Digital Mums Finding the time to study

Finding the time to study

It’s hard to conceive a course that’s both vocational and yet offers flexibility around the needs of busy mums. So just how does our Advanced Diploma in Strategic Social Media Marketing work?

This course is easily the most unique in our repertoire and the most challenging from a time management perspective. Students must be able to commit 15-20 hours a week, over it’s 6.5 month study time. And because each student is teamed up with a real business or charity to work with from day one, that’s an additional juggle. The learning journey culminates in running a social media campaign across live business channels, effectively playing the role of trainee Social Media Manager for real.

Understandably, for busy mothers, finding the time and headspace to do the training is easily one of the biggest areas of consideration for our prospective trainees. So to help anyone wanting to find out more about how to manage the training along with everything else life throws at us, we thought we’d create this blog to share top tips from students and graduates and to answer the most common time management questions we get asked.

Top tips for fitting the learning into your busy schedule

1. Ask for and organise support

All our graduates agreed that having a supportive partner or family member on hand can make all the difference. If you have a partner, they need to fully support you or if you don’t then pull in favours from family or friends to take the kids so you can study. Getting the kids out of the house when you need some time to focus on assignments, having someone to pick up bedtime and bathtime when you want to join live lessons or peer hangouts, will be critical in helping you.

Also, reach out to our support team with questions or if you’re struggling. Time can go down the drain when students feel they have to battle through things alone. If you don’t understand please ask us immediately, we are open 5 days a week and can help you with the answers.

“If you have a partner they need to fully support you or if you don’t then pull in favours from family or friends to take the kids so you can study.” Ali Birtwell

Digital Mums Finding the time to study

2. Get organised

Time management came up time and time again when we asked our graduates for their tips. They all agreed it can be done but it’s just about planning your time as efficiently as possible.

  • Before you start training map out your daily and weekly routine to work out when you can fit the lessons in. There are podcasts that can be listened to coming back from the school run or while commuting, or while doing chores. There are bite sized lessons you can sneakily access while at the swim class or during nap times. Make a timetable of any time you have to devote to study, even those odd 10 minutes.
  • Look at the assignment deadlines for the whole course and then note when there are key deadlines and make sure they are in the diary. If you then have any clashes send an extension request to our support team in advance, to get a bit of extra breathing room.
  • Book specific slots into your calendar each week to complete your practical assignments and challenges. These need to be a bit chunkier and students generally do these in the evenings or at weekends.
  • Check in on a Sunday or Monday to see what needs doing each week. Schedule everything from client calls/emails to challenges/assignments and google hangouts at the start of the week so you have a plan.
  • Make friends with time management tools. We love Trello for organising your time. This is a brilliant time management tool that can really help you. Check out some inspiration of how others are using Trello to organise project. Of course you can also buy some nice stationery if you’re more analogue about things.

Many graduates said that the time management skills they built during the training were key to them being successful as social media freelancers. When working in the field juggling multiple clients, our graduates agreed that to make this lifestyle work you need to be incredibly organised. So the skills you build in the training will help you do the job for real when you finish.

“I was working part time, but I was just very organised, always tried to be a week ahead- it taught me a lot about time management which I am not utilising in my business! I wanted it SO bad, so I made it work, and made my business happen. I started working freelance before I graduated. There was no plan B here!” Hannah Massey

“I started the course whilst on mat leave with a 6 month old and finished it back at work doing a 50 hour week. To be honest it set me up well for organising my time and planning my content in advance for clients. It was a juggle but I tried to keep a week ahead, did a lot of content creation at night after I had put my little girl to bed or on my commute and my hubby would free me up on Sunday afternoons. It can be done it’s just about planning your time as efficiently as possible.” Emma Underwood

3. Stay focused

What we have learned from speaking to students who are really struggling with time is that they aren’t being as efficient as they could be.

  1. Students fall down the internet rabbit hole and when they fall, they fall deep. Reading around the subject matter and clicking through link after internet link can be the biggest time suck of all. Use a bookmarking tool like Pocket to save links for later and don’t read around the subject matter too much, because we’ve done all that hard work for you.
  2. Be careful of distractions. Email, your phone, WhatsApp, even the cleaning and snack cupboard are all productivity killers and cause you to lose time and focus. Turn off all notifications on non-essential apps.

4. Be prepared to make sacrifices

Expect to miss out on some social engagements or put those box sets on hold, because you’re going to have to prioritise fitting your learning into your life. Ultimately, only you can decide whether you’re prepared to make those sacrifices. Most of our graduates are retraining to start a whole new career in under 7 months, whilst also working and bringing up their families. So it’s an intense time, but it pays off in the long run.

“I did the SMM course whilst working full-time and it can be done! You just need to put things on hold a little bit, hangouts came first before social engagements and I missed a lot of TV (maybe no bad thing!). If it’s something that you really really want to do, you’ll make time. Sunday’s were the day I made a really good start on the lessons whilst my kids were doing their homework too! You’ve got this!” Claire White

“You just make the time if you really want it! That's what I did, juggled 2 businesses and 2 children, but if you really want it you sacrifice other things like early nights and your Sundays! 🙌” Kim Willis

5. Take the pressure off

Because you’re suddenly having to find the time to fit in those hours of study, you should be kind to yourself and not place too many demands on being ‘perfect’.

Take the pressure off at home. If you’re the kind of parent that hand weaves your kid’s dressing up costumes from scratch, or bakes GBBO showstoppers for family occasions, you might want to let things slide a little. If you’re the kind of employee that volunteers to take on extra projects at work then, again, don’t do that for a bit. It’s ok to buy a costume and a caterpillar cake from M&S, or feed the kids beans on toast occasionally. Ultimately, you are doing the course for them, and to take control of your career, which will benefit the whole family in the long run.

