How to get back into study after a long break

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Getting back into the swing of study can be hard after you’ve had a break. Whether you’re changing careers, have taken a gap year or been at home with children, going back to a world of tutorials and text books can be challenging. We asked Nisar Ahmed, AAT’s Programme Leader at BPP, for his tips to successfully get back into study mode.

Why study accounting?

The UK job market is booming at the moment and accountants are particularly in demand. Jobs in accountancy and finance are up over 20% at recruitment giant Hays according to its recent hiring figures. Unemployment has continued to fall in Britain, while wage growth has outpaced inflation at the fastest rate in almost five years.

The number of those out of work in the UK fell by 97,000 to 1.86 million in the last three months of 2014. The unemployment rate now stands at 5.7% of the working population, as stated by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Alongside this, the ONS said total pay was 2.4% higher in December 2014 compared with the same month in 2013.

Kick start your confidence

Fear can be a hurdle when returning to study – a fear of failure, a fear of not being good enough or a fear of uncertainty. While this is common, having a strategy in place can help you overcome these fears and allow you to pursue your passion.

Start building up your confidence by making a list of your accomplishments. We tend to only acknowledge our big successes (buying a house, starting a business, graduating) but actually we succeed in many ways on a daily basis.

Think about successes in all areas of your life no matter how small. Do you buy the most thoughtful gifts for friends and family? Can you always be relied upon in an emergency? Do you make the most delicious cupcakes? Have you got an innate sense of style?Ask friends and family what they think you’re successful at. You might be surprised at how much confidence others have in you.

Write your list and acknowledge all the things you are good at, no matter how trivial they seem. Return to your list whenever you need a boost and remember to add to it regularly.

Create a to-do list that actually works

Balancing study with other responsibilities can be a challenge. Become more productive by setting good habits and removing distractions. The easiest way to do this is to create an achievable to-do list. Set realistic goals by breaking them down into bite sized chunks with specific, measurable actions. An example of a bad task for your to-do list is to “study bookkeeping”. This is a huge and unwieldy task with no end in sight. Instead list: “Complete one practice test of bookkeeping and read one chapter of the textbook.” You will complete far more with tasks that are broken down into specific actions.

Ask for help

Learning new concepts, meeting deadlines and preparing for exams can be overwhelming.  Feeling embarrassed or a burden to others can prevent us asking for help. It’s important to challenge these negative thoughts and reach out when you need assistance.

While self-reliance is a great value, it can also be self-limiting when it prevents you from asking for what you need. When asking for support, use the same approach as making your to-do list. For example, rather than tell a friend you are drowning under a pile of practice exams and have laundry to do and an upcoming party to plan, ask them to do one thing that will meaningfully help you. Could they pick up your child from school today so you can squeeze an extra hour of study in or make a phone call to reserve a restaurant? You’ll find others are more willing to help when they know exactly what you need from them.

Set up the right work space

You want to create a space that feels great to work in and provides an oasis from distraction. Create an area in your house that has natural light and make sure you have storage options to keep clutter to a minimum. You can use blue in your space to encourage productivity or green for calming and balance. Desk plants have also been known to reduce stress and make workers more productive. When using a computer your monitor should be an arm’s length from where you are sitting and the centre of the screen should be at or just below eye level. Keep your email closed while you are studying and your phone out of sight to stay focused.


Dale Rolfe is AAT's Content Manager.

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