Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the plunge and further your education. Whether you’re going to college for the first time, just taking a couple of classes, or pursuing an advanced degree, you’ve evolved from “someday” to “today’s the day.” You chose a school, a major, and then went through the application process. You arranged payments and loans. Now you’re in classes ready to absorb whatever knowledge you can from these new mentors and peers. But how does school fit in with your business priorities? As the semester goes on and the workload increases, you are sure to be challenged with conflicting demands of work and studies. Here are some tips for juggling these priorities while still getting the most out of both.
Be smart with your time.
As gratifying as it may be to finish your degree or certification in record time, it’s essential not to take on too much at once. If you’re just starting school, take one or two classes and see how it fits in with your schedule. If you feel it’s manageable, add an extra course next semester. If you overwhelm yourself with too much too soon, you’ll find that you won’t be successful in either school or work.
Reconsider your business roles and what you can realistically manage during this time. Are there some tasks that can be delegated or can wait until school breaks? For example, it might not be the time to test new equipment or software the week you have an exam.
When choosing classes, look for low-hanging fruit. Try and select courses that are most likely to benefit your business in an immediate sense. The real-world examples will both enhance your learning and improve your business. You’ll be saving time and bringing yourself closer to your long-term business goals.
Take advantage of available resources.
You’re already paying for them! Choose your academic advisor wisely, and be sure to utilize them as a mentor beyond just the obligatory check-ins. They have a wealth of knowledge and can give you educational guidance that will have real-world applications to your business.
Utilize your school’s networking resources as well. You can join peer study groups or partner up with like-minded entrepreneurial students or alumni to help give you guidance and support in your academic and business growth journey. Some schools even offer entrepreneurs competitions, prizes, and awards to help fund or launch business startup ideas. It’s wise to have a good grasp of what resources your school has to offer.
Don’t skip the library, and specifically the Reference Desk. Your university pays for your access to surveys and resources that can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the marketplace. Find a knowledgeable assistant at that desk. I found it helpful to approach different assistants on different visits with the same or similar questions. Unfortunately, half or more of the assistants will not be able to point you to a profitable solution. When, however, you find the ones who can – cherish them. They alone are worth ten times the registration and tuition fees you are going to pay the university.
A licensed business coach can be beneficial during your years of academia and beyond. Do you have a trusted business coach? You can find customized guidance and strategies for maintaining your workload. Your coach will help you manage the two priorities in ways that cooperate with your work style and also help you apply your academic learnings to your business in ways that directly impact your growth goals and bottom line. Consider looking for business coaching services near you.
Take your business to school.
An excellent business class for you will be one that you connect directly to your company and vice versa. With schoolwork like case studies, be bold and brave; use your business as a subject whenever possible. This way, you can nourish your own business while simultaneously completing your coursework; it’s a win-win! You will also benefit from the fresh, even if occasionally irreverent, perspectives your classmates will offer. Choose research and schoolwork topics where the exploration will directly impact your business. Who knows, you may even solve a problem you are facing right now. They might not always be the easiest projects, but if the exercise could cross off a to-do list item or long-term goal at work, go for it!
Attempting to multitask or switch-task between work and school is a recipe for disaster. While utilizing your business as a subject for your schoolwork can be beneficial, it is crucial to separate the two to prioritize your time. When working on your business, dedicate your mind solely to that, and likewise with the school. If possible, it can even be helpful to have separate computers or workspaces for work and school to avoid potential distractions.
Consider implementing timing restrictions and understand yourself enough to know when you are most productive. Batch your time. If you work at your company from 9-5 and have a burst of energy after dinner from 8-11, be vigilant about optimizing business productivity during the day and dedicate those later hours to your studies.
Have a sense of your top school and work priorities and where they fall on the urgency spectrum each week. Then, create timelines, weekly and monthly, for both work and business based on what you know, and reference this as you start each week or even on Sunday nights to ramp up for Monday. This way, you can get ahead of significant projects in either arena and set priorities in advance.
The importance of saying “no.”
Juggling school and entrepreneurship will not be easy. Don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise. You will have to make choices and need to sacrifice some things during this time. When the demands are too great, whether at work, school, or in your personal life, permit yourself to decline requests for your time; politely say no without feeling guilty. Your commitment to academia is temporary. There will be a time when you will be able to participate in extracurricular activities more frequently again. If you need to prioritize studying over dinner with friends or organizing the company Christmas party (remember to delegate!), do so with no regrets.
On the flip side, it’s also essential to set aside time to say “yes.” You may not say yes to everything, but burnout starts to happen as you say no to yourself. Be sure to dedicate time to spend with friends and family. You might not be able to go out for a beer with the girls or guys every Thursday like always, but commit yourself to one Thursday a month. And make sure you are there for the important things with family. Take time away from work to have family dinner at the table or go through a bedtime routine with your kids. These are moments you can never get back when they are gone, even after your diploma is on the wall.
Juggling school and work will take some self-discipline, but you and your business will be better for it in the long-run—best of luck on your academic journey.