As I get started with my second semester, I thought it would be a good time to re-visit the subject of self-care and time management, particularly as a mature student. Oh yeah, I thought I had it all planned out in my first post for Hack Library School on self-care, but one semester in and I don’t feel like the super-organised, calm and in control student I envisaged. If you’re also a mature student, perhaps with a job, family, other responsibilities, then you’re may also be finding the ‘student’ bit a lot harder to manage than the ‘mature’ part. Unlike the majority of undergraduates, many studying for a master’s degree do have other commitments and won’t be doing it as their full time thing. This can feel like quite a change from those luxurious undergraduate days of complete immersion in your subject of study, with all the time in the world to spend reading every obscure journal article and book chapter as you liked. Contrast with now, when if you’re lucky you can squeeze in a bit of reading late in the evening once your regular day is over, or you find yourself frantically writing an essay due tomorrow in between chopping carrots and boiling peas for tea. So how can you deal with this chaotic mess in a fully ‘mature’ way?
Realistically think about what you need to get out of this course and what you can put in to it. What are your goals? If you’ve got all the time in the world then great, but if your time is seriously limited ask yourself do you really need that higher grade or do you just need to pass? And allocate your time accordingly. This doesn’t have to mean not taking it seriously just that you have to make the best use of your time.
OK so you probably can’t actually delegate your study to other people (that would be bad) but you can delegate pretty much everything else. Your family will probably appreciate being spared that crazy-stressed-meltdown enough to take on a few more chores around the house. Take some time to yourself when you can to get a block of study done – send everyone else out of the house or take yourself out, just basically make it impossible to be distracted or interrupted.
Ask for help
If you’re really struggling do ask your tutors for help. They’ve probably been in a similar situation and will want to help – it’s not in their interests to have you fail. Talk to them, and to other students on your course for support and advice. Remember you have options – assignment extensions, exam re-sits, deferring modules. Look at Christina’s excellent roundup of student support.
It might seem completely counterintuitive, but sometimes you just need to stop, step away from the books, and take some time out. When you’re stressing you feel like you have to do everything! right now! immediately! but in this frame of mind you can’t see where you’re going. Take an evening, or a day, stop all work and just have a break. You’ll be able to approach the situation afresh and properly evaluate once you’re a little more rested.
It’s not going to be like the good old days, but you’re doing this for a reason and you will get there. Study might not be able to be the one and only priority it once was, but you can still do it!