I have worked with adult learners for over twenty years. During my time as an instructor, mentor and advisor, I’ve found the importance for adult learners to remember that it is not always possible to do everything. The below list is meant to lighten your day and to help keep an open perspective that you are not alone. We acknowledge that balancing a job, your family and now your studies, is not easy and that you can give yourself permission not to get all items on your to-do list done.
5 Things That You May Not Get Done On Your To-Do List
- Cleaning your closets. Many of you clean your closets once or twice a year or refer to spring cleaning as a national holiday. Be prepared - you may not get your closet cleaned this year. Remember the rule that your children may have used on you, “as long as I can shut the closet door, it is clean.” Yes, we all want clean and organized closets, but it can wait until you have that research paper handed in by 11:59 pm on Sunday night or a break between the terms.
- Laundry. Many of you may be like me, it is a rarity if I do not do at least one load of clothes a day. A family of 6 seems to create a load of towels daily. You can lower your standards and do a load of laundry on days that your posts or responses are not due. On the bright side, laundry is also one of those tasks that allows you to read a chapter or two between the washing and drying cycles. Multi-tasking as an adult learner is an essential survival skill.
- Grocery shopping. Yes, we all need to eat. Consider this time while you are going back to college as an opportunity for your family to eat those items in the pantry, you know the ones pushed a little further back. However, I would still check the expiration dates. Who knows, you and your family may have a new found love for green beans and a can of cream of mushroom soup. However, don’t skip on your meals. You still need the nourishment for your body and mind to assist in your learning.
- Present shopping and celebrations. Life should be filled with little celebrations, and you don’t want to forget anyone’s special day. Don’t forget the convenience of online shopping. Amazon Prime delivers free in two days. Gift bags are an easy way to make any gift look great. Have a few gift bags and tissue on hand and you can have a gift wrapped as you are walking out of the door. Amazon Prime is not only great for saving time, it is also a great source to purchase textbooks with free shipping. It only takes a few textbooks and your membership before year pays for itself. As an adult learner, you also need to celebrate the little things. Refrigerators are not just for grocery lists and kids projects, they are a place to celebrate your A on that research paper!
- Sleep. I cannot lie, you may get a little less sleep than you’re ordinarily accustomed to receiving. By far, many adult students state that their best and most productive work is done after everyone in their home is in bed or early in the morning when no one is awake. Taking time to sleep and take care of yourself, is important for your academic success.
Being an adult learner is not always easy, but the rewards far outweigh the “not dones” on your to do list. At Northwestern, we walk alongside students in support of their academic pursuits. We admire your diligence and tenacity to improve your life by continuing your education. We are proud of your accomplishments – we’re with you every step of the way! Connect with Kaylyn or Crystal if you're interested in more information about the Northwestern online programs.
For adult students, there can be a big time gap between completing one degree and pursuing the next. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been in the academic mode, or maybe you’re continuing right after a semester of classes. Either way, it can take time to adjust to new paper deadlines and adding one more thing to the busy-ness of life. We have found 3 keys to success to creating your personal “class time” - a consistent study time, location, and environment.
Here are 3 tips to help you be successful in your adult learning and academic goals:
- Set a routine
Develop a routine of studying in the same location, approximate time, and even day. Find where you work best and can feel distraction free. This doesn’t have to be one sole space, if you can focus at a favorite coffee shop, your kitchen table, or empty classroom, it will establish a routine for motivated work time. You don’t have to pressure yourself to finish everything in one sitting. It can be helpful to break up the class assignment across the whole week with at least one rest day. Some students segment their homework time into 20-minute sections, which means you focus your attention on one item and then take a 5-10 minute break to stand up, go for walk or drink water in between your next 20-minute work session. Be creative with your in-between times. You may have a few minutes during a prep period or work break that you can check discussion questions; this way you can think about your answer on your drive home and be ready for your established study time. An academic routine integrated into daily life will help you meet your goals.
- Create study rules, and follow them
If you sometimes struggle with not feeling productive during your personal class time, set a few ground rules that you stick with. You might make sure you have a comfortable environment in your study area. Make sure you’re not having in back or wrist pain, have good lighting, and all your materials ready before you start. Your study zone might be sitting down with a cup of tea after the kids are in bed. Whatever you decide as your rules set them and stick to them. The structure lends to success.
- Build a support team
Having accountability and support in pursuing your academic goals will help keep you on track. Share your routine and rules with your family, friends, and kids - so they can help you not only stick to it, but it also allows them to assist in creating the positive learning environment. Share with your classroom or co-workers about your academic pursuit. It will create mutual encouragement, and give them an opportunity to share in your accomplishments. What better inspiration than to show you’re always learning too! You may be an inspiration for others to pursue their goals.
At Northwestern, we are your first academic support team. We are here because we want to make a difference in your life and walk alongside you to achieve your academic goals.
For more information, Take a look at Northwestern's adult learning online programs.
I’m excited to write my first blog for NWC! What’s even more exciting is that I can write this about a fun topic that we all enjoy – FOOD!!
My goal in this particular blog is to give you some helpful hints in trying to manage your family schedule, homework, household chores, etc. while feeding your family. I know that there are some weeks it seems I especially fail, so don’t feel that this is by any means the best method. Make sure you give yourself some grace!
So how do I figure out what meals to make and when? Well, there are a couple of methods I use:
- Look in your cupboards and freezer to see what should get eaten or has been sitting there for awhile. If it’s not expired, determine what you can make with it. You can do this by looking for recipes that contain a few of your ingredients. One of the best websites I have found for this is
- Take out one of your cookbooks each month and view recipes you think your family might like. Lay them out on a calendar according to your schedule. Make sure you write down any ingredients you might need for your next shopping trip to the grocery store.
- Once a month sit down and plan your meals according to the family’s schedule. Make sure to assign crockpot meals for those nights you are super busy! Also, build in some leftover days. Make sure you take advantage of tailgates and fundraising meals at various churches, schools, and other community events! It’s a great way to ease the stress and mess!
- Look at Pinterest for Meal Planning tips and tricks. Find one that best suits your family, food preferences, and lifestyle.
- Cook some meals with friends! I love to get together with a group of friends and set aside a day to make meals! You can also participate in meal exchanges too!
Ultimately, you need to do what works for you and your family’s lifestyle. No matter what or when you eat, I would encourage you to enjoy your family meals together! Ask each other about your day.
Remember some of the fondest memories are made around the table together!
Meet the Author
Crystal is the senior enrollment counselor for the Graduate School and Adult Learning. She works especially with our Master of Ed. students in preparing to begin the program, advising on classes and registration, and walking alongside as they progress to graduation. She also completed her MBA online all while balancing work, family, and life commitments.
When Crystal is not helping students register for classes or building programs of study, you might find her training for a half-marathon, cheering on her kid's sporting events, volunteering at church or cooking meals with friends.