How to Work Full Time and Study for a Professional Exam

Everyone wants to talk about work-life balance. But what about work-study balance? If you’re someone who is working a full-time career and simultaneously trying to pass a professional exam, you probably need a little clarity on what to do.

5 Tips for Better Work-Study Balance

Working full time and studying full time is a serious commitment that can’t be taken lightly. As you attempt to balance (or juggle) these two competing responsibilities, consider implementing the following suggestions:

  • Set Goals

Be intentional with goal-setting. Grab a piece of paper or Google Doc and write down all of your goals for studying, work, and your personal life over the next 90 days. (Anything longer than this is unrealistic and will cause you to lose focus.)

Now, with all of your goals listed, prioritize them. If it’s hard to rank them sequentially, consider grouping your goals into hierarchical tiers. This will help you wrap your mind around what needs to be done, what would be nice to get done, and what’s superfluous. 

  • Get Help and Support

Don’t try to do this alone – particularly the study part. You’re only one person. Get some help and assistance so that you can meet your goals.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re studying for the CMA exam. If you’re simply checking books out of the library or downloading random PDFs online, you won’t be fully prepared for the exam. (You’ll also waste a ton of time trying to filter through the fluff to find what truly matters.) Instead, you should find a strategic partner like Wiley CMA and get dedicated study materials that are tailored to your specific needs as a student.

The same goes if you’re studying to become a real estate agent, Certified Financial Planner (CFP), or anything else. Find a reliable partner and let them hold your hand.

  • Prioritize Your Time

The fact that you’re attempting to work full time and study full time says a lot about who you are. You’re disciplined, driven, and focused on positive outcomes. So it’s highly unlikely that you’re prone to wasting two or three hours at a time. 

Instead, your biggest time killers are the small blocks in between larger tasks. In other words, it’s the 15 minutes that it takes you to ride the train from the office back to your apartment, or the 10 minutes spent waiting at the bus stop to pick up your kid from school. While any one of these moments isn’t a killer, you add up these smaller time blocks over a day or week and it equals hours of time.

To be highly productive, you must maximize every spare minute. This might look like carrying flashcards with you, having a study app on your smartphone, or carrying a task list of quick work tasks you knock off to free up your schedule later. Don’t underestimate the power that small moments have to initiate progress.

  • Schedule Commitments

Trying to work and study full time can make you feel like a chicken running around with your head cut off. When you’re working, you’re constantly reminded that you should be studying. And when you’re studying, you feel like you should be working. If you aren’t careful, this can throw you off and cause you to bounce back and forth without ever accomplishing anything in either arena.

One of the keys to your success will be creating dividing lines and treating each pursuit as a separate and worthy endeavor. And the way you do this is through strategic scheduling. By scheduling your commitments for work, study, and personal life, you give yourself clear parameters to work within. And as long as you follow these guidelines, you’ll enjoy the confidence that’s needed to be fully present wherever you are. 

  • Keep Everyone in the Loop

If one thing is for certain, you can’t do this on your own. (And you shouldn’t try.) In order to be a successful student and professional, you have to open up the lines of communication and keep everyone in the loop. 

When in doubt, over-communicate everything. Let your boss and colleagues know about the exam you’re taking, what the study requirements are, how much time you’ll be spending studying over the next six weeks, etc.

You’ll be surprised by how accommodating the people around you can be when you give them a heads up and keep them abreast of what’s happening. 

Putting it All Together

There’s no secret formula for studying and working. It’s also important to remember that this is just a season of life. Whether it’s six weeks or six years, it’s only a season. Do what you’ve set out to do, and eventually your life will return to a much more reasonable pace. Now is not the time to slack off or throw in the proverbial towel. Buckle down!

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