Online graduate degree programs have made it incredibly convenient for working adults to earn a master’s while retaining their full-time jobs. But “convenient” is definitely not the same thing as “easy.”
Sure, you’ll enjoy the flexible structure. But online programs still require you to augment your off-work hours with class time. Add on personal commitments to kids, partners, pets, and parents — that’s a lot to juggle. How can one education-loving career professional keep all the balls in the air and stay sane?
See if a few of these simple strategies take a bit of the stress out of pursuing your master’s degree while holding down a full-time job.
1) Opt for a one-class-at-a-time distance-learning program.
Seek out an accredited online degree program with a structure that lets you focus on one class at a time. Ideal for working adults with busy lives, these programs are comprised of six- or seven-week terms that provide the knowledge and skills you need to advance your career at an accelerated yet manageable pace.
A 100-percent online master’s program requires no relocation and no commute. You complete coursework from the comfort of your home while honoring the existing commitments you have to your family, employer, and community.
2) Devise a daily routine you can live with.
Create a structured schedule that allocates enough time for everything you need to do in a day — and stick to it as if your success depends on it. Because it does. Boost your self-discipline and self-motivation, and ditch your distractions and preference for procrastination. While “going with the flow” and “letting things unfold” is great advice in some phases of life, earning a master’s degree while earning a living is probably not one of those times.
3) Make the most of your time.
Be prepared to read a textbook chapter or a supplementary article any time you find yourself with unexpected downtime. Keep your laptop or smartphone at the ready when you’re commuting, waiting for an appointment, or meeting a friend who’s running late for dinner. Start your weekday morning an hour earlier to score extra study time. Find a quiet place at the office to hole up during your lunch break and pore over coursework. This will help lessen the weekend workload waiting for you.
4) Blend your coursework and career when possible.
Depending on your field of study and current position at work, it’s possible you can merge the two for time saving efficiency and deeper integration of learning. The digital marketing and social media principles you’re studying in your online MBA program might be just the tools you need to qualify for more responsibility at the office. A research project your public school employer has tasked you with could fulfill a class assignment for your Master of Education in Higher Education program.
A good online master’s program combines theory with practical, hands-on learning. If you’ve chosen a degree that helps you elevate the skills you need to succeed in your current field, you’ll have all sorts of opportunities to apply what you’re learning in your virtual community to your real-world vocation.
5) Beat your assignment deadlines.
One thing you can do for yourself time-management-wise is to turn in your assignments a few days early. It might seem like that just adds more stress to your already-jammed schedule, but it actually has the opposite effect. If you get into the habit of pushing your due dates back a bit, you’ll always have a safety cushion built into your timelines if “life happens” and you’re forced to go off schedule.
6) Create breaks into your schedule.
Along with blocking out all of your work and school-related time commitments, remember to reward yourself with free time. Maybe you need to cut out every Sunday afternoon and hit the trails on your mountain bike. Perhaps there’s a Wednesday night TV show or a church study group that’s the highlight of your mid-week calendar. Designate that chunk of time as a “schoolwork-free zone,” and let yourself relax and refresh. You’ll be more productive overall if you regularly take time to reset.
7) Surround yourself with a supportive network.
Take advantage of every resource available to you in the form of moral support from friends and family and practical support from your employer. Let loved ones know you’re always there when they need you, but perhaps not as often as they want you. Ask for their patience and understanding while you challenge yourself to reach an important goal.
Share your educational aspirations with your workplace supervisor. If your pursuit of a master’s degree is going to make you an even greater asset in your current role, you might find yourself receiving all kinds of favors, funds, and flexibility from your employer.
Reach out to the faculty of your online graduate program early and often. Speak up if you need help with assignments or a due date extension. Let them know if personal concerns are interfering with your studies. The dedicated instructors who teach in online graduate degree programs are passionate about your success and committed to helping you stay inspired and on track.
Would you like to learn more about a Christ-centered online degree program? Abilene Christian University offers a variety of online graduate degrees and certificates that let you advance your career while being part of a vibrant, virtual, Christ-centered community. There’s no need to relocate, so you can earn your degree while balancing the demands of work, life, and community.