Jeff worked two tax seasons before he escaped through the emergency exit door and then got lost and couldn’t find the building again.
It starts out so quiet, so innocent.
It’s Monday January 6th and you settle into your chair. Tax season eh?
Maybe this year won’t be so bad after all.
But you’re wrong.
January … then February … then March … 6 days a week … and then 7 days a week …
… and then finally 8 days a week as it crescendos into a three-hole-punched-sign-here-sticker-zombie-utopia where you’re willing to slam day-old Folgers just to stay awake.
Every Day is the Same.
Every Day Sucks.
At least you’re getting
But wait – there’s more.
You wanted to start the year off with a bang, so you back in December, you scheduled Financial Accounting and Reporting for April 21.
No Rest for the Weary.
How to Study for the CPA Exam 20 Hours a Week During Busy Season.
To fit it in work, family/friends, sanity, and studying 20 hours a week, you’re going to have to plan.
Plan or Die.
The first thing you need is the NINJA CPA Exam Study Planner (Just click the link and I’ll send it to you right away).
From there, follow the ELL (Early Lunch Late) Plan.
The plan is simple.
The sacrifice is not.
Most people will not implement it, but the payoff is huge if your family (and your sanity) suffers less from you being missing in action because of it.
How it works:
Get up 1.5 hours earlier than normal. If you are already getting up at 4, don?t shake your head in disgust. This plan isn?t for you. For those who normally get up at 6 or 6:30am, start getting up at 4:30 or 5. Stumble to the coffee pot (which you loaded the night before) and hit the ?go? button.
While the coffee is brewing, go take a quick shower and wake up. Head back to the coffee, grab a cup and sit down at your computer and books (which you also set up the night before).
Study for an hour.
Notice that checking your e-mail, Facebook, sports sites, or news was nowhere in this sequence.
Did you really sacrifice an hour and a half of sleep to check celebrity gossip? No you didn?t.
Don?t even fire up the Internet browser. Not even once.
Say no to the co-workers heading down the street to grab lunch and talk about how dumb their boss is for an hour. While that sounds fun, you?re here to study so that instead of hanging out with people that you otherwise wouldn?t outside of work, you can spend more time with loved ones.
You take your lunch to your desk (which you also packed the night before). Start eating and hit play on your CPA Review course.
Your legal pad and pen will get food smears on it while you take notes, as will your mouse, but who cares. Same rule applies as the morning: no e-mail or Internet.
Study for an hour.
If your boss frowns on one-hour lunch breaks, consider asking for permission because you are trying to study. Unless there are pressing deadlines or they are just a jerk, they will likely have no problem with it.
This is where it will differ greatly based on your home situation. If you are single with no children, married with no children, or married with children but your spouse is at home, then this could possibly work for you.
If none of these apply to you and you need to get home after work, then you will need to defer your study time until later in the evening from 9-11pm.
At 7pm – or as soon as culturally-permitted in the workplace during Tax Season, either start studying at your desk or bolt the office and head to a coffee shop or library.
Study 2 hours.
Do this four days a week, staying late 2 of those days.
Take Friday night off.
Monday: ELL 4 hours (Study late @ work)
Tuesday: EL 2 hours
Wednesday: ELL (Study late @ work) 4 hours
Thursday: EL 2 hours
Friday: EL 2hours
Sunday: All Day 6 hours
Total: 20 hours
If your family is feeling left in the dark from you studying all of the time mark this schedule on the calendar and let everyone know your plans.
When you study study.
When you?re with your family, leave the laptop and study books put away.
If you’re reading this and shaking your head because you struggle just to find 5 hours to sleep and eat during busy season, then this plan isn’t for you and you probably shouldn’t study for the CPA Exam during this time.
I realize that this isn’t a perfect system that will fit everyone’s schedule exactly, but if you want to make a “go” of it during Tax Season, then hopefully this will give you some sort of game plan to follow.
Adjust accordingly to your life circumstances.
To Your Success,
I blasted this out to my email list late Saturday night when I was still working. So many people responded to it via email and on the Another71 Forum that I turned it into a blog post and I hope it helps motivate you as well – whatever obstacle you’re currently facing. – Jeff
It’s Saturday night – straight up 10pm Central time.
I’m not really where I want to be right now.
I’m at my office about 20 minutes from my house.
What am I doing?
I’m working on the new NINJA Book.
BEC to be exact.
Performance Measures to be even more exact-er.
(That’s a word, I promise.)
In a moment of weakness a minute ago, I sighed and thought “yeesh, this hard work.”
And then I immediately thought…
“well yeah it is, anyone can do something easy…it’s tough, but it will be worth it.”
Most things in life worth doing … are hard.
(Breaking News, I know.)
However, we all need a reminder of that now and then.
It’s tough, but it’s worth it – and it’s good.
I wrote out a Proverb on an index card awhile back and put in on the kitchen sink one day for my wife.
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean…”
We have six kids and as you can imagine…they make messes….they have fights.
