Ah, the life of a full-time working, full-time student. Almost everyone else you know gets home from work and starts relaxing. Or once the formal work day is done, at least others have the option transition to working around the house, cooking dinner, and making progress on that endless to-do list. You, however, must find the motivation to study!
Unfortunately, finding the motivation to study for the CPA Exam is hard. As with any long-term endeavor, like working out or eating healthier, great intentions are hard to turn into habits.
The key to staying motivated is going to be different for everyone. And, while there is no one fix for everyone, but we've got some ways of thinking and common practices that will help most of you.
1. Be the Early Bird
The hardest thing about creating a habit is all the distractions and life obstacles keeping us from developing the routine of action. When it comes to studying, the biggest downfall can come from saying "I'll do it after." After what? One show? A fifteen-minute nap (okay, possibly necessary) or a run?
2. Don't Wait, Do It Now
Studying right when you get home, or even better, wake up early and study for fifteen minutes. Build momentum. This sets an expectation in your schedule. You are more likely to get studying done if you make it a prerequisite. That TV show, run, or nap can quickly turn into an all day procrastination activity, putting you behind in your goal to pass the CPA Exam.
3. Feel the Rhythm, Feel the Flow
The biggest reason we recommend studying early is so you can gain confidence and feel good about your routine. The key word here is routine. People are more likely to continue doing something after they feel they have accomplished at least something on their list. Guilt is not a good feeling, and watching Netflix after studying feels a lot better than before.
Hit your stride with studying and keep pace. View study breaks like a marathoner refueling. You are in a race, of sorts, to pass the CPA Exam before scores expire. There will be the little voice in your head telling you to take a break, which is okay, but like the athlete make sure the breaks are meaningful and count towards your goal rather than detract from it.
4. Use Quality Family Time as Motivation
We used Netflix the example because who doesn't want to catch up on "Narcos" or your other favorite new show, but an even stronger motivation study smart and efficiently are the people in your life. Quality time can be a huge motivation, which serves as more than just a time to relax. Friends and loved ones also provide the extra motivation behind why you are studying so much. Your quality of life may feel like it's taking a hit for the time being, but in the long run, passing the CPA Exam will create a better life for you and those around you. Allocate your time as a valuable resource, focus on the concept of compounding interest coming from your time-resource where the more you put in now will result in better returns later.
5. Reward Yourself
Okay, this one is simple but effective. Give youself something to work toward, a reward you earn for studying hard. For exampe, when you are studying, put money out in front of you on the table (e.g., money you're probably going to spend on dinner or activities already during the week) in any amount. You can add some extra in when you need extra incentive. As you are studying move the money from your "study stack" to your "spending stack" as you accomplish milestones such as finishing a topic or taking a practice exam.
Or, associate a certain amount of money with a certain amount of time. Say one to five dollars for every 15 minutes to a half hour. If your goal is to study for 2 hours, put eight bills out and "pay yourself" every fifteen minutes by moving the bill. Seeing this, and rewarding yourself for studying, is a great way to see your work literally pay off.
Creating a short-term goal parallels the long-term goal and reward. You'll see the bills moving from the study to fun piles, and it puts in perspective the time you've put in, what you have left, and gives you something to look forward to in the near future.
Best of all, when you're done studying you have a stack of bills to treat yourself with! Creating these positive emotions related to studying will help solidify your routine.
This concept could get pricey if the money you use is on top of what you already spend, so try to implement current fun money in your budget. Or, use something else that makes you happy. But, if you have to throw some extra dough into further incentivize your studying, we'd say it's a sound investment!