Finding Life Balance and Motivation as a Mature Student

With Labour Day weekend behind us, it is safe to say that the back to school grind is in full swing. We have previously offered tips on getting the little ones ready for this time of year, but we’ve noticed that many of our clients and peers are returning to school, or pursuing graduate studies, as working professionals. As such, we’d like to dedicate this post to the challenges surrounding continuing education in adulthood. Whether it be finding adequate time for studies in light of other responsibilities, or staying motivated when the payoff is not apparent, we hope these tips will help you get organized and maintain your focus, so that you may accomplish your academic and professional goals in time.

1. Establish Your Priorities and Support Systems: As adults with endless commitments including childcare, work, and family responsibilities, it could be difficult to conceive of yourself and your schooling as a priority. Your children and family will always come first, although if you want to achieve success in your studies, you will need to make time in your busy life for your studies. We recommend making a list of your top three or four priorities which include school. If you currently feel you have too much on your plate to make this a reality, it may be time to reshuffle your responsibilities and delegate some to your partner or a trusted family member. For example, this could mean having your spouse pick up the kids and prepare dinner three nights per week, sharing your attention to the needs of aging parents with a sibling, or ensuring your financial stability with help from a partner, as we know continuing education can be costly. Regardless of how you establish your schooling as a priority among other priorities, it is important to likewise establish a sound support system which will serve as a buffer for some of your existing responsibilities.

2. Make a Weekly Schedule: Once your priorities are established, it is important to explicitly allocate time, byway of a weekly schedule, to the goals you must accomplish and responsibilities you must attend to. This is usually easiest by way of an agenda – I like the old fashion paper ones, but electronic ones can prove even more efficient. Here, we recommend pencilling in everything from hours spent studying, to necessary “me-time,” to exercise, child care activities, family time, and more. Doubling as a full-time employee, student, and parent in many cases does not favour the spontaneous lifestyle. It may seem unromantic to schedule every hour of your life, but in many instances, it is necessary to accomplishing a goal when your existing commitments are extensive. If you generally don’t favour routine, remind yourself that this is temporary, yet necessary to maintain a healthy life balance. Be realistic with your schedule. Don’t be afraid to reject added demands of your time and resources. Respectfully saying “no” doesn’t make you a disagreeable person – it makes you a responsible adult and student. Remember that taking on new admirable projects such as furthering your education, will involve some sacrifices. Maintain only the necessary and stay focused on your goals.

3. Keep Your Eye on The Prize: Amidst crying babies, mounting bills, life’s curve-balls, inescapable fatigue, and faltering inspiration, it could sometimes seem impossible to stay motivated and committed to your academic pursuit. Motivational research teaches us that the most successful individuals visualize success and never revert attention from their ultimate goal. The most important way one can silence discouragement, is by maintaining focus on their desired end result. Recall the reason you decided to do this in the first place. Was it to finally work in a domain you are passionate about? Earn a better living to support your family? Achieve a lifestyle you’ve always desired? Determine what it is that originally inspired you to pursue continuing studies, visualize that desired end-result, and formulate a pleasant mental image of what this truly means to you. Refer to this image when you feel yourself faltering or need a boost in motivation. This often helps us re-cultivate our stamina and push forward. Nothing worth having is easy to achieve.

We hope these tips have been helpful to you as you commence a new school year. We wish you all the best in your future academic and professional pursuits.