crucial to helping you achieve your goal. It gives you the time to go to your lectures, meet your supervisor, and study with your support network, or alone in a quiet environment.
Be sure to have backup childcare for your exam dates.
Whether it's a professional babysitting company, an additional nursery day, a friend, family member or your partner; having somebody ready to help on the days that really count will help you stay calm before that all important test.
Being a mum is tough enough without setting yourself unrealistic expectations. When deciding what to study, be sure to investigate the workload, the hours you will be expected to study, and the level at which the work must be completed.
Think long and hard about what best suits your needs. Would full-time be doable? Could a part-time course give you the extra time to study without too much disruption to your family life? Maybe an online course that allows you to work at your own pace is better suited to your needs.
Every family is different and your needs will differ from your friends and family, so be sure to do your research before applying for a course.
Once you've begun, keep yourself accountable, keep at it, and do your best. Being open to constructive criticism from your lecturers and support network can help you learn new skills, enabling you to progress and learn faster.
DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF
Don't compare yourself to your classmates. This is what I found the most difficult. Being around younger students who work morning until night studying in the library, who are achieving grades you could only dream of, can make you doubt your abilities.
I found myself almost frozen with fear in my final year at university. This is normal, as we have a fight or flight response when we sense danger. In my case, the danger was a sense of failing.
All my friends were already writing their dissertations, while I was still in research mode. I felt myself panic and I very nearly dropped out, thankfully my friends encouraged me to stick it out and praised my efforts (thanks guys), and I realised that what other people were doing didn't matter.
They have their process and I have mine. We all do things differently, and I had to simply do my best.
Once I freed myself from the fear of not doing as well as others, and not keeping up with everyone else, I put my head down and completed my dissertation early and received a grade of 92, which led to me achieving a First Class (Hon) degree.
If I can do it, so can you. Work smart, do your best, and don't compare yourself to others. Just keep moving forward. No matter how small the progress, it is one step closer to your end goal.
There is only one you, and I know you can do it, mama.
If you found these tips helpful, check out these 6 common study problems I faced, and the helpful strategies I used to overcome them.