Balancing Life, Work, and the CFA® Exam

Pregnant CFA candidate trying to balance life, work, and the CFA Exam

With so much consuming our limited time, energy, and attention, how is it possible to add anything else to our already overly demanding schedules? Preparing for the CFA Exam alone can take up to 300 hours of study time per CFA level. At first, that kind of commitment can cause uncertainty about whether you can handle the additional study hours on top of an already packed work schedule, family life, and all the other things going on in your personal life.

It takes self-awareness to be clear about your goals and take the initial leap into your CFA Exam journey. It takes even more self-awareness to tell your loved ones, employer, and friends what you need from them to accomplish the goal. For many, being straightforward with others about goals and dreams can be difficult. So instead, most choose to “beat around the bush” and hope that everyone understands how important obtaining the CFA Charter is without actually communicating how significant it is for their career.

It’s essential to figure out the work, life, study balance before working towards the CFA Charter. It’s okay if you haven’t yet made that determination for yourself, but now is the time to get serious about your plan for passing the exams. To find more time, the first thing to do is reexamine your social life. Are the friends you choose to spend your limited free time with giving you energy – or are they draining it? It might be time to carefully step back from friends who are not as supportive or understanding of your endeavors.

Next, communicate with whoever you’re living with about what you’re going through. This can undoubtedly be a challenge as we tend to put a lot of unrealistic pressure on ourselves that we should be able to do it all on our own. But the keyword is unrealistic. Talk to your family or friends about how they can help you meet your study goals. 

Maybe they can help by bringing you dinner a couple of times a week or doing your grocery shopping. Whatever form that assistance might take, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Try finding a way that those closest to you can work with you toward the same goal rather than working on your own.

Most CFA candidates prepare for the CFA Exam while managing a full work schedule. It’s critical to be upfront with your employer and work colleagues about your CFA endeavor.  If there is anywhere that they can pick up some slack to give you more time to focus on the CFA Exam, ask for it. Besides, what you’re and preparing for will make you a more valuable asset to the company in the long run. 

In the end, communication is the most effective tool to help you balance your time and energy. In every part of your life, you must communicate with the people you depend on to support you. The truth is, you shouldn’t try to do this alone. 

The last tip to be fully engaged in the effort. It doesn’t matter how much time you’re spending on any one thing – if you’re not wholly committed to the task, whatever it is, you won’t get the maximum benefit from the time you’re devoting to it. If you’re at work, be 100% focused on work, not studying. When you’re with family, be 100% focused on having quality time with them, not thinking about work. 

And, of course, when you’re studying, be 100% invested in the material in front of you. If you give everything your full attention in its proper time, you will find the balance you need to succeed on the CFA Exam. 

We wish you the best of luck!

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