Trying to juggle a full-time job with other personal and professional commitments can prove challenging. Add online courses to the mix, and you might anticipate a scheduling nightmare.

But nearly 14 million people are working while enrolled in some form of postsecondary education or training—serving as inspiration that earning a paycheck while learning requires a balancing act, but it is achievable.

Online courses are ideal if you want to gain new skills or knowledge without putting your job on hold. Virtual programs enable you to learn on your own time, whether that means completing coursework after dinner or logging on from a nearby coffee shop over the weekend.

If you’re interested in furthering your education but aren’t sure how online courses might fit into your schedule, here are nine tips to help you balance your nine-to-five work with coursework.

Tips for Taking Online Courses

1. Manage Your Time Effectively


Time management is critical to success in an online course. Map out when your assignments are due and highlight any overlap with other obligations. If you anticipate having a busier week at work due to an upcoming project or already booked a vacation, plan accordingly. Fight the urge to procrastinate and work ahead of course deadlines.

Related: 5 Time Management Tips for Online Learners

2. Determine When You Learn Best


One of the biggest benefits of an online course is that you can learn on your own time—so determine when the best time is. Perhaps you’re a night owl who prefers to log on and tackle assignments after everyone leaves the office, or you’re an early riser who enjoys jumpstarting the day with some creative problem-solving. By knowing when you learn best, you can more effectively plan your day.

3. Make Online Learning a Habit


Once you know when you learn best, make it a habit. Set aside time every day or week to work on assignments, respond to peer comments, or finish required reading. Whether you dedicate an entire Sunday to completing coursework or chip away at it daily, establishing a routine will make it easier to balance learning with working full-time.

4. Eliminate Distractions When Studying


Online learning requires self-discipline. Although it might be tempting to check your work emails or scroll through your social media notifications, eliminate all distractions once you start studying. You won’t get through your coursework if you’re using the time you’ve set aside to surf the web.

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5. Incorporate Your Coursework into Your Everyday Work


One way to balance your job responsibilities with your education is by integrating the two. Is there a particular challenge you’re facing at work that an online course could help solve?

Perhaps you need to learn how to make data-driven decisions or develop effective pricing strategies. By registering for a program that equips you with that knowledge, you can apply what you’re learning to your everyday work and better blend your two worlds, while also impressing your boss.

6. Communicate Openly with Your Employer


If you’re interested in taking an online course, tell your employer. Not only will that show you’re motivated and invested in your professional development, but your organization might be able to cover the cost of your education or support you in different ways.

If you aren’t able to stay late one night because you need to finish an assignment, it’s more likely your boss will understand if you’re upfront about your online program. By sharing that you’re furthering your education, you might even better position yourself for advancement.

After Pamela Raymond completed Harvard Business School Online’s Credential of Readiness (CORe) program, she emailed her supervisor, letting her know she felt prepared to take on more responsibility and projects. A few weeks later, she earned a raise and a promotion.

“[CORe] gave me the confidence to say, ‘This is what I want,’” Raymond explained. “And to be able to articulate and back it up. I can prove what I can offer.”

Related: How to Ask Your Employer to Pay for Your Education

7. Ask for Help


You don’t need to go through this experience alone. If you need help managing your time, turn to your family and peers for guidance. An online course can connect you to a community of like-minded peers who are trying to balance personal and professional commitments of their own. Network with fellow learners and ask what time management strategies they’ve found most successful.

8. Prioritize Self-Care


To complete an online program while simultaneously checking tasks off your to-do list at work, you need to avoid burnout. Make sure you’re still sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours per night and blocking off time to engage in activities that bring you calm, whether that’s volunteering, exercising, watching movies, or finishing a book (that’s not part of your required reading).

9. Remember: This Is Temporary


Your life might feel like a juggling act, but it’s important to remember that this won’t last forever. Keep your end goal in sight and remember the benefits that could come from completing an online course.

In a recent survey of HBS Online participants, it was found that taking one of our online courses led to additional responsibility at work, increased attention from recruiters, and improved confidence. But experiencing those benefits requires seeing your course through to the end.

Related: Should You Take an Online Course? 9 Things to Consider

Balancing Full-Time Work and Online Courses

Managing your daily responsibilities at work while trying to take an online course presents a unique challenge. With the proper time management, support, and outlook, you can effectively balance both while achieving your personal and professional goals.

Do you want to take your career to the next level? Download our free Guide to Advancing Your Career with Essential Business Skills to learn how enhancing your business knowledge can help you make an impact on your organization and be competitive in the job market.

Lauren Landry

About the Author

Lauren Landry is the associate director of marketing and communications for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at Northeastern University and BostInno, where she wrote nearly 3,500 articles covering early-stage tech and education—including the very launch of HBS Online. When she's not at HBS Online, you might find her teaching a course on digital media at Emerson College, chugging coffee, or telling anyone who's willing to listen terribly corny jokes.