6 Tips For Balancing an MA With A Full Time Job

IMG_5696Schedule Your Time

Plan reading time into your week and stick to it. Not only do you get your reading/research done, but you’ll get a kick out of meeting your own deadlines.

Be Realistic

Having said that, life happens.

A friend gave me a top tip that she called her “Promise To Myself”. If you find study/reading/research doesn’t work within the first hour, give it up and reschedule. It’s better to do a short focused burst than spend hours not being effective.

There will be times when what you’ve planned just won’t work as something else needs your attention at home or work. This happened to me recently when I took time out to create a film and application for the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2015.

Don’t beat yourself up over it, but DO schedule an alternative time, forge ahead and get back on track.

Utilise Technology

There are great tools out there that can help you keep track of reading, sources and citations. Here are 3 suggestions:

  1. Pocket – bookmarking web links ‘When you find something online that you want to view later, put it in Pocket http://getpocket.com
  2. Mendelay – a free reference manager: tagging/ storing bibliography and citations http://www.mendeley.com
  3. Speech Function: I’m an Apple girl and happy to use some great free generic tools on IOS devices. Speech function works on iBooks, PDF docs, and some onscreen text. You can also select speech language and speed.

I sometimes find it dull to sit still and read – speech means that you can highlight sections of text and have them read to you. Perfect to listen and process while you are on the move. So – grab yourself some headphones and try it out.

If you use this on iPhone, access Settings -General-Accessibility -Speech [IOS8 onwards]. Highlight text to be spoken, the right click option says Copy/Select/Speak and will auto-detect the language of the text selected.

Make Research Relevant

Take every opportunity to make your research relevant to your work. I’m lucky to have the flexibility to build this into my teaching and Learning Technology Manager role, e.g. Kodu computer game design this term, and online cultures in the summer.

Combining a full-time job and study can be challenging; this makes it manageable and maintains a healthy perspective between theory and educational practice.

Hopefully, you are in a workplace that can accommodate this. Start by talking to your Line Manager or Senior Team about what you are studying and seek their feedback on research you are undertaking.

Ask for Help

I’m used to writing curriculum, articles, projects outlines and CPD – it’s an altogether other domain to start writing assignments if you haven’t been in academia for some years!

I’ve found a few different places for help, guidance or inspiration:

University Writing Centre: a great resource for quick tips and writing guides for e.g. formulating arguments, organising structure and referencing. At UCL-IOE, students can submit sections of writing for review, editing and structural advice.

Colleagues who are also studying are a good sounding board [for both topic and study survival tips!] and if, like me, you happen to have a Head Teacher who is working on a Doctorate – talk to them. He walked me through how to formulate literature reviews – very helpful [Thanks David].

Find Your Booster!

Chocolate, great espresso, a walk in the park? Whatever works for you, fresh air and some rays help build energy before you hit the books. Organise a great working space and GO for it.

Meetups: is your course mainly online? Contributing ‘virtually’ via Moodle/forums etc. is the
mode of today and great in that you can work around your daily schedule. However, this can feel somewhat disconnected. Wherever possible, attend face2face meetups. Putting names to faces helps to build contacts and share ideas about your field and challenges.

MA Research


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