5 productivity tips for continuing your education while working

Thanks to technology the worldwide web has opened up vital knowledge resources to many across the globe. While face-to- face education still takes place in-person in physical classrooms, the internet offers an opportunity for those who may not have the financial or physical resources present.

Online learning has become its own industry globally, representing a market value of $107 billion in 2015. That’s over a decade worth of e-learning, a term coined in 1998. As of 2019, half of all college classes are predicted to take place online. Among organizations, e-learning is the second most popular method due to its flexibility of time, cost and resources — 76 percent of organizations use a blended learning approach, and 23 percent of workers move on due to lack of development and training.

The e-learning industry is estimated to be worth $331 billion as of 2025, so a bigger question is — how do you, the employee, balance it all if you plan to continue your education while working? Here are a few tips on staying productive.

1. Focus on Your Specific Dreams

Simone Biles is an inspirational young woman and Olympic Gold medalist who decided not to give up her gymnast dreams, which she’d have to forgo full-time to study at UCLA — Biles chose to study at the University
of People (UoPeople) instead which opened up its doors to offer accessible and free education for 20,000, with plans to increase this number. Biles was one of those 20,000. While it sounds like a gimmick, the university is fully-accredited, and Biles became its Global Ambassador.

The saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” applies poetically to Biles’ story. Don’t waste your time agonizing when a door is closed to you because the timing will be right and you can make your own way. So, focus on your specific dreams instead of castles in the sky that should have, would have or could have been. If Simone Biles can train full-time and get her education, so can you!

A word of caution: Online institutions are on the rise, but many professionals still look at them with a conservative and wary eye. Online degrees provide flexibility, but some institutions aren’t accredited and exist more in the form of money-makers and not much else. However, many institutions are reputable.

2. Hone Your Time-Management Skills

Time management is an essential skill in your professional life, and now is the perfect time to hone this skill as you get your education. Even though you feel constrained, you will be hyper-aware of the minutes ticking by and what you waste your time on.

Channel your energy into being a self-starter and accountable. Start with your syllabus and mark down all the milestone and due dates. From there, log in three to four times a week to stay on top of assignments and discussions. Estimate how long it’ll take to complete assignments, down to your log in times and engagement in discussions. Find a form or organizational structure that works for you and stick to it.

3. Don’t Waste Time on Social Media

You may feel tempted to log in to your social media accounts when you feel bored or stressed. It’s natural to want to check up on friends and family and laugh at silly memes. It’s also natural to let time slip away from you
on these platforms.

Three billion people in the world are on social media, spending an average of two hours daily liking and tweeting. Every minute, half a million Snapchat photos and tweets are shared. Imagine how much of that stream you perceive as you scroll by for those two hours. No wonder your brain feels tired and you feel stressed. Humanity possesses a love-hate relationship with social media. In one survey of 1,800, women revealed they were more stressed than men on social media, and Twitter proved a coping mechanism for women. Yet, stress levels incrementally increase when you read about bad weather, or someone’s bad day on social media — or engage in negative interactions online.

So, manage your time and emotions on these platforms. How do you engage online? How do you feel during and after? Use apps to track your wasted time, and restrict your engagement to specific times of the week with a time limit. Consider a social media fast until you get into the swing of balancing your new schedule.

4. Get Out Into the Green

The benefits of getting out into nature are multifold, from decreased stress levels to boosted concentration, memory retention and productivity. One study revealed a 20 percent increase in short-term memory when participants took a stroll in an arboretum rather than in a busy city street filled with concrete. Meanwhile, your stress hormone levels and heart rate decrease as your concentration and productivity levels increase. Though looking at nature photos help restore your mental energy, there’s nothing like the real deal. Schedule time to get out into the green of Mother Nature, whether you plan a social activity or read your textbook in the park.

5. Multitask Wisely

People are for and against multitasking. When you try to exercise too much of your mental energy, you will deplete it along with other reserves you try to tap into to stay focused. What are your “non-brain” times? Is it when you’ve got a pot on the stove or laundry in the wash? Is it as you rinse dishes? These are typically activities you slow down or go on autopilot for, and that lends a naturally receptive state and flow to the swing of your learning. So, pull out your flashcards and other materials, and take a gander at them as you tackle tasks in the “non-brain” flow of the day. These five productivity tips will see you through each day as you strive to meet your personal and professional goals. Don’t give up on your dreams because one avenue appears shut to you — that’s a sign that another one awaits, especially one you can create.

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a leading career advice blog. Her career development advice has been featured on Forbes, Levo, The Muse, Business Insider and other top publications. She had the honor of participating in Mashable’s #BizChats with the biggest names in the career world and was honored to have been listed as one of the top career websites and career experts to follow.