In our industry, planning is something we do for our clients every single day, but we’ve all been guilty of failing to do this in our own lives. When it comes to balancing work and study commitments though, planning ahead is a must.
Communicate with the people in your life: Let people in your life know when you have extra demands on your time. This could include your family, friends or your employer. It doesn’t mean they should expect less of you but knowing your demands will help them be more understanding.
Break tasks down: Don’t try to set aside a huge chunk of time to complete your course work in one day. You’ll most likely find it hard to stay motivated. Set your work, life and study goals, and plan your time to achieve them, focusing on the most important tasks first.
Reward yourself: Maybe it’s finishing an assessment or a whole course; whatever it is, set milestones and reward yourself for achieving them to keep motivated. This is something we often tell clients to do, when it comes to financial goals – and the same mindset can apply to your work, life and study goals too.
Like many advisers who have been working in the profession for over 10-15 years, it has been a long time since I was at university, so the next 18 months will be a ‘necessary distraction’ from the day-to-day challenges of working as a financial planner.
In balancing the competing priorities we all face, my three tips are:
Develop a plan of attack: How many hours do you need to study to achieve the educational standards? Do you want to get through your studies as quickly as possible, or are you the slow and steady type? Think about your personality, goals and responsibilities, and develop a realistic plan for making it happen.
Prioritise: Decide on your priorities and accept that something, somewhere, will have to give -and not just the gym! Learning to say ‘no’ is an important skill and with so much on your plate, you can’t do everything.
Work smarter, not harder: Kill two birds with one stone by using an actual work situation to assist with the study. Cram in extra study time by blocking out periods in which you are most productive during the day and study in small intervals, instead of longer time blocks. We no longer have the ‘time’ we had in our youth, so we need to be more ‘efficient’ to get through the FASEA requirements without the key areas of family and work suffering.
Good luck everyone and I look forward to seeing you all on the other side!
All advisers who want to continue to practice beyond January 2024 have to undertake some study.
This means trying to find some time to squeeze in these extra commitments on top of an already busy schedule. I will also have to undertake additional studies. Here is my plan of attack for study, which might work for others in the same situation:
Set aside time: It’s important that you set aside time in your diary for the required amount of hours you need to devote to getting through the exam and additional subjects. I have seen a figure of 120 hours mentioned as the time to be spent on each unit. I intend on doing a subject per semester. Therefore, I’ll split up the time needed to be spent into days and weeks over the semester. I’ll treat my studies like a client’s appointment in my diary. I’m self-employed, so I’m able to do this. For those who are employees, it may mean working strictly to 35 hours per week and then spending your normal overtime hours studying.
Study together: Many advisers haven’t studied since high school or university, which may be many years ago. I’d recommend getting a tutor or joining/forming a study group to get you through. Life as an adviser is busy enough without having to study. The last thing you want to experience is failing and having to repeat a subject.
Family agreement: Get agreement from your family/spouse/partner that you are able to devote so many hours a week studying, which might mean having to forego other commitments, within reason, during each semester.
In answering this question, I reflect on my time completing the CFP® Certification Program. The three tips I would draw from this experience are:
Commit to studying: Once enrolled,commit to starting your studies from week one. I made a big mistake with the first two subjects of the CFP® Certification Program by not starting the study until about week three or four. I figured that I had other priorities and plenty of time to do the study later. However, in the end, I had to cram my studies and spend my last few weekends catching up. This created a lot of unnecessary stress.
Schedule regular study: I recommend scheduling some study time into your work week, so it doesn’t end up consuming your entire weekend. I also recommend getting up earlier on a Saturday and Sunday to knock off a couple of hours of study, and keep the rest of the day free.
Consider using voice dictation software for larger assignments: I hate typing, so by using voice dictation software for my larger assignments, this helped to save me a lot of time. I would use voice dictation to answer assignment questions in detail, then go back and refine my answers. I used the Dragon dictation software, which I found a lot more accurate than the free dictation on Word and Google.
Don’t put off your study: Read your course content as soon as it arrives.That way you can determine the areas you are familiar with and where you see there are likely to be challenges. This will give you a chance to plan and allocate your time in advance.
Clear study times: To make sure you have balance in your life, set specific times for study and leave it at that.It might be that you allocate one or two hours per day, or every few days, depending on your work load. Book in your study time, just like you would with a meeting. By doing so, you can ensure you have a clear distinction between your study time and the time needed for everything else.
Don’t forget your other commitments: As many of us spend a lot of time with family, work and other personal interests, it is important not to neglect these. There will be times when you need to prioritise your commitments.Make a plan to do something outside of your study time, for example, you may want to allow yourself some study time in the morning and then make a plan to go out with your family, or do exercise once that study session is over. This will help to limit the stress of study.
2.Take advantage of these incredible time saving apps and software:
* Calendly: Allow clients, prospects and others to book phone calls and meetings in your diary. Never play phone tag again or receive a client phone call.
* Loom: Stunningly easy video software you can start using in minutes. Send videos to clients, your team, paraplanners – you name it. You’ll never send a long email again.
* Voxer: Streamline communication in your team by using this audio-based walkie talkie app. You’ll significantly reduce internal emails and phone calls.
* Simple Recorder: An easy to use voice recorder to make sure you never type a file note again.
Take massive action.
Don’t break your study up into small little chunks of time, that’s ineffective. Block out your diary for a day, week, or more if you need, and go all in on smashing out your study (Jump on a plane and go interstate to sit in a hotel if needed, seriously!). Without distractions and a goal to complete X amount of study during this time, you’re more likely to get in ‘the zone’ and get it done.
Setting yourself up for success in study can be similar in process to delivering successful outcomes to clients. My top three tips when recommencing study would be to:
Know all the moving parts before you start ‘studying’. Determine the timeframes you have to work within to complete the reading and research, as well as when any assessments are due, then you can map out a study plan to get you there.
Carve out time in your diary to commit to the tasks at hand. You’ll still have the same 24 hours in the day you have now, so something has to give in order to make room for your study time.
Look for ways the material can complement your current level of knowledge and experience, as well as expand your understanding of the topic, rather than relying on your current experience or knowledge to be enough to ‘get you through’ the assessment(s).
Treating your study obligations like they are another client of your organisation can ensure you’re devoting enough time to the learning process and incorporating your findings into your day-to-day business.
The tips above helped me complete my Graduate Diploma and CFP® Certification Program studies whilst juggling work, a young family and my own sanity! Good luck to all in their future studies.
When having discussions with friends, family or clients about balancing their lives, it seems to be the norm that people are always still seeking a more balanced life. The additional study for financial planners, is another example of real pressures on real people.
Through experience working with our clients, I have come to realise that people do not have to make significant changes to have an extraordinarily positive effect on achieving a happy balanced life.
The three tips I can offer include:
Do a time audit for seven days. Record in a diary what you do with your time. Record it every 30 minutes during the day (do not complete it at the end of the day, as this will likely be inaccurate). This one little activity will reveal great insight into whether your time and energy were invested in the areas that are meaningful and/or important to you. It’s great baseline data!
Lead by example and demonstrate that you value a plan. Each Sunday, take 30 minutes to schedule/plan your week. Schedule the most important work/study events and most importantly, life events, first. The lower priority events are included after.
When times are busy, like starting your study requirements, consider if and what could be outsourced to create time. Outsourcing does not need to be forever, however, it is a useful tool to use when your balance is not right.
Most of all, whatever strategy you decide to use to best manage your time, it will require focus and diligence.