Posts Tagged ‘school’

Writing Around Life: Work/School/Kids

Here we run into the ultimate combination–work, school, and children.

(This is also our last official post in the writing around life series. If you think I should add anything, or you have any comments, please let me know!)

Now, this can be intense, but isn’t necessarily. As we discussed in previous sections, you’re probably not full time on work AND school AND kids. Most people are full time on one and part time on the other two. For example:

  • Person A works a full-time job, 40 hours a week. They’re also taking a continuing education course and have two small children at home.
  • Person B stays home with the kids. When they can, they do freelance or contract work from home, and they’re also taking a MOOC course (massive open online course) to see if they’d like a certain career.
  • Person C attends university working toward their bachelor’s degree. They also pick up a few hours a week at a coffee shop, and spends time with their older kids when they’re not in school.

There’s infinite combinations of this, but most people fall into one of the above categories. You are primarily a worker, a student, or a parent. That’s not to say you’re not also the other things, but that one category takes up most of your time.

There are a couple ways to fit writing in around your busy schedule, and they’re primarily things we’ve talked about in the individual work, school, and children sections. Ideally, you can carve writing time in or around your main responsibility, leaving you time to complete your secondary ones. If you work full time, you shouldn’t be sacrificing school or time with your kids for writing.

So, running with the working full time example, if you can get your writing done during your commute and/or your lunch break, then you’re free when you get home to focus on other things. Likewise, if you write during short breaks at school, then you can help the kids with homework when you get home and work after they go to bed. And if you can write while the kids are doing their homework or while they’re napping, then you’re free to work or do your class once your spouse or other child care arrives.

And remember–if you’re too tired to write right now, don’t beat yourself up about it. Yes, you can make time for writing. It’s not impossible. But if it’s not working now, give it a break. Situations change. Classes end. Kids get older. It’s all right to take care of yourself.

Be realistic about the time you have available. Realize that even a little writing adds up over time.

Thoughts about writing around everything, squiders?

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Writing Around Life: School/Kids (Older Children)

Good morning, squiders! Is it hot where you live? It’s hot here. Man, summer.

Today we’re going to be looking at how to write around both school and older children. Like last week with the younger children section, this will be divided into part-time school/older children and full-time school/older children.

In this case, older children includes children who are going to school on a full-time basis, so essentially ages 6 and up. The nice thing about older children is that they begin to be self-sufficient to some extent. Even a 6 year old can dress themselves (though admittedly, not always appropriately for the season/occasion) and can probably get themselves simple snacks. (They probably still need help tying their shoes, but oh well.) By the time you get up to the tweens and teens, your kids may only need you to make them dinner and drive them places.

NOTE: All children are different, and all have different needs. You know your own children best, so use your discretion when applying techniques. ‘

Like last week, this section assumes that you have a childcare solution for when you are at school.

The biggest thing you can do, no matter if you’re in school part or full time, is to work when they’re working. Homework starts early these days. Even kindergarteners may have the occasional 15-minute assignment they need to do at home, or they may need to practice reading. Working next to your kids accomplishes a couple of different things:

  • If they need help, you’re readily available
  • It somewhat counts as family time, even if you’re not directly interacting
  • It helps the kids work because you’re setting a good example
  • You’re getting stuff done

And then, when everyone’s done, you can all go off and do fun things, and your schedules are (hopefully) in sync.

Part-time students

Again, how these strategies will work for you depends on how many classes you’re taking at a time. One or two is generally the most doable when also having to take care of your children, but you know what’s right for you.

  • Utilize the time while your children are at school

The average elementary school student is in school for about six and a half hours a day.  Even if you’re using several hours of this a day for schoolwork (homework, or doing online coursework) you can still probably set an hour or so aside to work on writing or other creative projects. It can help to differentiate school work from creative work–perhaps an hour before the kids need to be picked up, you go to a cafe or a library and work there, then get the kids on the way home.

  • Make use of childcare

If financially viable, you can use after or before school programs to get in a little extra time. After school programs are often less than $20 per afternoon, and you can get 3 or 4 more hours of work. Used once a week or even every other week, this is still a decent amount of extra time to get things done. Likewise, if you’re already using childcare (if your classes don’t correspond with when the kids are in school), perhaps you can add on a little extra time by dropping the kids off a little earlier or picking them up a little later.

  • Set a dedicated writing time once a week

Even when life is crazy, there should be an hour or two a week you can claim as writing time. This should be some time when someone else can watch the kids (or while they’re at school) and should be as consistent as possible to help build a habit. By having a dedicated time, you can make sure you’re making at least a little progress.

Full-time students

Unfortunately, a full-time college schedule isn’t as consistent as a K-12 schedule, so you may be taking classes outside when your kids are at school. Again, these techniques assume you have childcare in place.

  • Work during breaks on campus

You may have short breaks on campus that aren’t long enough to work on school projects or head home. These can be great times to get a little bit of creative work done. Make sure you’re carrying a notebook or a laptop or a writing instrument of choice with you. (Not too hard, since you probably have some for schoolwork anyway.)

