If you’re currently taking a course – or thinking about taking a course – you might find yourself thinking, “How will I ever find the time to study?”
This is especially true for people who are trying to juggle their day jobs and their studies. Or for stay-at-home mums who need to balance their housework with their homework.
When you’re already busy, to begin with, finding time to study can be difficult. More often than not, you’re presented with this scenario:
“Studies, work, or fun? You can only pick two. Which would you choose?”
According to time management expert Barbara Clifford of timetamer.com.au, however, the best thing you can do for yourself is actually picking all three.
When you’ve got a busy schedule of work or chores or meetings or kids, and need to study on top of all of that, you can actually focus a lot better if you do something fun in the middle of it all.
“You can study better by singing karaoke… or whatever activity it is you feel is valuable to you.“
We had a chat with Barbara about this, and here’s what she had to say:
“I was working with a student who was really struggling to get through her assignments and do some work that she needed to do during high school. Her teachers were criticizing her for being highly unorganised and that was causing her a great amount of stress.”
“What we did was, we identified what she valued highest, what she really enjoyed, and what was meaningful to her. And what we found was that it was— she really enjoyed singing and karaoke. And she would get distracted when she was doing her studies by going off and watching YouTube videos of those things.”
“So we set up a schedule where she could sing in between her studies. And she was feeling guilty about doing that. And I said to her, ‘That’s okay! Those moments are actually okay. You’re allowed to have those moments. But what we need to do is create a bit more structure around that.’”
“So we said ‘Okay, in this period of time, you’re going to do half an hour of history and once you’ve done that solid half-hour of history, then you’re going to have an hour—a solid hour—of nothing but YouTube time, watching those music videos.’”
“And once we created that schedule for her because we tied in something she valued to an activity, she ploughed through that history stuff really, really quickly and got her assignments completed because she knew there was a high-value reward at the end of it.”
“And she was actually completing her history assignments in much less time than she normally would because we implemented that structure for her. So if you have to do something that you really don’t like, tying in that value to it will help you complete it.”
Because the student was given time on her schedule to do what she really loved, which was singing karaoke, she was able to keep her focus and energy up when she needed it for her studies.
It turns out it’s actually in your best interests to schedule some fun time.
It doesn’t have to be karaoke, either. All you need to do is set aside some time in your schedule for a break where you can do something you really value. It could be art, or reading, or writing, or even just watching television – you just need to have some clear-cut “me”-time.
“The me-time is actually really important,” says Barbara. “I didn’t realize this myself and I was a time management person to start with. I used to hack my schedule full of activity and— but not schedule downtime. And I would get sick. I would be pushing myself too hard. And that downtime is actually incredibly important in terms of your brain function.”
“Research is showing that you can really only have up to about an hour, an hour and a half of solid brain time, and after that, your brain doesn’t function very well. So you really need to go and have a break. And it’s the same if you’re a working person or a stay-at-home mum. You need to schedule that downtime.”
But as we all know, we can be stubborn about not having me-time. The busybodies among us often say, “But I have work and I have to study. I don’t have time for downtime.”
Here’s Barbara’s advice:
“You know, I appreciate the discipline that is behind that. But your body is like your computer. If I left my computer running and overpowering, it would overheat and wouldn’t serve me as well. Your brain is the same. You have to allow the machine to rest. You’re going to be inefficient if you don’t.”
“And the other thing I would say to people is ‘Try it!’ You can’t dismiss something unless you try it. Do it for a week. If it doesn’t work, then we revisit it. You have to be willing to— If you’re a student, you have to be open to learning.”
And sometimes, you have to be open to learning that you could be studying a lot better by letting yourself goof off every now and then.