How Do I Study When I Don’t Have Time?

You can only spend your time once. When you don’t have time to study, you spend your time on other activities. Not having time is more a matter of priority than a matter of really not having time. Let’s explore how you can get more time to study.

don't have time to study

How to find time to study, when you don't have time

Adult learners not only have their study to take care of. They have work and often a family life. Managing all of these is hard. Study time is usually the one that is neglected first. The simple reason for this is that you have limited time. There isn’t enough time to do all three of these important things. 

Managing your time as an adult learner is very (very) important. The better you manage your time, the more you can do. This doesn’t mean you have to stop family time or work less. It just means that you have to be extra careful about what you do and how you do it. 

Better time management starts by knowing what you do and when you do it. Make a list of the things you do. Seriously… make a list of what you do. Keep track of every action and every distraction and write them down!


When you start tracking your time, you will see that there is a lot of opportunity to win time. Here are some big time wasters: 

  • Watching Netflix, Youtube, or TV for hours each day
  • Browsing the Internet looking at things you were not even looking for
  • Constantly checking your email and social media 
  • Saying YES to too many people and tasks

The moment you take care of just these 4 things, you will find out you have a lot of extra time. And please start using that time for studying.

 

I’m not saying you should never ever watch Netflix, use social media, or browse the internet. It all has to do with putting limits on them. In stead of 3 hours of binge watching, you watch 2 hours. This extra hour can be used for studying. 

Let’s say you check your phone every 15 minutes (or even with every notification), and it takes you just 30 seconds every time. During the day, you can save at least 30 minutes! Stop checking your messages all the time, and use that time to get things done.

(by the way… that notification of your phone is distracting you AND you have to re-focus again on your task, costing you much more time than just 30 seconds each time) 

You can find time to study by carefully looking at your current activities. What you find is that there are often many time wasters. By removing them, you will find there is at least 30 to 60 minutes each day you can use to study.


Why do adult learners struggle to have enough study time?

The main reason adult learners feel they don’t have enough time, is because of their current responsibilities and the time they need to enjoy personal time.

Let’s break down how much time an average adult learner has on a week day. I assume this adult is working full time:

3 main areas hours spent

Numbers found on Bureau of Labor Statistics (link)

Here are the 3 main categories. You probably might have thought about this. We spend about 1/3th of our time on work, sleep, and personal time.

Nothing strange here. But it gets really interesting when we zoom in on the personal time, and how we use this time:

breakdown of leisure time
Household activities: cleaning, laundry, meals, garden, repairs
Leisure: TV, socialize, sports, shopping, reading
Caring: children and pets


This is interesting information. Many people tell me that they don't have enough time for studying. According to the statistics we used before, we use about 30 minutes per day for studying.

But at the same time, TV takes almost 2.5 hours in the numbers.

There is a lot of time to be gained!

Another study shows that in 2019, the average free time people have in America is over 5 hours per day. Man tend to have a bit more free time than women. (link)

A very interesting chart is provided by the OECD Time Use Database (link). 

In their data, they compared the time we spend per country. Especially two columns are interesting. These are the ones for Education and “Other Leisure”. 

Most of the time, the Other Leisure time is more than Education time. On average, the Other Leisure time is about 110 minutes per day. A nice part of this time can be used for studying at home. Let’s give that 60 minutes!

What we see in all our statistics is that over and over again, there is a lot of leisure time that we can use for studying as well. Start chipping a little bit of time from watching TV and use that for studying. You have the possibility to do that 🙂


But... What If I Am Distracted All The Time?

Having a family and a full-time job does take a lot of time. When you also like to sleep… you are not left with that much time. 

The most important struggle for adult learners regarding time is probably that they have so many things to do. Also, the number of distractions is relatively high. There is always something or someone asking or demanding their attention. 

I completely understand that you need your time to relax.

When you really want to study more, the most important thing you can do is by prioritize your time. Start blocking time for studying. Start small. Take 15 minutes to read two or three pages. From there, grow to 20, 25 or even 30 minutes. 

By doing this, you grow daily. It won’t take up that much of your time. And you know what… you’ll feel great about it!


How to manage time for having more study time?

You have a limited amount of time. We all do! By managing your time better you will benefit so much! And the beauty is… this is not that hard to do!

The most important things you can do to manage your time for studying are: block time and improve your study skills. When you learn to do this, you have more time to study while getting better study results. 

Finding time and improving skills are important in becoming a more effective adult learner. In fact, they are so important I created a picture for you to show you the benefit of implementing both.

the smarter or harder studying overview

When we take your current study situation, you can find more time and do more in that time. You can also improve your study skills and habits, and do more in the same time. 

Smarter study skills include for instance the way you read, take notes and memorize. 

More time can be found using the tips above (for example block time and remove time wasters). 

Is there more I can do to have more study time?

Besides this, you can do more times right now. You don’t even have to create new skills or habits. Have a short checklist you follow before you start studying. Here are the points you should be looking at just before you start studying: 


1. Have a clear goal for your study session. 

In your next study session, do you plan to read, or take notes, or perhaps memorize? Be clear about how you will invest your valuable time. Don't try to do everything at once. Have a plan to achieve your goal.


2. Priorities, When you don't have time

You finally have time to study. Make sure your priority is using that time to study. Don’t get distracted by websites, messages, people around you, etc. Only take care of your studying. After you did that, there is time for other activities.


3. Realistic planning

Always be realistic in your planning. It is not realistic to assume you can study a 50 page chapter right now, in one hour, and have great recall of what you learned. Know your limits and, when possible, surpass them in your session. Don’t assume you can do more before you start studying. 

My tip: Do a single study session and aim for going through 5 pages. This is do-able for most, and it will give you a great feeling afterwards!


4. Take breaks

This is so important! Your attention and recall will go down the longer you study. Use the Pomodoro method for instance to study for 25 minutes. When that is too long, start with studying for 15 minutes. After that take a 2 to 5 minutes break. Do something completely different. Next… do another session. 


5. Don’t rely on motivation

Motivation depends on your mood, thoughts, and external influences. Make sure you don’t rely on motivation. Create study habits that help you move forward, no matter how you feel!

This way you can study at any time, whenever you want or need. This is so much better than first getting "into the mood" for studying.


6. Change your perspective 

You should never focus on the time you need to study. Focus on the outcome you desire. So next study session, don’t think you are studying for 25 minutes. Focus on the fact that you will go through 5 pages and you end up with notes and more knowledge.


Conclusions on How To Study When You Don't Have Time

You now know that you have a lot more time available to study. Investigate what the biggest time wasters are right now. Remove them. Doing this will give you at least 30 minutes of study time more per day.

When you start using those 30 minutes, the results will be amazing. Like I said many times before… 25 minutes is enough for studying 5 pages per day. Those 5 pages may not seem much, but over just 2 months, they help you study one book in detail!

So… your assignment, should you accept it, is to find your biggest time wasters and replace them with studying 5 pages today. 

Report back to me what these time wasters are, and let me know what you are studying. I am really looking forward to hearing from you!

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