Studying for actuarial exams combined with doing well in regular coursework, holding down a part-time job, maintaining relationships with friends & family, etc. can be a recipe for burnout. Sometimes this can lead to unproductive compromises, or putting-off justifications, such as, “I’ll start studying again once I finish this course project” or “We can always have dinner once I have finished the exam, and I’m not so busy.”
The problem with making these compromises now and inadvertently allowing these habits to form, especially for actuaries, is that there is a long horizon of continued demands on our time. Exams will continue for quite some time toward attaining the FSA; part-time work will turn into full-time work once we transition from school; and friends & family will always want us to take part in events. Forming good prioritization habits now, as a student, will ensure that we live healthy, balanced lives moving ahead.
Here is what I propose as a plan to ensure we stay on track. That is, on track in the sense that we do not neglect any one aspect of our healthy lives too much.
- Begin studying for actuarial exams at least 4 months in advance to ensure less need for cram-studying and all-else-can-wait times leading up to the next exam.
- Pace exam study so that make-up of missed study time is unlikely to snowball into the need for all-day study sessions.
- Set aside time at least once per week to reach out to a friend or family member; have dinner, talk on the phone, grab coffee, or just take a walk. Make time for people, as this is good for the spirit and building soft skills.
- Place all assignments for coursework on a calendar, such as on Gmail accounts or on an iCal; when unexpected windows of time open, look ahead to the next assignment and get it done.
- Resist the urge to waste time; small breaks are necessary but look out for and reign in time that is wasted (e.g. scrolling Facebook for more than 5 minutes several times a day, meaningless text conversations with friends).
Balancing our lives now, as students, will make it much easier as we move through our careers, start our own families, and progress toward the FSA. Start your own checklist; use this as just a template. Hack it up! Break the list down and revise it into components that you know you need to remain aware of and consistently fulfill for a healthy, balanced you.