When you return to college, you gain valuable professional skills, improve your career opportunities, and diversify your business. Going back to school as you run a business includes unique challenges, though. The following 12 tips can help you overcome several obstacles as you return to college and run your business successfully.
1. Establish Priorities
Despite your best intentions, your time, energy and focus are limited. Set priorities as you get everything done. You may need to focus on schoolwork during midterm and final exams while your business takes priority during busy shipping seasons, and don’t be afraid to take a semester off during a pressing business or family commitment. Your chances of balancing both school and work increase when you establish priorities.
2. Stick to a Schedule
Juggling classes, homework, projects, business and your personal life require strict scheduling. Grab your day planner and maximize every minute. For example, listen to audio textbooks or recorded lectures during your commute and memorize facts as you walk your dog. Every week, you can analyze your schedule and make changes based on your school and work responsibilities.
3. Know Your Circadian Rhythm
Are you most productive in the morning or at night? Save your toughest projects for those hours. When you’re naturally less focused and productive, you can answer work emails, organize class notes or file paperwork.
4. Implement Block Scheduling
Every time you get distracted while working on a project, it can take 23 minutes to get back on task. Block scheduling improves efficiency and helps you stay focused and get everything done. Use block scheduling to answer work emails, study for exams and meet with your team.
5. Stay Organized
No one has time to search for important school papers on exam day, and you don’t want to lose clients because you forget to follow up. Implement a filing system to efficiently organize your paperwork. Organization saves you time, reduces stress and helps you be successful.
6. Ask for Help
While you can’t send a replacement to class for you, you can ask for help in other areas. Trusted employees can open and close the shop, your family can pitch in around the house, and you can delegate tasks like meal prep.
7. Hire an Answering Service
You can’t afford to answer the phone during class, but you might lose business if you don’t take those calls. Hire an answering service for class and study time. Then, schedule time to return those calls to maximize your class time and your business.
8. Take Advantage of Courses
You have to take a variety of college courses to get your degree, so look for ways to make your classes work for you. Take electives such as grant writing or leadership that meet your graduation requirements and teach you new business skills. Put new marketing techniques to work in your business, and pick your professors’ brains about problems you face at work.
9. Keep Your Overhead Low
Funding college may challenge your financial resources. Keep your business and personal expenses low as you balance your budget. Hold off on major buying and keep other spending in check as you reduce overhead costs.
10. Limit Big Business Decisions
Maybe you have a dream to expand your business or open a franchise. Wait until after college to act on these and other major business decisions. Focus your time and energy on maintaining your current course and finishing school, instead, so you don’t overload yourself and burn out or fail at either endeavor.
11. Find Funding
Because school is expensive, you will need to find funding. Talk to your college financial aid department for options. Also, research scholarships for your demographic, and see if you qualify for scholarships from the professional organizations of which you are a member. Check out venture capital firms like Dorm Room Fund and Rough Draft Ventures, too, as you fund your education.
12. Give Yourself a Break
Everyone needs a little downtime to relax and regroup, so give yourself permission to take a break each day and recharge. Eat breakfast with your kids, text a friend, or read a book for fun as you reboot your mind and your body.
A return to college is a big commitment, but it offers invaluable opportunities for you professionally. With these 12 tips, you can successfully maintain your small business and go to school.