A lot of them.
Being a parent is tough, but it’s worth it – and it’s good.
Wherever you are right now
… Taking the CPA Exam
… battling drama at work
… going crazy as a parent
… trying to figure out what is next
… I’ve been there in many cases.
It’s tough, but it’s worth it, and it’s good – you just have to find the good and focus on it.
Making this BEC book is tough, but it will be good when it’s finished – just like making the NINJA Audio was tough – but was glad when I was able to release it.
Taking the CPA Exam is tough.
(again, Breaking News)
… it’s expensive
… it’s boring
… no one understands how horrible it is
… getting up early to study is the worst
… studying at lunch is the last thing you want to be doing (that’s supposed to be break time, remember???)
… speaking of the NINJA Audio, you would rather listen to music again in the car, but you feel guilty (and you should)
… oh, and studying on the weekends?
…but it’s good because you have your sights set on bigger and better things and it is a vehicle to get you there.
… Work drama
… co-worker issues
… BUSY SEASON
… boss troubles
…. all are tough, but they’re good because:
1. You will learn a lot from it if you approach it as a valuable learning experience and
2. You have a job! A lot of people would kill for that right now.
Whatever you’re currently facing that is tough … it’s worth it … make it good.
Jeff Elliott, CPA [KS]
Have a question about the CPA Exam (or how to survive taking 6 kids into Olive Garden)?
You can Ask Jeff.
You can Ask Jeff.
Working mothers are in a category all their own when it comes to passing the CPA exam. We not only strive to balance work and family, but when you throw the CPA exam in the mix, youre going down a road only few can fathom.
We are the rock of the family. We provide financial support, comfort, nutrition, stability, refereeing, homework checks, matching socks, boo-boo kisses, clean toilets, chauffeur service, etc.
We give everything our absolute all and no one notices when we skip a beat because we are that good. Thats why it was so difficult for me to accept I could not reach my unattainable level of perfection while I tried to pass the CPA exam.
Something had to give. For instance, I had a semi-decorated house at Christmas and at another time, I was 3 points shy of passing this exam. Being successful at it all is not realistic, but rejoice in the small triumphs. Your children are absorbing your every reaction.
Jeffs site has wonderful tips for studying the material but here are some things I’ve learned in the last 2 years to help along the way:
1. This exam is a temporary situation.
It may be miserable now but suck it up, study, and get it done as quickly as possible. Prioritize studying. My house is not as spotless as I like, but its livable.
2. Make a study schedule and stick to it.
Keep in mind you will need extra days for emergencies. If you think AUD will take you 5 weeks to prepare, schedule 6. When Junior gets head lice and cant go to school, you know YOU are the one who will stay home with him collecting those lice eggs and sterilizing the bed sheets. Jeff has a free study planner here.
3. Learn to say, No.
When you are asked to be the Cub Scout treasurer, or tutor some college kid in accounting, or your in-laws want to visit the weekend before your exam, say No. Id love to, but I have to study for a very important exam. Ill miss the excuse when Im done. Unfortunately, Ive had to decline fun stuff too. Remember #1 this is not forever.
4. Take full advantage of kid-free time.
Study when they are at school or asleep. If someone offers to keep your kids, let them. Make deals. For example, offer up an agreement to take your sisters kids to the zoo after your exam if shell take yours right now.
5. Flashcards or portable notes are a must.
Those unexpected times when you are stuck at the pediatricians office, car line or some lame birthday party. For BEC and AUD, I had cheat sheets that I made copies of and left in the car, my purse, and on the mantle so I could always look at the topics that were pure memorization. Just looking at it a few minutes a day helps.
6. If you love to shop like me, use the Internet.
Nothing beats a study break where I can go online and buy tiger-printed, platform wedge heels and then go right back to my review. Now where will I wear them? To Prometric, of course.
7. Dont stress about dark roots and/or gray hair.
Embrace a ponytail. Focus on comfort and convenience and not so much appearance. Put the People StyleWatch down for now.
8. Find support from someone who knows what it is like to take the CPA exam.
I dont know anyone I can talk to about the exam except my cyber friends at Another71. If it weren’t for all of you, Id be alone in this and would have given up a long time ago. There is an incredible amount of support here.
Im halfway through the REG material and staying on top of my study schedule. Going back to the books now. More mama advice coming next week. Happy studying!
You can still get four chapters of flashcards free (plus Notes and Audio).
The NINJAs will send you sections from the Ten Point Combo covering:
FAR: Financial Reporting (Notes/Audio/Flashcards)
AUD: Engagement Planning (Notes/Audio/Flashcards)
REG: Individual Taxation (Notes/Audio/Flashcards)
BEC: Economics (Notes/Audio/Flashcards)
2014 NINJA Study Planner: Study 20 Hours a Week (without anyone even noticing)
“The backbone of my study experience was based on NINJA CPA materials, Notes and Audio. I swear by it at this point.” – Roxwella (REG 90 / AUD 90 / BEC 85 / FAR 78)