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Hack Your 2019 Goals with Tips on How to Prepare for the CPA Exam

Posted by Hillarie Diaz, CPA on Jan 9, 2019 2:52:03 PM

Every year, marching behind all of the sales and too much food and all of the busyness of the holiday season, comes New Year Resolutions, with lots of lists about what your goals should be. Want to lose weight? Here are the 10 goals for 2019. Make friends? Top 5 things to do. Get that promotion? 19 steps in 2019.

Rather than give you 19 steps to become a CPA in 2019, here at Yaeger we wanted to offer a few ways to hack your goal setting and achievement. That way, whether the goal is to become a CPA, lose weight, gain weight, save money, lose money (does anyone ever make that a goal?), you can use these tips, and maybe accomplish those goals a little more efficiently.

CPA Exam Goal SettingWhenever you create a new goal, make sure that it’s a SMART one. SMART goals were first mentioned in a paper
by George T. Doran in
Management Review. The idea is that you’re creating the right goals by making sure that each one fits within the acronym SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. When writing a SMART goal, you’re making a short statement that leads you in the direction of something you want to accomplish.

  • Specific - state what you are going to do using action words

  • Measurable - provide a way to evaluate your progress using metrics or data targets

  • Achievable - make it within your scope and possible for you to attain

  • Realistic - makes sense within your job function and improves the business in some way

  • Time-bound - state when you’ll get it done using specific dates or time frames


When SMART goals are discussed, they are usually in the context of small / medium-sized businesses. That doesn’t mean they can’t be used for personal goals. When looking at them from a personal lens, only the R needs to be tweaked - we’d suggest considering Relevant or Rewarding, rather than Realistic.

The SMART technique works regardless of whether you’re just starting the exam process or you’ve already taken at least one exam. Each exam can also be addressed separately, so that you have multiple SMART goals within the “pass the exam” umbrella. So when setting your CPA exam goals, keep the SMART rubric in mind to make more effective goals.

When you are working on your SMART goals,
try the Pomodoro Technique. Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique has long been a favorite of productivity enthusiasts. The idea behind it is that the easiest way to stay productive when working on a task is to work on it in blocks of time rather than all at once, and has six steps

  1. Select the task that needs to be completedPomodoro technique for CPA Exam Prep

  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and tell yourself you will spend the next 25 minutes, uninterrupted, on this task.

  3. Work on the task you’ve set yourself until the timer rings. If you suddenly remember another task, write it down and come back to it.

  4. When the timer goes off, put a mark somewhere on a piece of paper. Or a sticky note. Or your phone. It doesn’t matter, you’re celebrating that you spent 25 uninterrupted minutes on that task, and completed a pomodoro!

  5. Take a short break (5 minutes or so). A cup of coffee, a quick 5 minute walk, whatever it is, make it not work (study) related.

  6. Every four pomodoros, take a longer (i.e. 20-30 minute) break. This allows your brain to rest and assimilate the information before starting again.

At its heart, the Pomodoro technique encourages moderation. By incorporating regular breaks, you are giving your mind and body a chance to refresh and tackle each work “session” with a fresh outlook and rejuvenated attitude. This lessens the risk of burnout, which in turn increases your chances of success when it comes to exam day.

And really, at the end of all of this, that's the goal, right? Get to the exam. Get through the exam. Pass the exam. Become a CPA. But maybe in a SMARTer turn of phrase. ;)

Tags: CPA Productivity, 2019 CPA Exam, Goal Setting, Studying

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