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The Royal Marsden

How to make studying work with your work-life balance

Trying to fit studying in around your work and personal life can be tricky, but following these expert tips will help

You get home late from work, just about manage to feed yourself and anyone else, and then remember you’ve got a paper to research and write for tomorrow. Sound familiar?

Balancing the demands of an academic course with the needs of your family, your personal life and your job isn’t easy; it can feel as though something is always getting the short end of the stick. And if you’ve been out of education for a while, studying may feel even more daunting.

Study when you want to 

One of the best tools the School has to make life more manageable is Moodle – our online learning environment. Moodle contains all the information you need for your course, and much more; the course basics, slides from lectures, links to articles that tutors may have mentioned, reading lists, library catalogues and online quizzes.

You can contact staff through Moodle, or chat to other students on your course in discussion forums, too. Moodle is also used to deliver online or blended modules, plus students can submit their assignments – and receive feedback – through the system.‘You can access Moodle 24-hours a day, so you can study at a time that suits you,’ says YiWen Hon, Knwoledge Resources Manager. ‘This will help you build studying around your work and home life, or catch up if you’ve missed a lecture, which is a big relief for many students.’

Don’t be frightened to ask for help 

There’s no simple solution to finding a work-life balance, but don’t be frightened to ask your module leaders for help if you’re struggling. YieWen says, ‘They can explain clearly what’s expected of you – it may not be as much as you think, which can stop you panicking – and can work with you to set manageable deadlines.’

If you’re being sponsored by your workplace to study at the School, it’s worth talking to your boss if you’re feeling overwhelmed. ‘You need time to focus on your education, as well as your job,’ says YiWen. ‘It makes sense that they give you the space to do both properly – otherwise why are they investing in training you?!’

Get skilled up for studying 

Writing academic papers is a real challenge, so don’t beat yourself up if it feels like you’re not getting it. Instead, sign up for one of the free study skills workshops instead. 

These sessions are for small groups of students who need some practical help with planning, research techniques or writing assignments – 92 per cent of students who’ve taken the sessions say it benefitted their studies. ‘We want to ensure that students are equipped with all the necessary skills and knowledge to do well academically,’ says YiWen.

The style of learning at the School also makes it easier for you to develop as a student. Janet Baker, Lecturer Practitioner specialising in haemato-oncology and stem cell transplant, says, ‘Smaller class sizes offer a certain level of intimacy for the students – they’re able to have one-on-one time with the lecturer, and receive lots of guidance with their assignments.

‘Students are able to actually meet our clinical experts, too, and ask questions in a non-threatening environment, so they benefit directly. We have a much more student-centred learning approach at the School, as opposed to a straightforward learning approach that you might find in other institutions.’

Time management tips 

OK – you’ve got your deadlines sorted, you’ve done a study skills session, and you’re ready to write that paper. But the washing needs doing, you really should email your friend, and before you know it, you’ve procrastinated the day away.

To help you stay on top of your studies, try these practical tips:

  • Use the Pomodoro Technique – set your phone for 25 minutes, then take a break for five minutes when it goes off. Studies show taking regular breaks can actually boost your concentration. The technique is named after a Pomodoro tomato timer that inspired the inventor!
  • Download the Forest app to your phone – it helps you stay focused by planting a virtual tree when you start the app. If you leave the app to check social media or your emails, the tree ‘dies’.
  • Use RescueTime on your computer or other devices – this tracks how much time you spend on various websites, and gives you a report at the end of each day. Once you can see where you’re wasting time, you can cut it out.

Make time to look after your mental health and wellbeing while studying too. Yoga, meditation or mindfulness could all help you feel calmer and more in control. Never forget that nurturing yourself to be a successful student is just as important as any grades you might achieve.

The vast majority of our students haven’t been in academia for years, many are working full-time too, so it’s no wonder some feel a level of anxiety about returning to a learning environment

YiWen Hon, Knowledge Resources Manager
How to make studying work with your work-life balance | The Royal Marsden School
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