  • Set a writing time at the beginning of the week

Since college schedules aren’t always consistent (you may need to go to office hours one week, or meet extra with your group another, for example), you may not be able to set a time each week for writing. But you can look at your schedule each week and block off time you know you’re busy (it also helps to block off homework time) and choose an hour or so for writing. Things may still happen, but having it on your calendar makes it more likely to get done.

As mentioned previously, school comes first, and it does end eventually.

Thoughts about writing around school and older children, squiders?

Writing Around Life: School/Kids (Younger Children)

This post is going to be divided into part-time school/young kids and full-time school/young kids. In this case, young kids essentially means any child who is not also going to school full-time, so infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers.

This is a tough combo, no way around it. Young children need almost constant supervision, and it’s hard for them to advocate for themselves, so you need to make sure you trust whomever is watching them while you’re at school. Cost can also be an issue, since you’re probably not working (if you are, please see the work/school/kids combo section).

But, for the sake of this book, let’s assume you have a child care option that is working for you that allows you to attend school. So we’re going to look at the time you have outside of school where you have to balance non-classroom course work (such as homework and projects), watching your children, and hopefully getting a little writing in.

NOTE: It’s okay to let writing fall by the wayside if you have a hard semester. School is finite. It ends eventually. Your children are only young once. You will have to be the judge of this, of course. If you have time to spend an hour or so a day playing MMORPGs or catching up on your favorite television show, you have time to write. If you run around all day and crash once the kids are in bed, then you might not.

For both part- and full-time students, short breaks are your friend.

Long breaks between classes aren’t the best time to try and fit writing in because they’re better for other things. You can take the kids home and feed them lunch. You can run errands. You can meet with groups and get homework or projects done.

Short breaks are golden because you can’t do anything else, but 10-30 minutes is more than enough time to think through that plot snaggle, write a couple hundred words, outline the next few scenes, and so forth.

Part-time students

Some of these strategies depend on the number of classes you’re taking at a time. I tend to take a single college-level course at a time, which generally means that it requires two hours or less of work on any particular day. Adjust as necessary to your situation.

  • Add half-an-hour on to your child-watching situation

Depend on who’s watching your child and how much you’re paying (and whether you can afford any more), see if you can add an extra half hour on. Maybe your mother-in-law is perfectly happy to watch little Susie for a bit longer while you camp in the lobby of your school and get some writing done. 30 minutes isn’t a lot, but it adds up over time, even if you can only do it once or twice a week.

  • Get a night out

See if your spouse or a family member is willing to watch your children one night a week for a few hours on a regular basis. This has the added benefit of getting you out of the house as well as giving you the opportunity to write (or do school work, as necessary).

  • Exchange time

Perhaps you have a friend who also needs some child-free time to get some stuff done. Maybe she can watch your kids on, say, Thursday, or whenever you need it the most, and you can repay the favor on Fridays, when you don’t have class and your classwork is done for the week.

  • Work while they sleep

Sleeping children are the best. I wouldn’t recommend trying to burn both end of the candles (i.e., staying up late after the kids are asleep AND getting up early to work before they wake up), but doing one or the other and also working during naps can be a great boost to productivity.

Full-time students

If you’re on campus all day and have full-time child care, you’re actually ahead of the game. A full-time day care provider typically charges by the week, so the actual hours your child(ren) is at day care don’t matter as much. Even if a relative is helping you out, you’re probably on campus all day and can spend breaks between classes as you see fit.

Of course, school should always be the top priority, and sometimes you may find yourself inundated with work that needs to be done. But it does tend to balance out. Very few courses keep you super busy all the time. Make use of your small breaks when you can.

If you’re not on campus all day, or if you’re doing online school where you have more control over your schedule, try out some of the techniques listed in the part-time section.

Anything to add, Squiders? Thoughts on writing while doing both school and having young children?

Writing Around Life: Work/School (Full-time/Part-time)

We’re continuing our work/school combo this week, squiders. This week we’re looking at fitting writing time in when you’re working full-time and going to school part-time, or if you’re going to school full-time and working part-time.

We’re not going to talk about working full-time and going to school full-time. If you’re doing that, first of all, wow, good on you. That’s a major commitment. But second of all, your free time is probably few and far between. Trying to fit in regular writing on top of that may not be possible at this point in time and that’s okay. You may still have writing time–maybe you do have regular blocks of time that you’re otherwise not using, or maybe you have the opportunity to write here or there–but sometimes it’s fine to realize you have other goals at the moment and it may not be feasible to add on additional goals.

Now, back to our full-time/part-time combo. Full time in this case means 40+ hours of work or 12+ credit hours of school, and part-time is less than 30 hours or work or less than 12 credit hours.

