Staying focused while you’re working and studying at home during lockdown can be a challenge. We speak to students and experts to hear some solutions
1. Set realistic study targets
Katie Starkey, 23, started studying for her ACA in January. She was furloughed from her company JCB in April, which has given her more time to study.
One of the most important lessons she has learned is to set herself reasonable study goals that she knows are possible. “Studying in bite-size chunks keeps it manageable, and that means I don't get disheartened when I don't reach a less realistic goal.”
2. Use flashcards to memorise information
Adrian Chan, 29, who is working as a forensic accountant for a consultancy in London, prepares for exams using an electronic flashcard programme called Anki, which you can use on your desktop computer or by downloading an app on your smartphone.
“After studying a chapter, I just put in some of the main topics into the flashcard programme, and it schedules your study sessions for you, such as the number of cards you have to review each day. That helped me absorb information on a daily basis and stay on track.”
3. Skip the chocolate fix
Eating the right food during the exam season can improve your concentration, enhance your mental performance and reduce stress levels.
Swap the sugar highs and crashes that follow a chocolate binge with a balanced diet and plenty of water to stay hydrated. CABA has partnered with the Natural Alternative Health and Wellbeing Company to produce a guide to healthy eating while you study. Read more about the resilience diet.
4. Keep in touch with your employer
Despite being furloughed, Katie has found it useful to keep in touch with her colleagues in her finance department, who have been happy to answer questions and give her tips on her studies.
“They have given me the motivation to take advantage of this opportunity,” says Katie. “I’ve gone through different topics with them and we’ve talked through parts I’ve found hard. That's been a big help, to be honest.”
“For example, there’s a section called professional development where you have to provide examples of a time in your work when you’ve fulfilled the criteria. Originally I panicked and didn’t know what to write, but both of my mentors helped point me in the right direction.”
Students and employers can still conduct six-monthly review meetings without having to be in the office together. Check out these tips to make sure the meeting is as valuable as possible.
5. Check in with your study group
Adrian gets a boost from staying in touch with friends who are also studying the ACA qualification.
“We’re in our first year of studying so we are really at the start of the qualification. Everyone has kept in touch with Microsoft Teams to stay in touch and share information about upcoming exams.”
6. Take a proper break from studying
Give yourself time to switch off between working and studying for your ACA by doing something completely different, from exercise to your favourite hobby. For Katie, that has meant raising money for charity by baking cakes for her neighbours.
“My Nan has dementia, so I’ve been fundraising for the Alzheimer's Society by baking for my neighbours. I’ve raised £45 so far, and I’ll be supporting its cupcake day in June. It feels good to take a break from studying to do something worthwhile.”
7. Try putting down your smartphone
When you are taking some time away from study, don’t always reach for your phone. If you do, your brain won’t be getting the rest it needs, reducing the benefit of a break in the first place.
In a study by Rutgers University Business School and reported in NextGov, students who took a break on their phone needed almost 20% longer to complete the rest of the task they were working on, compared to students who didn’t use their mobile phone during a break.
8. Get help if you’re feeling overwhelmed
Remember that CABA offers counselling services and emotional support available.
It’s harder to spot who is struggling while we are remote working and there aren't any informal chats making the tea – either with peers or mentors. Talking things over and clearing your head makes it easier to concentrate and make better decisions.
For more advice, read CABA’s stress-busting tips for students.
For the latest information about how Covid-19 has impacted your qualifications, visit our Qualifications Hub.