Take the pressure off in the training. Don’t feel you have to be the expert. Due to the calibre of students on the diploma, it can be hard to go back to non-expert status. What’s important to know is that you are learning and no one expects you to perfect all the assignments and you don’t need to know all the answers. We see students over deliver on assignments, despite us providing guidance on the level of detail to aim for, because they are setting the bar too high for themselves and thinking they have to be job-ready in week 3!

Also it can be easy to fall into the trap of overservicing the business/charity you have been matched with. They aren’t a paying client and they have been brought on board primarily to aid your learning journey, so keep expectations in check. This is particularly true if they ask you to create loads of content or even to do something that isn’t even social media related. Thankfully our team are experts at supporting you to build those all important client relationship management skills, the single most important of these is the ability to push back and say no!

“I was working part time (3 days) in a pretty busy job as a comms manager whilst I did the training. I was really really tired by the end. My tips are to let a lot of other stuff go whilst you focus on the course (doing anything at work that wasn’t absolutely necessary; cooking anything beyond basic!) as most early mornings or evenings & some weekends were my study time.” Ali Birtwell

6. Focus on the end goal

Because you’ll have intense weeks, you’ll feel tired and you’ll be juggling a lot, it’s important to remind yourself WHY you are doing this. At the start of every week remind yourself why you decided to study and what you want to get out of it. That will help your motivation to make those sacrifices and not beat yourself up that the kids have eaten pizza for dinner.

“I was commuting working 4 days a week - worked on the train when I could, like everyone else said, I worked in the evenings and weekends juggling two children and living in a building site. Found it a real challenge to be honest but if you want something you have to do whatever you can to get it. I would still do it again.” Hannah Robb

“Remember that it lasts only a few months so it’s worth it - keep the end goal in sight 😁” Ali Birtwell

7. Draw on the power of the peer group

Draw on the peer group throughout the whole process:

  • Lean on each other for support, everyone is in the same boat
  • Use the hivemind to learn about hacks on everything from time management tools to quick and easy kids recipes that contain a vegetable or two

This mentality continues in the graduate community where we see people organising holiday cover, asking for help when things go wrong, sharing a multitude of tips and advice and working on projects together.

“My peer group saved me & I did it!” Kylie M Baxter

Digital Mums Finding the time to study

Top time management questions

As you’d imagine we get a lot of questions from prospective students around how they might find the time to study on our Advanced Diploma. Here are the top questions asked and our answers.

Can I choose when I study or do I have to attend ‘lessons’ at a specific time?

Over 95% of the learning can be done whenever it suits you. You can choose when to fit in the lessons or assignments, whether this is in large chunks of time, or bits here and there. For the most part, as long as you’ve completed all your lessons by the end of each week, it’s up to you when you study.

However, there are a few elements that are time sensitive and have to be completed at set times.

  1. You will have a weekly phone call with the business or charity that you are matched with and generally these happen during office hours (although not exclusively) however you will be able to arrange a time that’s convenient for you and them.
  2. You will have a weekly video hangout with your peer group (the 4 other mums who your are teamed up with at the beginning of the course) and you arrange these at a time that suits everyone.
  3. There are some expert lead live lessons that are prearranged, again these happen during the evening at 8pm.

It’s also important to note that towards the latter half of the training you will be running a campaign on real business/charity’s channels and here you won’t be able to do the learning in large chunks over 1-2 days because you will be effectively working in the role of the Social Media Manager. This means you will need to think about checking in on your social media channels at intermittent points every day so ‘little and often’ will become your mantra here.

What if I have loads of time one week, can I read ahead?

Our learning model is very structured and it’s designed that way for a reason. Many elements can’t be opened in advance for you to read ahead because we give you the right content for the task, when you are ready to complete that task. For example, you access social advertising lessons towards the second half of running your campaign, so that you know what works well organically first and so that you can maximise the success of running adverts. We firmly believe in the walk before you can run principle and we cover all the fundamentals first, building up in complexity as the course progresses.

Is it really 15-20 hours a week?

We understand that everyone who does our training works at their own individual pace, and so whilst we give you an average amount of time you need to put aside each week, we are aware that some weeks might take you over or under these times. So bearing this in mind, please find a bar graph that gives you a map of when you might experience more intensive weeks of study time, based on data we have captured from students.

Digital Mums Finding the time to study

*Everyone learns at different speeds so these figures are just an average and therefore this gives you a steer on average time required, rather than a guide to meticulously follow.

I work full time, can I do this course?

Based on our experience of training 1500 mums to date, our recommendation is that to succeed with this course and look after your wellbeing you shouldn’t be working more than 3 days per week.

That being said if you really do feel you are willing to commit every evening and weekend for the next 6.5 months to doing this course then talk to us, our Admissions team will always listen to every prospective student’s circumstances and offer guidance as required.

“I did the training whilst working full time and it was intense to say the least but I coped (I was also pregnant and had Hypermesis Gvardium) so I think most people should be able to. I used the holiday weeks to catch up when I could and if I needed to and focused on working on my course learning every evening and Saturday morning whilst the Hubs took little one to soft play. 👍🏻” Stephanie Drewery

For a full breakdown of what the Advanced Diploma in Strategic Social Media Marketing covers, have a read of the brochure. Usually student places are offered on a first come first served basis, however we are currently full for all our vocational training in 2019.

This Autumn, Digital Mums are exploring exciting brand partnerships and are going back to our roots and will be training cohorts of women that we have identified as being from low-income households and that have been out of work for a significant period of time.

The next available cohort will be in 2020 so please register your interest here and we will be announcing more details about our vocational training in the Autumn.

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