The first thing to do is to realistically look at your time. It is possible to write on a regular or even daily basis with a full-time/part-time combo–I’ve done it myself–but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best thing to try and do. Spend a week or so paying attention to how you spend your time. When do you feel like you have the most creative energy? Does it conflict with something else? Do you have blocks of time that easily lend themselves to writing? Or are you stressed all the time, rushing from place to place?

If you feel like you don’t have enough time to get everything done, do not add in something else. I cannot stress this enough. It’s not worth your mental health to run yourself ragged. School is finite; you will not be in it forever. Some semesters/quarters will be harder than others, and if you do want to add in a writing habit and are having issues, it may help to change up your schedule, such as taking fewer classes at a time.

Scheduling is going to be your friend here. Try to get your schedule as regular as possible. Most people go to their full-time position during the day and do the part-time one in the evening, but depending on your personal schedule, you’ll probably have some time between the two or after the evening activity. This is probably your best bet for fitting writing in. It’s not necessary to write every day; you may find that days you do homework you don’t have enough brain left over for writing, for example. And your schedule will probably change each semester unless you’re taking courses online.

(NOTE: If you are taking one or more online courses, you may have more leeway in your schedule since many of them allow you to watch lectures and complete work at your own discretion. There are still due dates for classwork and group projects, but these are often assigned a week or a month at a time, which allows you to spread out the work or do it all at once as best fits your personal working pattern.)

Aside from that, you can still use some of the techniques we discussed in the work and school sections. Some of them may be more limited because of the increased amount of responsibilities, but it won’t hurt to try them out and see if you can make them work.

If you do find yourself with a regular block of time, I recommend consistency of some sort. Personally, I like to work either with a set amount of time (say, an hour) or a goal of a certain amount of words. Consistency helps build habits, which can help you continue to make progress even if your first inclination may be to veg out on the couch after a long day.

What do you think, squiders? Anything to add?

Writing Around Life: School (Full-time College)

Good afternoon, squiders! Or at least we shall pretend.

Today we’re going to look at strategies for people attending college full-time. This assumes you are carrying a full course load of 12-16 credit hours a semester. College students are notoriously busy, and college schedules tend toward inconsistency for a ton of different reasons. (Classes may be scheduled for multiple days a week but only meet one, outside meetings with teammates may need to happen on a regular basis–or a non-regular one, certain projects may require extra time, etc.)

Between classes, sports, extracurriculars such as clubs or professional organizations, student government, what have you, it can seem like you don’t have any extra time to squeeze out. And in the case of complete transparency, some semesters you might not have a lot of free time. The important to remember is to set reasonable expectations for yourself.

But going to college full-time does have something going for it that actually makes it easier to build in writing time.

You’re on campus all day long.

Most college students’ schedules look something like this:

First class – 9-10:30 am (Physics Building)
Second class – 12:30-1:30 pm (English Building)
Third class – 2-4 pm (Math Building)
Evening Seminar – 6-9 pm (English Building again)

There’s a lot going on there (7.5 hours of class, yikes!), but there’s also a lot of sitting around and waiting. And, in this case, small breaks are your friends.

That 2-hour break between your first and second class? That’s a long break. That’s long enough that you can schedule a meeting with your project group, or head to office hours to get help on your homework. You can get lunch. You can go to the gym. You could go home, if you live on or close to campus. Long breaks are times to plan to specific things done in.

But that half an hour between your second and third class? Some of that will be travel time, depending on how close together the buildings are. (Or maybe your major has the majority of its classes in a single building, and you don’t have to worry about it.) But the other twenty minutes or so? A lot of time it gets wasted, because it’s not long enough to “do” something.

Which makes it perfect writing time.

10-30 minutes breaks are actually ideal for a number of reasons.

  • You’re unlikely to schedule something else in this time, unless it’s especially urgent.
  • The short time period can serve as incentive to buckle down and get to work, as you know you don’t have much time.
  • They add up over time.

Even if you only write 300 words a day, that’s 109,500 words in a year. That’s more than a novel for most genres. That’s a 2000-word short story every week.

As we discussed in the general tips section, it’s important to always have writing tools with you, especially if you’re not sure when exactly you’re going to writing. This is easier in college because you’ll tend to have notebooks/laptops/etc. with you for your schoolwork anyway.

Aside from short breaks, there may be other times that trend toward being good for writing, such as when no one else is around (if you’re on campus earlier or later than most people). Exceptionally long breaks (4+ hours) can also be good, because you can accomplish some school related stuff and still put aside some time for writing. I would argue that it’s good to occasionally break up school work and activities with activities like writing, because it helps you give your brain a break.

It can also be useful to identify one or a few places on campus that are always open to you to hang out in. The library, or a lounge or lobby, a coffee shop or cafeteria, club offices–something along those lines. Somewhere where you can duck in and work whenever the fancy hits you. Ideally somewhere close to a majority of your classes.

You can also write in your classrooms while waiting for class to start, if you get there early. For obvious reasons, I do not condone writing during class.

Any other tips you’d recommend for college students, squiders?