Balancing work, family and studies

Work life (work-life) balance concept - national work life week


Going back to full-time study when you have a family can be a daunting prospect. Author Patricia Orlunwo gives some tips on how to manage it all.

Even though you tell yourself that what you are doing will benefit the family in the long run as you get a better job, that really is not much help when you are trying to balance challenges at home and vital exams. Almost a third of undergraduate students in the UK are now mature students who are desperately trying to strike the right work/life balance. And many are doing an excellent job of it.

University is still aimed at the carefree and slightly punch drunk sixth former getting their first taste of freedom and most activities organised by universities students unions are targeted at those fresh faced youngsters, not the care-worn mother trying to fit in the weekly shop between her studies and picking the children up from after school club. So the traditional freshers week that passes in a blur for new intake may also pass in a blur for the mature student, but odds are that it will be a blur of tiredness and stress as they try to keep all the balls in the air.

With 43% of mature students balancing family commitments, childcare responsibilities, and a punishing academic workload, it is important that a mature student who is also a mother finds a way to strike the right balance. Organisation will be the key to success – knowing what to do and when to do it.

The biggest challenge for a mother in full-time study may be to feel that they are not giving the best they can to their family. There is no doubt that focusing on the right work/life balance is essential, especially as the course progresses and the workloads intensifies. Remember ‘impossible’ is just a word. Take responsibility for your study and reminisce that most people, at some point in life, have suffered from fear of failure. However, you can do all things with proper planning.

Ten tips to get ahead

– Develop a goal for your studies, your ultimate motivator when things get tough.

– Make a plan by simply writing down how you can attain your goals daily. Making lists is a key part of the planning process where new tasks are added and completed ones ticked off.

– Conquer procrastination and fear.

– Adopt the 80/20 rule principle by putting in a few hours of concentrated study, eliminating all distractions. If you focus on your workload for a few crucial hours, you will be able to give time for yourself/chores and family. Successful students often spend less time studying than more average students and yet achieve better grades, for instance, instead of working for five hours a day, the best students may only work for two. The difference is that the best students are properly focusing their efforts.

– Practice focusing on one task until completion, rather than doing many things simultaneously with only partial attention and fractured intention.

– Multitasking in the context of studying has been found to have a negative impact on academic performance and learning.

– Follow your study schedule with expectations of a specific result.

– Identify your learning style.

– Use the right study methods and strategic time management.

– Discipline, decision, determination and hard work are the keys to educational excellence.

*Patricia Orlunwo Irikiko is the author of “The Successful Student”, published by Panoma Press, price £12.99. It is available now from

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