Top tips for balancing study, work and life

By Annie, who recently completed the first exam

Time is a precious resource. As a fledgling auditor and a recent first time mum, nothing seemed more obvious yet difficult to come by as I prepared to take the part one exam earlier this year.

A colleague told me she had studied for other audit exams when she was on maternity leave and she had bags of time whilst the baby was napping. Not so for me. Like many others, I limped from day to day on broken nights and the sheer mental and physical exhaustion of learning-how-to-parent.

Somehow I managed to scrape through a couple of readings of the first book whilst on maternity leave. But I didn’t yet have the time or energy to commit to full time study, so I kept it light touch until I returned to the office.

No surprises when I say passing these exams involves graft, whatever your experience. But it is possible and having clarity of purpose when your mind is stretched to deal with several things (baby, new role, family commitments) is important. Here’s what worked for me:

1) A study timetable mapping out topics you’ll cover. I only did this quite close to the exam but I if I did it earlier I’d have had less directionless phases in my studies.

2) Prioritise. Where do you fall down most? Focus on those areas. And remember the longer you drag it out, the longer you’ll be studying for. If you can do an extra hour instead of binging on Netflix, do it.

3) Voice recordings. Recording myself reading notes aloud on my phone in short sound bites meant some material stuck a bit better. It also facilitates studying on the go – like in the car – important when your time is precious.

4) Booking the exam. The sooner you have a date in your diary, the more real it becomes and more committed you’ll be.

5) Work hard to avoid procrastinating. I was definitely guilty of this at times. Mopping the kitchen has a whole new appeal when faced with ratio analysis.

6) Get support. Talk about it with family and friends. Explain to them you’re going to be off the radar for a little bit and give your reasons. They won’t hold it against you. And even when you are at your busiest, you will find time to rest and socialize (I used to let off steam chatting to my husband whilst we bathed our daughter before bed).

7) Rest. We can’t take information in if we’re genuinely exhausted and worn out. Give yourself the odd night off and be reassured that you will be much fresher the next time you sit down to study. And try not to feel guilty!

We all make excuses for ourselves when our circumstances are less than ideal. But when I decided to commit to my studies, finding time turned out to be much easier than I’d expected. The main challenge then is sticking to it. Good luck!

23 March 2018