act: Brits work the longest hours in Europe. That makes us susceptible to the risks of working in personal time, therefore, we can find it difficult to prioritise family with work.
Throw study time into the mix and things can get hectic. You need a plan to keep on top of it all.
4 Tips to Help Parents Balance Work with Studying and the Children
Review your “real” working hours
Flexi-working time is available to parents, but it doesn’t always work out the way it is supposed to. What happens is that you work set hours in the office and then take the work home in the evening. Even if it’s checking your voicemail, planning the next day or replying to emails. Work time has become something that is not clear cut. France is the only country to have recognised the serious implications of this and have made it a law for everyone to have the right to disconnect.
While the UK hasn’t taken this extreme action (as of yet), it’s something you do have the power to do yourself.
If you find yourself spending much of your personal time on work-related activities such as organisation for the following day, replying to colleagues via email or making business calls, then speak to your manager about your work hours. Sometimes it can be a more sensible and realistic approach to add an extra couple of hours in the office during workdays to cover things you do at home and then you can completely switch off when you leave the office.
A solution like that could see you claw back a few hours of your personal time.
A support network definitely helps
This ought to be a priority for every working family, studying or not. What tends to happen is there’s no overlap between working and parenting. Most people can’t switch modes between a business and parenting mindset at the flick of a switch. It is especially problematic for new parents returning to work; trying to justify the flexible working hours or part-time arrangement with your new parenting responsibilities.
Childminders are the best asset you can have. That way, if you are stuck in traffic, public transport is running late or a meeting runs late, there is someone that you can rely on to cover for you until you get back.
As far as studying goes when you’re working and looking after your family, you will find it helpful to reach out to friends and relatives, or alternatively, certain service providers if you can afford to bring in outside help.
It could be that you have a niece or nephew that could come over a few evenings during the week to help keep an eye on the children while you study, or you could even ask them to take care of your housekeeping and pay them for their efforts. It is cheaper than hiring a cleaner and if you have teenage relatives, they would be more than glad to come over, tend to the dishwasher, do some ironing and run the hoover over the floors for some extra pocket money. Even if it’s just to take the dog for a walk. It is a task off your hands.
For those with elderly relatives to care for, find out about the care services they could be entitled to, or if there is someone else that could help out. There is a huge amount of people trying to juggle caring duties of others with caring for their own families, and balancing that with work.
There are only so many hours in the day and you simply cannot do everything alone. If you’re at risk of burnout, definitely look into the support services available.
Email management is a must-have skill
The less hours you work, the more frantic your inbox gets because you’re not there to reply to them as they come in. The fact is, that should never have been allowed to happen.
When businesses first started using email, they never considered how much of a problem it would eventually become. The time has come that everyone sees emails as the most convenient way to communicate about work related topics. The problem is keeping on top of it.
If it is possible in your line of work, don’t leave your emails open or notifications on while you’re working or during family time. Turn your notifications off, and allocate a set amount of time to take care of emails at the start of the working day – 30 minutes should cover it, with the exception of your first day back after a break when you will need to catch up.
If you frequently find yourself with a lot of emails, scroll to the very bottom and working your way through them, just scan the “from” field and the subject line. If they don’t ring a bell or indicate significance, they can wait, or you can even delete them.
You will then know which emails are important. Starting from the bottom of the list, open the email and determine if it needs a reply. If it does, flag it or place a star beside it to mark it as important. Alternatively, if it only needs a quick reply, you can reply to it at that moment.
Then go back through the flagged emails and reply to each one.
Then close your emails down.
You can check your inbox later at lunchtime or before you finish. In each reply you send, let the recipient know you only check emails at certain times so they know when they will hear back from you.
Get into a habit of checking your emails at certain times of the day and blocking out the rest of the time. It is not a priority.
Study spaces for hectic households
Some people will have children running around the house which can make it impossible to study. If this is the case, it would be helpful to either have a supportive partner who can take care of the children while you find somewhere quiet to study, or alternatively, a friend or relative who can babysit in their spare time to allow you to study.
If you need to get out of the house to find a quiet space to study your materials, you could use your library, or a relative’s house where they can give you space to study without interruption.
Anywhere quiet that gives you a good study environment is better than trying to multitask.
Studying online does give you a lot of flexibility, but that is dependent on the provider and the type of qualification you’re studying for. There are some courses that require attendance in part at the local college, or a group discussion that takes place, for which there is limited flexibility.
Before you enrol in any study course, take the time to find out what your requirements will be before enrolling. If there are deadlines that need to be met, there will be more effort required to meet those deadlines, whereas with others, tests can be done at a time and location that suits you. You don’t have as much pressure and could even eliminate deadlines from your studies.
The important thing to investigate is what is meant by flexible. That applies to your work as well as studies because different companies and learning providers have different definitions of what they mean by flexible learning.