“Stop putting it off.” “The exam date isn’t going to move, I have to start studying now.” “The books aren’t going to read themselves.” These are some common sayings you can use to motivate yourself to start studying for the big exam coming up. But, whether you’re a student working toward an A+ or a professional studying to earn a certification, telling yourself to study might not be motivational enough. Here are some ways I got through studying for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam that might also work for you.
1. Make a checklist.
Write down your goals in the order in which you want to accomplish them. Your first goal might be to read and take notes from chapter 3 of your textbook. Your next goal, say, for the following week would be to read chapter 4. Setting small goals in a relatively short amount of time will help you progress and feel accomplished. It’s like what Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
2. Reward yourself.
After you complete each small goal, reward yourself by doing something you like but have been putting off, like taking a hike or going for a run. Not only will it relax you, but it will de-stress your mind for the moment.
3. Picture success.
There’s nothing more motivating than having a clear vision of your end goal. It can be a tangible object that symbolizes your goal, like an empty frame awaiting your certificate, or an intangible one, like the increase in salary you may receive after earning a certification or college degree.*
4. Hold yourself accountable.
When I studied for the CMA exam, I set deadlines for myself and made a checklist. That way I was able to keep track of my progress and hold myself accountable for my success. I also involved other people in my journey – my family was very supportive, even though my daughter was a baby at the time, and my boss didn’t mind me studying during my lunch break.
5. Follow your passion.
Remind yourself why you chose the field of accounting. One reason I’m sure is the job opportunities that this field offers, but hopefully you also chose accounting because you find it interesting. Studying can be tough, but you don’t have to be an accounting nerd to enjoy working on a challenging accounting problem. If you don’t cram and you pace yourself, you might actually find studying a rewarding experience!
6. Maintain work/life balance.
Don’t avoid the most important things, and don’t make other things more important. Earning the CMA credential was important, but family was always my number one priority
7. Guard against constructive procrastination.
Essentially, don’t wait for the perfect conditions. You don’t have to paint the room or wash the dishes to get into the right mind-set. Someone I knew in college had to write a paper but couldn’t write it until he had the perfect desk. He found the perfect desk, but it was too late to hand in the paper.
The Time to Start Is Now
Studying doesn’t have to be tiresome or boring. If you do a little bit at a time and plan your schedule, you will eventually reach your goal. And don’t forget: Other people out there are just like you. So if you’re struggling and need a push, find a face-to-face study group that might be able to help you along the way.
How do you stay passionate about something you aren’t passionate about anymore?
Have you ever procrastinated on a project at work? How did you get through it?
Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney
Tips for Studying for the CMA or CPA While Working – Accounting Web
How to Stay Motivated and Accomplish Anything – Forbes