Finding Time To Study
When you work in a professional industry like the legal services you need to constantly update your skills and qualifications. This can mean additional learning and exams throughout your career. You need to find the time to study while still working at a full time job.
Here are a few ways to find time to study in your already busy schedule.
Commit to your study time – you have a goal, this is a short-term commitment which will result in achieving the qualifications or professional development you need to take you further.
Understand your motivation and the reasons for doing this. How will you benefit? Will you be able to improve your career prospects, become a partner, change companies?
Plan your study. What’s required as part of the study? How many modules, books, assignments, exams do you need to work through? How much do you already know and how much is new material?
What’s your timeframe? When does any certification or exam need to be completed by?
Write down any key dates and create a rough outline of what you’ll study over a given time. You may be able to complete one or more modules in a week or it might take you several weeks to complete one unit.
Schedule in study time. Unless you schedule in time for your study it’s likely you’ll leave it to the last minute. Decide what time you have available in your normal day. Your company may allow study time during the week.
Plan your study time across the weeks and months before any exam or deadline. Avoid cramming it in to the last minute just because you’ve been too busy. Little and often works best.
How to find time to study:
• Get up earlier – gain an extra 30-60 minutes at the beginning of the day instead of hitting the snooze button. Your brain is fresher and you’re more relaxed.
• 30 minutes in a lunch break – or read while you eat your lunch. Switching activities during the working day will also boost your productivity in the afternoon.
• 1-2 hours in the evening – instead of watching TV. Make sure you switch off from work first.
• Read/review your notes or coursework in ‘slack time’.
• 1/2 a day or a few hours at the weekend.
• Leave work early.
You could also decide to take a half day or even a full day once or twice a month when you can dedicate your time to studying.
You may be able to take this as part of your work day if your company encourages it or its part of your personal development plan for your career.
When I was working full time, I studied in the evening. Instead of collapsing in front of the TV although you may have had a busy day at work you can usually manage a find a couple of hours even if it’s only a couple of hours a week.
Make your study time productive. Take a break between work and starting to study so you’re relaxed and in the right mindset. You’ll get distracted if your mind is elsewhere or you’re worrying about other things that you could/should be doing. Get these out of the way first or decide to deal with them later, so you can focus on studying for the next hour or more.
Study in short bursts. Try the following cycle for each session:
• Decide what you’re going to study – (based on your study plan)
• Preview the work for this session
• Work for 20-25 minutes
• Review what you’ve just been studying
• Take a 5 minute stretch/refresh break (drink a glass of water)
Repeat the work/break sequence for 1-2 hours
• Take a longer break every couple of hours.
• Review what you’ve been studying in the whole session before finishing.
• At the end of each day review all you’ve worked on during the day.
• At the end of the week review all you’ve worked on during the week.
Mind-maps are a useful and effective way to take notes during your study – use one or two sheets for each module. They create a colourful image of the study material and are easier to read and review than pages and pages of notes.
Write down the key points on postcards. Use these to test and review the material in those quiet moments during the day, on your daily commute, while waiting for a meeting.
Review what you’ve learnt regularly. The more frequently you review, the more you’ll retain as it moves into your long term memory.
Find somewhere that’s conducive to study – whether it’s your office, the kitchen table, a cafe, library. Anywhere that means you can work undisturbed and with minimal distractions. Often moving out of your usual work space gives you a different, fresher perspective. Switch off the phone, disconnect from the internet.
Make time for rest and relaxation – a social life, exercise and fun also needs to part of the plan!
If you’d like a template Study Plan get in touch.