Many of us work hard to get the balance between our work and personal lives right, it can be further complicated when taking on an accredited course in our own time. It can be difficult to find an approach that balances these two sides.

Just as we prepare for meetings, plan projects and undertake assessments in our daily professional lives, taking a similar approach to our extra studies, can be very helpful.

By treating it as if it were ‘productive meeting’ time in your professional life, or essential to your future aspirations, may help you prioritise it over other things.  Reminding yourself of the benefits it will bring you when you find yourself overwhelmed by the day job.  Prioritising your needs for your own development to make way for ensuring your attendance and focus will all be important.  A helpful way to commit to the time is to agree and then remind family or partners that you’ve set the time aside for this purpose. You may need their support to prevent you deviating from it, or feeling guilty that you are leaving them or your colleagues to manage without you.

Plan time before sessions, if there is a list of topics, identify those which you think you might enjoy the most or that you might find most challenging and start to locate resource material such as blogs or videos that might help you further your understanding. This approach won’t take the place of time spent with your tutor, but it can help you familiarise yourself with terms and ideas associated with your course.  When those more difficult topics come up you may even need to plan in more time to study. It may also help if you pre prepare questions in advance for those sessions, and ensure that you have undertaken any pre session tasks so you can feel more confident.

Similarly, you planning reflection time after lessons will be key to ensure you capture your learning and identify tasks to help you practice and embed it.

Courses and tutors differ in how they handle work outside of the session structure, some may assign work, others not. The important thing is to ensure you have planned time in advance to use for any additional work. If essays or projects are required it helps to have planned them into your personal schedule too, always leaving some slack for the inevitable challenges with studying alongside your daily work and family commitments. Think seriously about where you will undertake this work particularly if it requires a quiet space to access your best thinking.

If your tutor does not assign work between lessons, consider diarising extra time towards your course anyway. Further reading around topics you have covered in the previous sessions can highlight real-world examples which may serve to illustrate your learning, as well as offering you different viewpoints or opportunities to deepen your understanding. Whatever the type of course you are undertaking there is likely to be an expectation around you as an adult learner.  You will be expected to manage your time, keep up to date with any specific course requirements; connecting  with your tutor, meeting deadlines for assignments, possibly linking with others on your course.  You are more likely to be pointed in the direction of information and expected to access it yourself. Make sure you keep abreast of any assessment requirements or tests that mean you may need to re organise other meetings or events around them.

While undertaking new learning in this context can seem daunting,  many of us already have the drive and internal rigour needed to make it a success.  Deriving maximum pleasure from undertaking a new personal learning experience takes effort and a commitment to looking after ourselves. Whilst it can be very tough at times, keep focused on your ultimate goal , plan well,  ask others to help you keep on track and reward yourself with ‘down’ times to keep your batteries fully charged. Good luck.

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