“My advice for AAT Distance Learning? Get a dog”

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Julie Dove is currently studying AAT Advanced Diploma as a Kaplan Distance Learning Student.

Dove has worked in finance for over 15 years and currently works as Head of Finance and Administration, managing a team of five. We speak to her about how she manages work, study, family and Cystic Fibrosis. Here Dove shares some of her tips on staying motivated when learning on your own.

Dove started her accountancy career in an admin role interpreting data before making the decision to formalise her experience with a bookkeeping qualification. “I got the feeling there was more to the accountancy career than creating pretty graphs, so I did a bookkeeping qualification at home and got a real taste for wanting to pursue accountancy further” she says.

For a while personal circumstances got in the way of her studies but when Dove started a new job she was given the chance to obtain funding for further training. “This was the perfect opportunity for me to finish the AAT qualification that I really wanted to do all those years ago” she says.

The freedom of Distance Learning

Dove decided to progress with the qualification by studying through distance learning as it offered her a number of benefits. “Flexibility is the biggest factor for me, because I need to spend intermittent time in hospital for my Cystic Fibrosis.

“Also being able to study at home gives me so much more flexibility around my job. When it’s really busy at work I generally don’t get time to study during the week, so I make it up at the weekend” she says.

Dove’s husband often travels for work and distance learning has given her the opportunity to fit her study schedule around his travelling. “If he was only home on the nights I had to go to college, we’d probably have seven nights a week without seeing each other” she says.

Motivation is key

Dove admits that there are some drawbacks to studying at home. Trying to motivate herself to study can be a real challenge some days but visualising the end goal and reminding herself of the reasons she started the qualification in the first place helps. “I think you’ve got to force yourself to look at the end goal. The reason that I started studying was to progress my career, so if I start losing motivation I get my three-year plan out which shows my path to becoming a financial director.

“It also helps to get a vision board. Think about what you want to achieve from completing the qualification – is it an amazing car or a holiday in the Maldives? I have my goals on a board at home, showing what I’m going to get when I get to the end of the qualification.” she says.

Your tutor is your lifeline

It’s no secret that it can feel lonely when you study remotely. Dove says, “when you’re studying via distance learning, it can often feel like you’re on your own. Since you’re not surrounded by others in a classroom environment there is no opportunity to bounce ideas with others or socially interact with classmates.”

To help counter this, Kaplan has recently extended their tutor support for all distance learning courses.

Regarding these new changes Dove says, “It’s great to know that you are able to pick up the phone and call your tutor, even on an evening or on a Saturday morning. It’s not like you are just given the textbook and told to go away and learn it, there is a really big network of support there if you need it.”

Plan ahead and reward yourself

As a distance learner there are ways that you can maximise study time. For Dove, planning ahead is key.

“Every Sunday I sit down and plan my week to see where my easy [work] days are and spend those nights studying. I think fitting your studies around your work timetable is really important because if you’re tired after a long day’s work, then there is little point in studying because it just doesn’t sink in” she says.

And because you’ve made a commitment to yourself to achieve your goals and change your future, it is also important to celebrate your hard work. “I make sure I give myself at least one weekend a month completely off from work and study, because it helps keep me motivated.

“For example, I’m very good at taking myself off to a health spa for the weekend” Dove says.

My secret to juggling work and study

Juggling work, study and everything in between can be overwhelming, so how does Dove deal with this?

“I think spending time with my dog is the best way for me to de-stress because it doesn’t matter how hard things get, he’s always there. I have a very lazy Labrador – last night I was sat on the floor studying [and] he was sat on the sofa asleep on my shoulder.”

“The days when I’m at home, he comes and sits in his basket next to my desk and around lunchtime he’ll give me a nudge to go for a walk. Just walking with him and getting out in the fresh air is a great way to relax” Dove says.

Dove has a few last words of wisdom on staying motivated whilst studying via distance learning.

“If you give in when it gets tough, there is only one person who is going to regret that later in life and that is yourself. I set out saying that I was going to be qualified by the time I got to 40, and that falls later this year so I am going to keep going. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you – just don’t give in and you’ll get there” she concludes.

If you would like to try a new approach to learning away from the classroom, why not try a free demo of Kaplan’s new OnDemand study method. OnDemand combines the structure of a tutor-led course with the flexibility to start studying anytime, anywhere.

Gary Thomas is a content writer at Kaplan.

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