Forget Time Management. You Need Behavior Management!

There are five weeks left and let’s face it, many are wondering if there is enough time left to prepare for the exam. Scene jump to candidates frantically surfing the internet for time management tips and tricks.
Problem is, for all but the most overworked of us, time management really isn’t the answer. Even the best time management techniques are not going to give you 25 hours in the day. What you need is behavior management, and to use your time differently.
Before we go further, understand that it takes between 8-12 weeks to break a bad habit and form a good one. If you get home from work and are habitually inclined to plop down in front of the tv for a few hours, you are not going to break this behavior before the exam. It is going to take commitment to get in the time you need, along with a strict schedule.
So, if you are not going to be able to change your behavior in time, you need a strict plan that will keep you on schedule. Stick with your habit-changing routine and you might be able to rely on behavior for next year’s exam.
Poor Time Habits
The culprit in most of our lack of time is those little time-wasters that only take a few minutes but break our concentration and add up to hours of study time. Most likely you realize what these are but are ‘powerless’ to stop them. What you need is a counter-behavior that will not allow you to waste time. A few ideas:

  • Turn off the cell phone during study time. Tough, I know, but is it really that big of a leap to think you will be unreachable for a couple of hours.
  • Disable your Wi-Fi connection.
  • Unplug the TV, or better yet, give the plug-in wires to someone and tell them when to return them.
  • Reserve a study room at the library or another secluded spot. Being away from everything else forces you to concentrate on the one thing available.

Are you fine once you get started, but always seem to lose track of time? Set a reminder on your cellphone or through email to go off daily just before your study time. Don’t use it as your personal snooze alarm though. When the alarm goes off, you MUST start studying.
Ever hear, you have to spend money to make money? Sometimes it helps to spend a little time to find more time. Spend five minutes each morning explicitly planning out your day and when you are going to study. Don’t be too restrictive, give yourself a little bit of time to relax. Actually writing out a schedule will help keep you from finding ‘other’ ways to occupy yourself throughout the day.
Set time limits for tasks, even those that are unexpected. Be realistic and give tasks their priority, but don’t be overly generous to the point that it squeezes out study time. If a task looks like it is going to go over on time, try to prioritize what needs to be done today and allot some time to finish tomorrow.
As mentioned in a previous email, find the right resources for the right study breaks. You probably won’t be able to pull out the curriculum to study every time you have five minutes free, but you might be able to carry around a set of flash cards or some topic summary sheets. A lot of the exams are conceptual information that can be learned by repetitive review. Reviewing concepts during short breaks will save more time in your sit-down study sessions for practice problems.
Incorporate some of these ideas into your daily routine. Just because its July doesn’t mean you do not need to be studying something. After the exam in June, sit down and plan out a study program or a few hours per week to research other areas of your job. If you stick to a schedule long enough, you’ll break some of those poor study habits and will make next year’s exam so much easier.
All for today. ‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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