Best Ways to Multitask Between Your Job and School

Best Ways to Multitask Between Your Job and School

While it is ideal to refrain from working as a full time student, it is not always a viable option. Many students need to work their way through college, particularly when completing a professional degree, in order to cover the costs of tuition, classes, books and more. Despite the fact that working is not usually recommended during the acquisition of a degree, there are a variety of ways in which one can overcome the shortcomings of multitasking.

But before we can delve into the strategies for making the most of your time and learning experience, it’s important to understand the setbacks of multitasking. In particular, college students tend to employ multitasking strategies in order to get through a day of classes, homework, extracurricular activities, utilizing their technological accouterments, all while maintaining a social life.

This may seem like the only way to be “productive,” but it actually impedes the way humans understand and process information – therefore, afflicting one’s ability to memorize and pay attention to what they’re learning. In order to strengthen the argument, a recent study in the journal PLOS One has shown that people who frequently multitask are less productive. Understanding why you’re multitasking in the first place can help you reprioritize your activities in order to efficiently deal with the stressors of burgeoning adulthood.

The Cost of Switching Your Mindset

According to Mindtools.com, several studies have proven that multitasking causes us to waste 20-40% of our time. Therefore, if you’re trying to balance school and a job, it is imperative to use your time wisely!

When we try to focus on more than one task at a time, our brain begins to experience mental exhaustion, and therefore reduces our ability to produce quality work. Trying to balance out multiple mindsets in one sitting sends our brain into frenzy as it tries to keep up with new information. As a result, we compromise our short-term memory and decision making ability, which leaves us feeling drained and overwhelmed.

Although you might be able to get away with switching back and forth between minute tasks, think of the consequences when you’re working on a time sensitive project. It could be the difference in making the Dean’s List or having to drop a class due to continuous cerebral overload.

Rather than trying to conquer the world by attempting to complete a handful of tasks at once, it is much more rewarding to successfully complete one task at a time. This will allow you to feel proud of your accomplishments instead of worrying about what else you could have done (i.e. stress).

How Do You Know When You’re Multitasking?

If you’re not convinced, think about how well you listen to someone talking to you when you’re using your cell phone or watching TV. It’s guaranteed that you’ll have to ask the speaker to repeat what they have already said. While that’s embarrassing in itself, there are more subtle indicators of multitasking that are sometimes right under our nose!

  • Constantly checking your email/cell phone or conducting other research when completing a mundane task.
  • Sitting at a desk with a pile of folders to be rummaged through or surfing the web with multiple tabs open at once.
  • Completing unrelated assignments during class.
  • Studying with a friend or classmate where one of the people involved is constantly interrupting the other.

What comes first?

It’s clear that maintaining a steady income helps to counteract some of the financial implications of pursuing a degree. While this may be essential for reducing the debt you will face post-graduation, learning how to effectively manage your coursework is a prerequisite for holding down a job.

If you’re struggling to keep up with the responsibilities of being a student, it may be time to reconsider the longevity of your part-time job. Looking into the types of financial aid your university offers and/or recruiting professional assistance to find a federal or private loan may offset the current challenges you are facing.

How to Develop Good Study Habits

Being a successful college student will largely depend on your ability to develop good study habits. Our minds need constant review in order to retain information in the long run. Even though you might have been able to pull off an all-nighter in the past, you will not make the most of your investment if you overlook the importance of studying.

In order to prevent multitasking (and procrastination!) from reducing the quality of your education, Northwest Florida State College and Psychology.com recommend the following tips for effective studying:

  • Take a look at your textbooks and other assigned reading before classes begin in order to familiarize yourself with the subject.
  • Keep up with the reading assigned in classes. Frame questions about the text in order to test your understanding. Be an active reader by highlighting and making notes within the book to remember main ideas or concepts. Sometimes, reading the information aloud will help the information stick. You’ll be a few steps ahead of the game when it comes to studying because these strategies will make it easier to review the content.
  • Develop a plan for each class. Set and remember long-term goals, and ask questions!
  • Create a weekly schedule to organize your time. Include time for completing homework, studying, and any other tasks you’re responsible for.
  • Don’t cram! Study in increments ahead of time to increase your understanding and ability to retain the information. Typically, the rule of thumb is to study for 2-4 hours for every hour spent in class. And even while you’re studying, remember to take at least a ten minute break every hour.
  • Study in a place where you will have few distractions. In order to stay focused, sit at a desk and on a firm chair. Try to avoid studying late at night.
  • While taking notes and making flashcards can definitely help, the most effective way to determine whether you understand the information is to test yourself. It may seem like extra work, but the payoff is worth it!
    • Make charts, diagrams, or lists
    • Take mini-quizzes
    • Compare and contrast old and new concepts
    • Complete exercises assigned by your professor
    • Reviewing previous material that relates to a new topic (i.e. assignments, tests, papers, etc.)
    • Reflect on what you just learned

Jumpstart Your Success: Stop Multitasking!

The habits you develop now will also affect your future productivity; therefore, time is of the essence to make these years count! As we mentioned before, multitasking often consists of subtle actions. Even if you’re implementing good study habits, there will still be times where it’s simply hard to resist! Consider these strategies to fight the urge:

  • Keep a tab on your interruptions. Tell friends and classmates when it’s OK to contact you if their requests are interfering with your studies.
  • Turning off your notifications or keeping your phone on silent will prevent you from wondering who’s emailing, calling or texting you.
  • Give yourself an internal pep talk when your mind starts to wander or move onto another task. Remind yourself of what you’re supposed to be focusing on in order to get back into the zone.
  • Although we can plan a consistent schedule to avoid procrastination and other disruptions, things will always come up. When this happens, make a note of what you were thinking of before an interruption. This will make it easier to retackle the task when the time is appropriate.
  • Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we will still find ourselves multitasking! If you’re aware of what you’re doing — take a 5 minute break, and take a deep breath to readjust and calm your mind. Breaks are essential for improving your concentration and lowering your stress levels, so this might not be such a bad thing after all!

References:

Frequent multitaskers aren’t good at multitasking, study shows. (2013, January 27). Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/27/multitasking-frequent-ability-bad-at-it_n_2553107.html

How to develop good study skills. (2013). Unpublished raw data, Special Needs, Northwest Florida State College, Niceville, FL, Retrieved from http://ecampus.nwfsc.edu/dlstudytips04studyskills.cfm

Markman, A. (2012, Feburary 27). Developing good study habits really works. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201202/developing-good-study-habits-really-works

Multitasking: Doing less with less. Indiana University News Room. Retrieved from http://newsinfo.iu.edu/web/page/normal/15371.html

Multitasking. (2013). Mind Tools, Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_75.htm

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