Studying: The Search for Enough

My mother took it upon herself in high school to be my number one cheerleader and taskmaster. Each day she would check to see if I had completed my homework. In university, her method of communication shifted to text. I graduated, starting working, and she persisted. I was doing my best to balance work, studies, a failing relationship, neglected bulldog, and impaired friendships while trying to sneak in the occasional desk nap, meal, or shower.

I’m not proud of my response one day when I smashed the call button to proclaim loudly, “MOM! Don’t you know? It can’t be done! I just can’t! IT’S. NOT. POSSIBLE!!!”.

The Lesson

Yeesh. Thankfully, Helena Petersen is one heck of a patient human. She suggested I should focus on what I could reasonably accomplish that day and not worry about the rest. Momma Petersen helped me define “enough”.

The Synthesis

Throughout the years, my thinking, planning, and reading on this subject has evolved, and I communicate the culmination of that evolution to my candidates as follows:

  • VISION: Plan where you want to go. Where are you now and where you want to be?
    • Your vision could be becoming a CPA
  • MISSION: Determine how you will achieve your vision.   
    • Successfully completing education, examination, and practical experience are requirements of a CPA designation.
  • STRATEGY MAPPING: Strategic objectives broken down into smaller goals in line with the mission, with small daily tasks in line with the goals separated into Green / Yellow / Red Priorities.
    • Green – MUST be completed each day. These are your “Big Wins.” If you do nothing that day, it will be considered a “win.”  
      • The win could be completing your 60-minute practice case (Education), creating a study plan (Evaluation), or having a meeting with your CPA mentor (Experience).
    • Yellow – your like to’s. Once you accomplish green, you can move onto these. Sometimes your yellows will evolve into greens, often depending on looming deadlines, but for right now, they play second fiddle to your main (Green) priorities.
      • On Saturday, this could be finalizing your weekly eBook readings and MCQs. The deadline for MCQs is not until Tuesday, so it would be great to get these done early, but not a necessity.
    • Red – this is what you’re intentionally not going to do. It is essential to write these down to prevent them from swirling in the back of your mind. 
      • E.g. colour-coding your study binder or re-writing notes because you dribbled some coffee on them. There are no marks for pretty.
  • BALANCED SCORECARD: Daily actions will compound and lead to you achieving growth, that is, the process of taking you from where you are to who you wish to become.
    • You could use a software application such as Asana to map out your goals and set up daily tasks. I keep my daily tasks like this in my phone and enjoy being able to “tick-off” when I’ve completed a job each day.
    • A quarterly check-in will provide feedback to see if you are meeting strategic objectives by completing daily operating tasks. If not, then it is time to revaluate and tweak the smaller goals and daily tasks.

The Thank-you

I recently completed my Professional Master of Education from Queen’s University. In the past two years, my mom picked up her old habit, which was both endearing and only mildly annoying. Helena, a woman who worked retail until disability forced early retirement, taught me strategic planning to manage the daily stressors of life. It is my sincerest hope that she can help you too.

Do you have feedback on this post or a question you’d like answered by an experienced CPAWSB educator? Please contact your facilitator or send a question to the General Topic in the Candidate Discussion forum.

Samantha Taylor, PME, CPA, CA, is an educator and lead policy advisor for CPAWSB, and an instructor of accounting at Dalhousie University. She is on a mission to understand and enable learner efficacy while eliminating doldrums occasionally associated with accounting education. Read more of Sam’s posts at the CPAWSB blog.