Adults returning to education can find time management a real challenge, especially if they have a family, a job and other responsibilities. Even when planning to sit down and study, doing so without complications can be easier said than done when there are children and other family members to care for. However, with some advance planning, it should be perfectly possible to cope with interruptions while studying.
Schedule your time carefully
If you have a lot of other responsibilities outside of your studies, then there is no sense in trying to study when you know your time is going to be needed elsewhere. Plan your studying around your obligations; this could involve waiting until the children are in bed, or planning for your partner to care for them while you are studying. If there is a risk that you are going to be interrupted, then choose tasks and subjects that require less concentration. You probably need complete peace and quiet to read and take notes, for example, but doing something that involves short bursts of concentration can probably be done with some background disturbance.
Let everyone know you are busy
Make it quite clear to everyone that you are not to be disturbed while you are studying. This isn’t necessarily going to stop interruptions completely, but it should at least ensure that they are few and far between. Sticking to set times each day will help. Keeping your phone in a different room and switching off your messenger system online is also a good idea; if your mobile is in the room with you and you hear it beeping or ringing, you will almost certainly be tempted to see who it is. If you don’t hear it, you are far more likely to carry on with your studies and check for messages when you have finished.
Plan time with the family
If you find your family are constantly interrupting you while you are studying, it is probably because they miss spending time with you and are missing you. If you’re holding down a job and studying at the same time, then you are almost certainly going to be limited in the amount of time that you can spend with your family. Discuss doing something with them for a couple of hours at the weekend, so that they know you still have time for them. You should also tell them exactly why you are studying; if they understand, for example, that you have an exam, or an essay to complete, they are more likely to be accepting of your time away from them.
Find a convenient place to study
You will need to have a quiet place where you can study in peace; preferably, this should be behind closed doors. If it isn’t, and you have children running around, they are likely to disturb you even if they aren’t talking directly to you. If you can’t study after they have gone to bed, then you may need to find somewhere outside the home to study; a library is a common option, but a quiet classroom, or even a friend’s spare room are other options. If you need to arrange care for the children, then check if there is a crèche at your place of study. If there isn’t, there are almost certainly plenty of other people in your position and you may be able to arrange something between you.
Listen to music
Some people need absolute peace and quiet to study. Others find that listening to music, or even having the television on in the background can help them to concentrate. You may find that putting on headphones and blocking out sound apart from the music or programme to which you are listening is enough to prevent any interruptions but those which are really insistent. Play around until you find something that suits you; just ensure that your family know why you are listening to music when you are studying, or they may think that they have carte blanche to interrupt anyway.
Factor in time for interruptions
When working out your study timetable, accept that you are sometimes going to be held back by interruptions and factor in some extra time to allow for it. The tighter your time is because of outside obligations, the longer in advance you will need to start any projects or revision. If you know that you have this extra time built in, you will be an awful lot more relaxed and therefore much less irritable with whoever is interrupting you. Young children in particular are very unlikely to understand why you are cross with them when they are seeking attention.
If you have made the decision to return to studying, there is no reason why you should not be successful, even if you have heavy responsibilities. You just need to learn to avoid interruptions if possible and cope with them when they are unavoidable.