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#HLSDITL Day 4: Juggling work and school

October 31, 2013

UPDATE: If you enjoyed this post, check out these great articles from Hack Library School: “Obstacles and How to Deal with Them” and “Being Thankful… for Failing“. If you find yourself in a rough semester, remember you’re not alone!  Reach out to your peers, colleagues, and professors. You might also enjoy the science oriented  http://whatshouldwecallgradschool.tumblr.com/.

Like many library school students, I am working while I complete my graduate degree. The benefit to this arrangement is that I will have valuable real world experience when I start looking for professional jobs. The downside is that I have to sacrifice a lot of my non-academic interests during the school year. I still try to squeeze in a few things here and there, but my husband acts as the voice of reason when I try to overextend myself.

When I try to balance work, life, and school.

In the meantime, I do what I can to make my life easier. I chose an asynchronous online program to accommodate my work schedule. I listen to lectures and read on my lunch break, at the gym, or on the way to work. I use evenings and weekends to work on my assignments.

My professors typically stagger deadlines so that one class runs Sunday through Sunday, another runs Thursday through Thursday, and so on. This is really helpful when I need to triage my homework, but it makes it harder to remember when things are due. I use Google Calendar to keep track of assignments and school deadlines. I color code each class and set up e-mail reminders.

A typical month of classes.

A typical month of classes.

I find it really tedious to sit and read for hours on end. Apparently, it’s also really unhealthy. To counter my couch-lizard habits, I have standing workstations set up around my house for reading, listening to lectures, and writing papers. I purchased a refurbished iPad a few years ago which I use with a Logitech keyboard and iPad stand combo.

Here are some photos of my workstations.

My husband built this standing work station. It used to be a music stand, but I rarely have time to practice.

My husband built this standing work station. It used to be a music stand, but I rarely have time to practice.

This is my kitchen station, so I can listen to lectures while I bake or make totally grown up things that are not macaroni and cheese.

I listen to lectures while I bake or make grown up meals that are totally not macaroni and cheese.

I have a few iPad apps that I use heavily for school.

The first is Blackboard Mobile.  My university pays for us to have access, but you can also purchase the app for $1 a year or $5 for life. It had some major issues when iOS 7 first came out, but most of the bugs have been fixed in recent patches. I like the app because I prefer to work from my iPad whenever possible. I also like that Blackboard Mobile will send my notifications when new course content is available or grades have been posted.

I am a huge fan of Dropbox (get your own account here), a cloud storage app. Dropbox allows me to access journal articles, assignments, and drafts on almost any device that connects to the internet. I use it to share documents, photographs, and media files between my iPad and home computer. Since I can also save documents for offline access, it is very helpful when I am traveling. Dropbox syncs with Blackboard Mobile, allowing you to download assignments and course reserves to your device. If I need perpetual access to an article, I generally open it through iBooks instead.

Google Drive http://drive.google.com performs a similar function to Dropbox with the added bonus that I can edit documents. I primarily use Google Drive to write and edit drafts for my blogs, discussion board postings, and assignments. Of course, I also use it to review my many school related spreadsheets.

TuneIn Radio and Pandora are my last recommendations, because I love to jam to music while I study. One of my favorite stations right now is the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s Classic fm.

My Top 3 Take-Aways (YMMV

1. It’s okay to do things that aren’t school related. It’s a degree, not a prison sentence!
2. At the same time, you don’t have to do everything right now. That book you’ve always wanted to write? Maybe it can wait a few months. If not, there’s always NaNoWriMo
3. If it helps you get your work done, you’re doing it right. I won’t judge you for writing assignment reminders on your arm if you don’t judge me for listening to “Can I Kick It?”  while I code.

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