Whether you’re a financial analyst seeking CFA certification, a paralegal studying for the LSAT, or an aspiring MBA swimming in GMAT books while working toward your 10,000 hours, you can relate. Preparing for standardized tests while continuing to propel your corporate career can seem virtually impossible. Have no fear. I conducted interviews with successful professionals who have gone through the process of studying for exams while holding down full-time jobs. Here are 10 life hacks that may help those of you who are experiencing serious burnout.
1. Talk to your manager: Often, employees are hesitant to alert their bosses of test prep, in fear of raising alarm that they are soon to depart. But you must remember that any certification which improves your expertise is ultimately positive for your company. It’s also much harder to embark on what will be a difficult schedule without evoking sympathy from your manager. You need some leniency from coworkers when it comes to your availability.
2. Make sacrifices: Your phone should be in airplane mode during study hours. No texts, no social media. Manage expectations with your close friends and family before your process begins. Tell them which study hours are off-limits ahead of time.
3. Rise early: Catch your mind while it’s still a clean slate. Study early in the morning, before the pressures of the work day have hit. Very few professionals admit to being “morning people,” but most agree that a demanding work schedule makes studying after leaving the office too difficult to sustain.
4. Cut the booze: Most of those surveyed for this piece suggested limiting yourself to social outings one night a week. Alcohol can be a stress-reliever, but it also affects your ability to sleep well, which is much more important. Try to align your drinking schedule with your one night a week. Partying with friends will seem like much more of a treat, and something you can look forward to. But be careful not to go overboard. You’re certain to be a lightweight on your new schedule.
5. Hibernate: Those polled for this article stated that it’s always best to choose a test date that accommodates a winter studying schedule. Spring and summer days are when you’ll be most restless and eager to get out and socialize. While the weather is cold and dreary, you might as well stay in and be productive.
6. Stay consistent: Stick to your schedule. Any semblance of constancy will make you feel more secure in yourself, and your ability to stay disciplined.
7. But switch it up: At least one day a week, choose a location that’s not your home or office to get some studying done. Try a local library or quiet coffee shop. A change of scenery will do you some good by resetting your mind.
8. Stay positive: Always keep the end in sight. Write a list of your long-term goals, no matter how lofty. Post them above your desk at home or on your fridge. Draw daily motivation from a constant reminder of how your life will look once you’ve achieved the ideal score. And don’t forget to celebrate your “wins” after practice tests, big or small!
9. Be realistic: Before you outline your goal score, you need to know where you are. Take a diagnostic test before beginning the process so you have a bench-marked idea of how much improvement is needed, and in which sections of the test. Write it down, and keep it someplace you’ll remember. Even when you’re not reaching your goal score, seeing how your marks improve over the weeks and months will give you the added ego boost you need.
10. Prioritize your health: Get sleep. Eat clean. Exercise regularly. This much is non-negotiable. Your brain needs fuel to multi-task, so give it all the support it needs.
(This was originally published on LevoLeague by Arielle Patrick, photography by Sam Teich)
Are you currently working full time and pursuing an academic achievement? How do you manage both? Share you secrets with us in the comments below.