Part-time study offers up a fantastic opportunity to pursue something new without sacrificing the old. Much like the SAVA School of Surveying, many institutions offering part-time study are sensitive to the issue of debt and aim to give enough flexibility for you to seek employment (or, indeed, to remain in employment) while you learn.
Just three months ago, I completed my own part-time qualification after two years of hard work, but the level of freedom involved in part-time learning certainly took some getting used to.
A large aspect of most part-time courses is distance learning, so it’s important to be self-disciplined, to push on and to remember your end goal. Of course, it’s never as simple as that. Life has a tendency to throw a spanner in the works – sometimes many all at once – and impede on your study time. The trick is to be prepared, to be resolute in your goal for the day, week, month, and to always make time.
So, without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for succeeding in part-time study:
- Find your work-space and own it
Find a room or area where you can work in peace. Do whatever you need to ensure it is comfortable and make it clear to your friends and family that it’s your study space and you’d rather not be disturbed. The garden shed is not to be discounted – if it worked for the likes of Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl, then why not you?
Whilst it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable while working, a messy work-space can be distracting. Throw away your rubbish, remove anything that doesn’t relate to your work and, most importantly, hide the TV remote. If you find yourself frequently held by the magnetic pull of social media, you could even consider switching off the Wi-Fi. My vice was a small ball of blue tack stuck next to my computer – now a delightful snowman with drawing pins for eyes.
- Make a study plan
A good study plan is one that includes routine. Choose your days, set yourself achievable goals and tick them off as you go. The trick is not to be too ambitious. Whilst we’d all like to think we’re capable of studying for an hour, maybe two, per night, we all lead different lives and have different commitments, and overdoing it will make your study time feel like a chore.
- Treat yourself
Don’t be afraid to reward yourself. Incentives can provide motivation in the workplace, so why not while you’re studying? If you hit a milestone in your studies, you deserve a treat. You could even give the responsibility of issuing rewards to someone close to you. That way it’s always a surprise (and you can’t cheat – not that you ever would…).
- Think ahead
Don’t let studying dictate your life. Book that holiday, see that friend, go to the theatre. Life shouldn’t stop because you’re studying. Planning a few days out here and there is the perfect way to unwind and it even gives you some deadlines to work to. Just remember to give yourself extra time in case you miss your flight, your friend talks for England, or you get snowed into the theatre.
- Take a break
It’s a double edged sword – do you work while you’re still in the right frame of mind, or do you take a break because you’ve worked for a solid two hours? Studies say that regular breaks are good for you and give you time to re-energise, so it’s a great idea to periodically schedule in some short breaks so you can stretch your legs, grab something to eat and make a cup of tea. That being said, if you’re on a roll you don’t want to lose your mojo, so either find a suitable stopping point or make sure you jot down all your ideas before you leave your desk – it’ll make it easier to pick up where you left off. Listen to your head – not the clock!
- Talk about it
It’s not unusual to feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes, especially when studying at home. When you hit ‘the wall’ so to speak, whether it’s a concept you don’t understand or you’re just feeling pressured by the workload, it’s important to talk about it. At the SAVA School, the training team is just an email or phone call away and are dedicated to supporting you through your training.
- Check the weather forecast!
This may sound trivial, but I have been caught out many a time by an unexpected heat wave that has completely scuppered my plans to work. There’s little worse than holing yourself up to study when it’s nothing but blue sky out the window.
- Don’t be afraid to stray from your course materials
Reading around the subject is often as important as the subject itself, so don’t stick exclusively to the textbooks and course materials you receive on your course. At the SAVA School of Surveying, we encourage further reading as a way of getting a more rounded understanding of the surveying profession, and it’s a great way of ‘unsticking’ yourself when faced with a tricky topic.
- Keep it fun
Studying doesn’t necessarily mean poring over textbooks for hours on end. Keep it interesting! Want to test yourself on something you’ve just read? Make flash cards. Preparing to write a method statement? Storyboard your ideas with doodles and keywords. If you’re struggling to remember something, write a little ditty that’s easier to recall, or think of a mnemonic to help. The most important thing is to find the style of learning that best suits you.