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Holding down a job while studying is no easy task, but for many it’s a necessity. So how do you get the most out of study while still managing to pay the bills? The secret is to be organised and to set realistic goals.

Keep a diary

Whether you’re an iCalender kind of person or you still kick it old-school with the pen and paper variety, knowing where you are meant to be will help you to set realistic goals around time management. Remember to allow for travel time to study groups, block out exam periods and pencil in work shifts early.

Write a budget (and stick to it)

When you’re busy busting out assignments, juggling work commitments and attempting to maintain a social life the last thing you need to worry about is drowning financially. The art of budgeting lies in not only the income (money coming in) and expenses (money going out) columns but also in the “moment of truth” column; the place where you record what you actually spent your money on. While it might be convenient to “forget” to enter incidental spends like a coffee or chocolate bar, having it all on paper will help assess where you can tighten the purse strings in the future. Setting up direct debits for recurring payments such as phone bills and health insurance will act as a set and forget, freeing up valuable brain space for learning. Just don’t forget to add these expenses to your tracker.

Stop telling yourself that you’re a great multi-tasker

According to science, our brains are deceiving us when it comes to multi-tasking. Daniel Levitin, a McGill University professor of psychology and behavioural neuroscience says our brain fools us into believing it’s being efficient, when it’s actually just jumping from task to task without focus. While answering work emails, writing an assignment and cleaning your room at the same time may seem efficient, it turns out it’s anything but. Levitan said that breaking the multi-tasking habit is so difficult because every time we undertake another task we get a shot of dopamine – the pleasure neurochemical. The key to efficiency and getting things done is to tackle your tasks one at a time.

Become a list guru

The humble to-do list has reached cult-like status among busy, successful people. But a single list with a few scribbled tasks no longer cuts it. Author and productivity guru David Allen, recommends a current to-do list, plus lists for everyday for the next month and separate lists for every month for the next 12 months. It may seem like a lot of hard work, but there’s some scientific merit behind the magic of lists. The Zeigarnik Effect explains the brain’s inability to focus on subsequent tasks when mulling over unfinished tasks. Psychologists recommend breaking big tasks down into smaller chunks. Not only will you achieve more, but you’ll get that little rush of dopamine every time you cross something off.

Treat yo’self (within reason)

Burnout is a real thing. Remember studying is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to keep your eyes on the prize take up healthy pastimes like exercise. Find a spot in your diary to schedule in time to move your body. It’ll trigger a nice spurt of endorphins and act as a natural stress relief. If you know you need to buckle down to get an assignment done, promise yourself a trip to the movies once it’s submitted. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little sweetener to get you over the line.

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