Have you ever wondered how busy moms and pops make the grade? How they pass grad school while holding part-time jobs and raising a family? They must have some secrets to share. And I’ve found a book that tells all. Faithann Brown, MBA, lays out time-savers for swamped students in her book Returning to School as a Busy Adult: 8 Practical Tips for Succeeding in Your Degree Program.
But why do you need time-savers? Faithann says, “Higher Education and other regional accrediting bodies recommend two hours of preparation time for every one hour of class time” (34%). And, if you’ve got a lab, add another two hours to your study time. Just three classes, each with a lab, adds up to nine hours of lectures, three hours of labs, and 24 hours prep—all in one week. That totals 36 hours of studies, never mind the time needed for household cleaning, child rearing, dog walking, dinner prep, and a 20-hour part-time job.
Due to the time crunch, Faithann advises adults to “talk with their partners, children, and spouses abut how all their lives would change as the result of them returning to school” (35%). I met a friend whose first class as an adult learner happened to be a class I was taking. I told her that she needed to put parenting on hold, lock herself in a room, and prioritize her books. It would pay off in the end, I reassured her. But I wondered if this was the right advice.
While my advice sounds extreme, you can still carve out decent study time by simplifying your routine. According to Faithann: “You’ve got to figure out what matters real quick and you have to put everything else on hold or leave it alone. Simplifying your life improves your grades” (35%).
Faithann says you’ll need to “simplify your mind, simplify your money, simplify your meals, simplify your laundry, simplify your cleaning, simplify your responsibilities” (36%). Try saying that six times while cooking enchiladas. Let’s run through the six strategies to simplify your life:
First, to simplify your mind, try meditating (37%) or doing light yoga. Meditation and yoga clear your mind for optimal focus. Second, to simplify your money, use only electronic statements and set up two different bank accounts: one for your bills, another for your spending money (37%). That way, you don’t whack your bills account during a spending spree.
Third, to lower the burden of meal prep, order your food online (Faithann prefers Walmart for online grocery shopping). At Walmart, a bag of frozen blueberries or organic avocadoes can be up to $2 cheaper than at other grocers. As well, at Walmart, the kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas are cheap, and the salmon comes with big savings. Even a bag of Walmart apples can cost half the price of apples at most grocery chains. Walmart even offers organic frozen dinners. Faithann says, “You can shop for low-cost frozen nutritious and organic meals at your local Walmart. They even have vegan entrees” (42%).
But when prepping your food, “cook once per week: cooking in bulk and freezing the excess allows you to access food all week without the hassle of preparing a meal each day” (40%). To simplify food prep further, “use the slow cooker” (41%).
Fourth, to lower the load on your laundry, use “drop-off laundry services …. Some laundry services also offer delivery” (42%). To keep your clothes clean, use napkins and change out of your work or school clothes once you enter your home (43%). Don’t bother with ironing, unless you work a formal job: “find ways to retire your iron…. If you can get away with it, live with wrinkled clothes” (43%).
Fifth, make cleaning easier: “you will have to choose between having a clean home and having good grades” (45%). Faithann “recommends selecting one room in the house to clean regularly and tak[e] shortcuts on the rest. For most people, that’s the bathroom” (45%). Also, buy disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. As well, “You have to make peace with seeing dust bunnies under the beds, spider webs in the corner, and layers of dust on your TV and bookshelves” (46%). Faithann would’ve been proud of my dust during grad school.
Lastly, to simplify your responsibilities, “take on one major life challenge at a time. Amassing too many responsibilities at once without enlisting appropriate help is a recipe for disaster” (48%). During grad school, I trained like an Olympian athlete, sometimes up to five hours a day. When I’d cat nap, I’d fall fast asleep within the first minute. I took many cat naps. In fact, I hardly focused on anything but the next cat nap. Don’t treat your education like a tryout for the WWF.
But there’s so much more you can do. One author says to study on the toilet. An old friend of mine drew molecules on her shower wall. As for me, I love listening to audiobooks while I sleep. Pick and choose what works best for you.