Attending college while you are raising children, serving in the military or working is challenging. Here are some ways to make life a little easier while you fulfill multiple roles in your adult life.

PrioritIZE

You, and others, need to know exactly what is important to you, both long term (“major themes”) and short term (“supporting tasks”). The things you identify as important need to guide your decisions and determine how you manage your time.
Make a LIST of “MAJOR THEMES” in your life.

  • Think about your life twenty to thirty years from now. Reflect on what kind of relationships you want to have over this time span, how you want to have spent your life and where you want to be professionally, personally, emotionally, socially and physically at that time. Write down your thoughts in any form that works for you.
  • Make a list of “major themes” that emerge from your thoughts and writing. They might be themes like, “family relationships”,” religion,” “physical fitness,” “education,” “financial security,” “traveling” and such.
  • Identify (highlight,) your top three themes from your “major themes” list.
  • Your “major themes” rarely change – mostly only during major life events.
  • Review this list once a year. To make it easy to remember pick the same day each year like your birthday, New Year’s Day or another significant day for you to review the list.

Make a LIST of “SUPPORTING TASKS” for your “major themes.”

  • For each of your top three “major themes,” make a list of “supporting tasks” you can do daily or weekly to make sure the “major themes” are taking priority in your life. List as many quality “supporting tasks” as you can for each “major theme.”
  • For example, if “family relationships” is one of your “major themes,”, then some things on your “supporting tasks” list for it might be, “eating dinner as a family three times a week,” ” spending 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each child each day,” “having a two-hour block of time each week set aside for a family activity,” and so on.
  • Identify the top two “supporting tasks” for each of your “major themes.”
  • These “supporting tasks” change as your life evolves. For example, when your child is a toddler you might have on your list, “read to my son ten minutes each night before bed.” Then when he is in elementary school it might shift to, “walk my son to school every morning.” When he is in middle school it might change to, “attend all my son’s concerts and soccer games.” Once he is in high school it might alter to, “have a special ‘date’ once a week with my son to talk about his concerns and goals.”
  • Review and change your “supporting tasks” as often as needed, but be sure they always support your “major themes.”

WRITE

  • Write out by hand on a piece of paper your top three “major themes” and list below each “major theme” the top two “supporting tasks” you identified for it.
  • Write out by hand this same thing on a pocket-sized index card.

DISPLAY

  • Hang up the piece of paper somewhere where you and others can see it easily every day. Some good places are on the refrigerator, near the TV or by the front door.
  • Carry the index card with you at all times, like in your planner, wallet or purse.
  • When you are faced with multiple choices on a frantic day, your “major themes” and “supporting tasks” will help guide your decisions. Read your lists every morning, when you are struggling with a decision and before starting anything new in your life.

OrganIZE

Calendars, timeframes and tags are your allies! Remember to always think both long term and short term when organizing.
FAMILY MONTHLY CALENDAR

  • Keep this for final due dates, appointments, events and other big picture things.
  • Include personal, family, school and all other parts of your life on the monthly calendar.
  • Things that may be on your monthly calendar might be, “John’s parent/teacher conference,” “ECON 101 essay #1 due,” “church potluck dinner,” “dentist appointment” or “dad’s birthday.”
  • TAG everything on the calendar that connects to your top three “major themes.” If there is a conflict among items this can help in making a decision.
  • Keep your monthly calendar posted at home for everyone to see and to add to or change as needed.

PERSONAL WEEKLY/DAILY CALENDAR

  • Use this calendar to integrate all your items into one place.
  • This calendar should show all seven days of the week with TIMEFRAMES on each day, like half hour or hour increments, or other time frames that make sense for your life.
  • At the beginning of each week, fill out the calendar.
    • Begin by writing your top three “MAJOR THEMES” across the top someplace.
    • Second, write in all your “SUPPORTING TASKS.”
    • Give each a specific TIMEFRAME.
    • TAG them so they stand out in some way from everything else on the calendar. You can write them in a different color, put a sticker by each, use a highlighter, or anything else that works for you.
    • Next, write in all relevant items from your family monthly calendar.
    • Then add in small steps you might have to do to prepare for or accomplish something already written in.
    • For example, you might have “ECON 101 essay #1 due” on Thursday at 6:30pm, but need to set aside some writing time for the essay. You might then add to your weekly calendar – Monday, 10:30am-11:30am, “complete outline for ECON 101 essay,” Tuesday, 2:00pm-4:00pm, “write ECON 101 essay from outline,” and Wednesday, 8pm, “ECON 101 essay final review and print.”
    • Another example could be that you have “church potluck” on Saturday 6:00pm, and might need to add on – Friday, 9:30am, “grocery store to get potluck items.”
    • Finally, write in chores or routines that need to be accomplished like, “laundry night,” “sign John’s weekly homework folder,” or “drop off dry cleaning.”
  • Carry your weekly/daily calendar with you at all times.

Remember that you will need to be flexible as something always seems to change or get cancelled, so writing in pencil is recommended. Do not compromise on your “supporting tasks” and refer to your “major themes” to keep centered and focused when arranging your schedule.

UtiliIZE

Take advantage of help available to you. Sometimes help may be easily accessible and obvious, while other times you may need to purposefully seek it out.
RESOURCES
Technology – It is everywhere around you. Find it and use it.

  • Electronic calendars, planners and organizers
  • Reminders and alarms on cell phones, PDAs and computers
  • Email – especially helpful for communication with professors and classmates
  • Online classroom sites – if your instructors use them, you should use them.
  • Formatting software/templates (APA, MLA) for college writing
  • Online courses

Programs/Groups

  • Study groups – virtual ones are great!
  • Play groups or afterschool programs for your children
  • Peer review-classmates swap and review each other’s work

PEOPLE

  • Family – Ask for help when you need it.
  • Assign chores (dishes, trash, cleaning) to share the work load at home.
  • If family lives nearby and they are willing, let them help you.
  • Friends & Neighbors – Again, request help when you need it.
  • Bartering is great. Maybe you cook a double batch of dinner one night so you can give dinner to a neighbor and in exchange the neighbor watches your child for a couple of hours so you can have some quiet study time.
  • Sometimes transportation is an issue. Work out carpooling with friends to help with the time and expense of transportation.
  • Community – Once again, seek out help when you need it.
  • Church congregations are usually very willing to serve others.
  • Go to your local community center and find available resources.

RejuvinIZE

You need to take care of yourself so you do not crash and burn! If you ignore your health and well being it will eventually have a negative impact on you and those close to you.
Physically

  • Get your flu shots and seek medical intervention when you feel sick.
  • Get ample, quality sleep.
  • Fit in exercise everywhere you can to help reduce stress. Use the stairs, walk the halls during school breaks and multitask like reading while on a treadmill.
  • Enjoy your favorite sport at least once during your week, whether it is basketball with the boys, a solitary run or a family bike ride.

Emotionally

  • Get out in the natural sunlight.
  • Keep your communication with others frequent, honest and direct. Do not burden yourself down with bad relationships, guilt or anger.
  • Decide what is “spiritually” uplifting for you (scriptures, meditation, nature, etc.) and incorporate it into your daily morning routine for at least five minutes.

Mentally

  • Keep your environment uncluttered and simple.
  • Listen to classical music while you are working or studying.
  • Laugh, have a sense of humor and focus on the positive.

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