Priorities: Balancing Life with the Exams

Written by Esther Cheng:

As aspiring Actuaries, we all know that the path to success is long and difficult. Having to take qualifying actuarial exams is not only hard, but it requires a lot of time and patience. Often we need to sacrifice spending time with family or friends, just so we can spend extra time preparing for the upcoming exam. I constantly hear jokes about how actuaries have “no life”, but do you think that’s entirely true? One of my professors had each student take turns sharing actuarial jokes each week before class started. There was this joke I heard that went like this: “An Actuary walks into a bar.”  – That was it.DSC_0049

As full-time students or employees, it is not an unusual sight to find ourselves buried beneath the piles of assignments and tests or projects and meetings that beckon every week, while constantly looking for opportunities for internships (if we don’t already have one), and finding time to prepare for the next exam. On top of that, we have families, friends and relationships to maintain. If you have nagging parents like mine, you’ve probably heard the age-old nag about setting priorities right and studying hard countless times. Now the question is, how can this be done? Is it even slightly possible?

It seems like there are so many things, but so little time, and “overwhelmed” might not even come close to explaining how we feel about the depth of our responsibilities. The combination of demands from school, work, family, and professional papers barely leaves any time left for other things, including sleep. From what I gather, finding the balance not only meant transforming the way we do things, but also the expectations of the people around us. Balance is not about being a master of everything, but about prioritizing. Start by surrounding ourselves with people who are supportive of what you do. Try to keep them aware of your hectic schedule and limitations, and accept all the help others have to offer. Learn how to block out time on the calendar for specific tasks that need to be completed, while planning things in advance. This will give you a head start on important things that you might need extra time to complete. And yes, no more procrastinating!

Even in the busiest of schedules, the most practical and effective way we can live is by aligning our personal priorities of work, family, health, and well-being. Such realignment can bring huge gains in emotional and physical energy, not to mention greater clarity and focus at work and/or classes. Being organized takes focus and dedication, and it’s usually easier said than done! With all the responsibilities, we may find ourselves dreading to wake up each morning. Try to put aside some time every week where you can just be yourself. Meditate, go for long walks, or watch an interesting movie to forget about all the responsibilities and relax. It is important to remember to enjoy what we are doing. Be it at school or work, being interested and excited about what you need to do is a form of motivation. I find that stepping out of the “victim” mindset is a very helpful method of taking control. It is our responsibility to live the life we want, and decide what are our choices. Being the “victim” in your own life makes you think that you don’t have a choice. But in reality, everyone has choices, and it is in the choices we make that our future is defined.

However, these ideas are not the only way to find balance! There are many different ways this can be approached. If you have, will be, or are going through these trials, know that you are not alone! And if you’re looking for some motivational/inspirational words of advice, the Coaching Actuaries Facebook page is the best place to start.