Busy season is rapidly approaching, and if you're reading this, then you're either studying for the Exam, or you're preparing to start. Regardless, entering into the busy season poses some unique challenges that you'll need to analyze and overcome to continue making solid progress towards earning that license.
Until you know what to expect, planning for busy season will be difficult. The first step is to learn what your company expects from you through April 15th.
Do they have mandatory in-office hours? Are you expected to work weekends and evenings- from the office or from home? Do you have a minimum number of billable or total hours you need to hit each week? If there is a minimum number of hours, is that a realistic hour expectation, or are most people working far more than that to complete their objectives?
Don't just ask your employer these questions; ask a seasoned veteran at the company for an accurate perspective on the weeks ahead, including any unstated demands on your time.
Getting the answer to these questions will help you be able to realistically budget how many study hours you can achieve each week. Knowing how many hours you'll be studying will also let you decide when to sit for your next Exam.
Don't forget the blackout period for testing, which runs from March 11th – March 31st, so plan to test before or after that window.
Don't expect the world of yourself during busy season.
If you are working 55+ hours per week during busy season when you regularly work closer to 40 hours per week, you won't be able to spend as much time studying as you can during the rest of the year. Don't beat yourself up about it. Simply Recognize that you won't be covering the same quantity of material during a week of busy season as you can during a week the rest of the year. Adjust your expectations so you aren't stressed or disappointed with yourself.
Certain tasks require extensive energy from your brain to do well; prioritizing is one of those tasks. So don't force yourself to prioritize every day or every hour of every day. Decide upfront what your priorities are and then live out those priorities by developing habits, rather than constantly waffling about how to spend your time.
Eliminate the unnecessary. It's okay to cut out activities that aren't central to your life right now. You are in control of your life and time, even when it doesn't feel like it, so view this upcoming busy season as a great time to learn the invaluable skill of saying no!
Don't forget to take a break from work. While work and studying are a priority, don't neglect your family and self-care. Well, don't completely neglect them. You don't want to alienate the people who mean the most to you in your life (and who might be the very reason you are so motivated to pass the Exam!). It's also not worth compromising your health or well-being, so even if you cannot cook gourmet meals or train for an Ironman, continue (or start) to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle for your physical and mental health. At some point, more is no longer better, and you will experience burn-out if you don't care for yourself.
Adjust and Ask
Busy season tends to come with more work-related calls and emails, as well as tight deadlines on projects. Therefore, we recommend determining BEFORE busy season the best time to study, when you will have the least amount of distractions and the most mental focus, and adjust your schedule accordingly. Similarly, if your normal study spot is now the place where you work from home, consider finding a different study spot to keep your concentration fresh.
Don't be afraid to ask your employer for some flexibility as well. Most employers are willing to offer flexible schedules and work with you, and you can use this to maximize your morning, midday, or evening study time.
Other Tips and Tricks
Recognize the perks in this season. For instance, you could be studying material that correlates exactly to your current work projects. Not only are you learning the Exam Blueprints related to tax returns, but you are also preparing dozens of personal and business tax returns each day!
Celebrating small accomplishments is a great way to stay motivated and not get burnt out as well. Whether it's a large job, scoring well on a practice Exam, or supporting your daughter at her piano recital, celebrate the little things.
Finally, think how freeing it will feel to come OFF busy season, hopefully with one more Exam under your belt and many more hours at your disposal.
Don't forget to read part two of our series: Studying During Busy Season.