A characteristic shared by the majority of adult students is that they are undertaking part‐time study. For these adult learners one of the major difficulties is how to find time for their study. This paper reports the coping mechanisms that part‐time adult students adopt to meet the additional demands that study puts on their existing commitments to work, family and social lives. Data were collected from 53 part‐time students in eight universities in Hong Kong through semi‐structured interviews. A model featuring three coping mechanisms (sacrifice, support and negotiation of arrangements) within four domains (self, work, family and social life) was used for the analysis. Whether or not these coping mechanisms are operationalized to a sufficient extent can have a significant impact upon the students' progress with their courses. The analytical grid provides a framework for counselling and advising adult learners. Part‐time adult students can also use the model to evaluate their own situations and determine which coping mechanisms will work for them to deal with time management issues.