Getting the balance right

A work-life balance is by its nature very subjective, and achieving a good balance between work, study and the rest of your life is no easy task. Balance for you will very much depend on your personality, how much study you need to do and the type of job you have.

You have probably heard that well used cliché “There just aren’t enough hours in the day”. Realistically, if you had those extra hours, what more would you achieve? The secret is surely in using the time that you do have much more productively.

Balancing your life has a lot to do with time management – rating your obligations by importance and allocating time accordingly. This may seem like a good idea in theory, but what happens when everything in your life seems equally important?

Taking the stress out of ACCA
Being solely responsible for your own training and development can also create anxiety. Worrying about where to study, how to pay for your courses and whether your work experience is meeting the practical training requirements for ACCA membership can all take their toll.

Having the support and guidance of a committed employer can considerably lessen the burden. For this reason, ACCA recommends that all employers provide ACCA students with structured support to enable them to complete the examinations and meet the practical training requirements.

ACCA encourages employers to provide students with full financial support1 and paid leave2 to sit the examinations and to attend structured3 study and revision courses for each paper attempted for the first time. This recommendation reflects best practice and is required of ACCA Accredited Employers who wish to obtain Platinum Approved status. Many Gold Approved Accredited Employers also meet this level of study support.

Platinum Approved and Gold Approved Accredited Employers also structure ACCA trainees’ work experience to enable them to meet the practical training requirements for membership in the shortest possible period. This structured approach guarantees that ACCA students will get the breadth and depth of experience necessary for membership.

Time tracking
The first step is to track your current use of time and see if there’s room for some time management improvement in your schedule. It is well worth taking a few minutes out of your day to jot down everything you do and the time taken to complete these activities. Reflect on your day. What would it take to make you happier in the way you deal with your daily activities? Are there any surprises in how you are using your time? What are you satisfied with and what would you like to change?

To reach the second step you must prioritise your activities. Recognise those tasks that must be completed, consider the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important. Effective time management is about making sure your understanding of what is important is not clouded by your sense of urgency.

Goal setting
What do you hope to achieve at the end of your student life, a great job? What will it take to get that job? Visualise yourself in your dream job and map out the journey toward your success. Once your goal is in sight it is easy to reach out and grab it with both hands.

The divide and conquer strategy
How can you maximise those odd five-minute gaps in your day? Edwin C Bliss in his book Getting things done, uses an expression called the “Salami technique”. Have you ever tried eating a large chunk of salami? The thought can be nauseating. Cut it into paper-thin slices and you find that each slice goes down very easily.

Now apply this theory to any large project you have to do. Have you been putting off a large project or job because it looms in your mind like a formidable task? Use the salami technique and cut it into thin and easily manageable slices and watch that task shrink before your eyes. The key to this technique is to always write down the steps needed to get the job done. Break the steps down into many small ones; many “thin” steps can be easily “swallowed”.

Rewards for work well done
Take into account your needs as a social being and achieve a balance between your leisure activities and your studies. But be prepared to make sacrifices – as you get closer to examination time, you should have fewer social engagements. Use recreation as a reward for studying hard. Do not be tempted to study all the time as this could result in mental burnout and diminished motivation.

The changing working life
The work ethic continues to grip throughout our professional lives. The phrase “I work, therefore I am” illustrates this trap which is very easy to slip into. Anything beyond the steely certainties of the work ethic seem frightening – the oblivion of unemployment, the insecurity of self-employment. So once again you get back on that treadmill and back to work.

However, many companies have introduced measures to help achieve a work-life balance. Giving employees the flexibility to choose their own hours or take time in lieu helps protect their health and wellbeing, which in turn protects the company itself. The growing trend is to offer employees flexibility, creativity and the opportunity for self-improvement:

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