Tips to balance family, work and school
“Family…where life begins and love never ends.” Our loved ones are the most important people in our lives, and oftentimes they are near the top on the list of reasons why many people go back to school to earn their degrees. They support us, motivate us and inspire us to always do our best. But once class has started and papers are due, how do we ensure we are still giving our family the quality time and attention they deserve?
Finding The Time
How do you fit school work into the mix of getting kids and yourself ready for the day, making lunches, dropping them off, going to work, picking them up, making dinner, doing the chores, playtime and finally bedtime? Just think about that telltale phrase that our parents told us, and we tell our kids: “Anything is possible.” Here’s some tips to get you started:
- Get everyone on board – When going back to school there is one thing that all adults with families must do. Prepare their families for the commitment and ask for their support. It often requires spouses of students to pick up some extra responsibilities around the house, or errands to run for the family. By doing so, it allows the student to get homework done here and there, and still make story time with their undivided attention.
- Practice weekly planning sessions – Going back to school places deadlines on top of deadlines. The most important thing students can do is learn how to effectively plan their schedules and workloads. Even taking a half hour to think through all the things you have to do each week can pay incredible dividends to your time. Brian Tracy, author of How to Master Your Time, says that for every minute you spend planning, you save 10!
- Trade errand time with a friend – Just like in business, networking with other parents can reap numerous benefits. Consider trading afternoons with a friend to run errands, he or she can watch the children while you get some homework done. You’ll likely have a more productive day than you would with the kids at your heels. Plus it’s a bonus for them because they will be having fun with their friends.
- Leverage e-books when possible – More colleges and universities are leveraging the power of technology and requiring reading that can be contained all within a simple app. When buying books, always check if an e-book is available, it can not only save you money, but also allow you to study on the go when you have a moment or two between tasks. A little reading here and there can save you a lot of time that you can spend with your family later.
- Create efficient family dinners – Find ways to create efficiencies in your meal making schedules instead of spending hours preparing a gourmet meal. They don’t have to be elaborate to be healthy and effective. Come up with easy ways to balance the food groups with simple veggies and replace the ice cream with fruit and yogurt for desert. Prepare double batches of food when you’re less rushed so you can cook once and eat twice.
- Bond over homework – Many busy adult students find that they can combine study time with family boding time. When the kids sit down to do their homework, sit down with them and do yours. Remember that they are part of the reason why you are committing to school in the first place, and realize that by doing so you are also setting a good example for them to follow. Find ways to reward and congratulate each other when tasks are accomplished and questions are answered correctly. This positive energy and encouragement can actually make homework fun!
As you are working on fine tuning your time management skills remember to still try to squeeze fitness into your daily routine as well. It’s an essential part of maintaining a healthy balance between work and life.
Finance Friendly Fun
According to a study by the Kresge Foundation, the top two concerns for adult students who are pursuing their postsecondary degrees are taking on debt and balancing school with family obligations. We always hear that college is an investment, which implies that budgets may tighten up or be cut back on the home front, but we want to minimize the negative impact that it may have on our children. Be creative and think about ways to spend quality time with your family without spending a dime. Consider some of the following ideas during a money free weekend:
- Go on a walking tour – As residents, sometimes we overlook the unique characteristics of our home town. Find about an interesting historical or culture site in your town and walk around and explore it with your family. Possibly research some fun facts before heading out and have the children read them as you go, it’s a great way to find a new appreciation for your city, while integrating learning and outdoor fun with the family.
- Play ball – Practically from the beginning of human existence fathers and sons bond over a game of catch. It’s simple but effective and doesn’t just have to be a baseball. It could be a soccer ball, football, basketball, or any of the other sporting tools. All you need is an open space and a nice day. Don’t be afraid to be creative and practice teamwork by creating your own unique game that is extra special to just your family.
- Have a film festival – “Why does he always get to pick the movie! I wanna watch Frozen!” Sound familiar? On movie night, there’s generally only time for a single flick, but during a rainy or lazy day, everyone has a chance to pick. Have everyone select their favorite film, lay back and snuggle up with your kids and spouse. You can even take time between films to encourage everyone to be constructive critics and say their favorite things about the movie. Even if everyone’s seen it a million times, it’s a great way to foster building new perspectives.
- Go to the playground – Take the kids to the local park, but instead of just watching them, dive in and participate too. Go down the slide, swing on the sings, and climb across the monkey bars. Not only will your kids adore you for it, but you’ll likely find that playing like that gives you that special taste of being their age all over again.
- Puzzle play – Some families love to construct puzzles together. Try putting on some tunes and pulling out that puzzle you got for Christmas twenty years ago and try constructing it with your family. It teaches children patience while encouraging systematic and creative thinking. Another idea is to make your own puzzle. Color a picture with your children then cut it up in pieces and put it together as a group, it puts a special touch to the image since you all contributed to creating it.
- Fetch a Frisbee – Head out to a local park and toss the Frisbee around. This may be par the course for families with pets, but it’s amazing how this simple activity can be so enjoyable. Or spice things up a bit and get neighbors and their families involved in a game, or even tournament, of Frisbee golf. It’s a lot of fun, a great excuse to run around, stretch and jump without costing a penny.
- Build a cardboard castle – This one is really awesome. Stop by the appliance or hardware store and ask if they have any extra boxes you can get. When you get home, use those pieces and build a giant cardboard castle in your living room or back yard. Cut out doors and windows, attach them together to make rooms. What a concept!
The best part of these activities is that you can fit most of them in within an hour study break time block. Try scheduling them in increments and fully commit to being present for your children and spouse. Don’t think about what you’re going to work on next when you get back to the computer. Just enjoy creating memories with your loved ones. These mental snapshots can go a long way when you are frustrated in school by reminding you the importance of achieving your dreams.
Where do you fall on the work/life balance spectrum?
Creating balance between work, school, and life enables you to focus on many different areas of your well being without letting one overwhelm you and pull you down. Explore more about how to achieve balance with our Guide to Better Work, Life, School Balance and take this quiz to see where you fall on the spectrum.
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