The secret to balancing work and study

aat comment

AAT Distance Learner of the Year 2016 Thomas Brinsley knows a thing or two about time management.

Thomas works full time at Nestlé’s York HQ and has a five-hour daily roundtrip, leaving home at 6am and not arriving back till 8pm. Thomas dedicates his commute to studying, as well as often spending a few hours revising in the office after work.

This high level of dedication and self-motivation has not come without moments of self-doubt but Thomas has been able to turn to his tutor for encouragement. Sacrifices to his personal life have also been made: “I have always said there was no way I would allow my personal and course commitments to impact the quality of my job performance. I will make time for both and if sacrifices have to be made, they will be in my spare time – mates will have to wait. I think of that as a small sacrifice for a lifetime of reward, as cheesy as that may sound.”

After every assessment it gets a little easier, you get such a huge sense of accomplishment because you are the reason you managed it.

Thomas’ top distance learning tips

  • Make the most of all resources available to you: Thomas uses study support available from AAT, as well as from his training provider. He watches every video and talks to every tutor. “The more you take in, the better you’ll be,” he says.
  • Timetable work, study and fun: “If you have your time planned out as to when you work, study and have free time, then there shouldn’t be any surprises and you should be able to get a good mix of the three.”
  • Be strict with yourself: “Make sure you study when you should be studying rather than saying ‘I’ll just do it tomorrow’. It’s something that I really struggled with at the beginning. However, after every assessment it gets a little easier, you get such a huge sense of accomplishment because you are the reason you managed it.”
  • Keep going: “If you fall down, it will most likely be because you keep putting off studying. If you do that then it just gets harder to find momentum again.”
  • Reward yourself: If you do well at revision or ace an assessment, give yourself a reward to remain motivated.
  • Realise that if you struggle with a unit it’s not the end: “I believe it’s important to not give up because you’re struggling with a unit.” Ask for help, contact your tutor and stay focused knowing that everyone feels this way at some point.”
  • If you can’t study one week, spread the hours out over the next two or three weeks: “If you miss studying for one week, chances are it isn’t likely that you will study twice as much the next week, so I recommend spreading it out over multiple weeks. As few as possible, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you can’t spread it over two or even three weeks.”

Thomas believes that if you’re distance learning, nothing compares to actually taking the plunge, as you’ll never really know your capabilities until you do.

“It requires a lot of work. I find keeping detailed lists and timelines helps me, but it all comes down to the person and what suits your learning style,” says Thomas. “At the end of the day everyone is different and what is difficult for one person may be easy for another. It’s important to remember that even though you’re not face-to-face with a teacher, you’re not alone. The tutors are fantastic and there to offer any support they can.”

“I chose AAT because of the incredible reputation the association has for distance learning, as well as for taking people from being completely unqualified to being respected professionals within the finance function,” concludes Thomas.

While Thomas admits that distance learning has been extremely challenging, it has been even more rewarding. “I definitely believe I made the right decision to study in this format.”

Thomas’ determination has paid off, and quickly. Thomas began working at Nestlé as part of their Youth Employment Work Experience Programme. Several months into his work experience and his AAT qualification, Thomas was approached by a firm with a good salary offer. He consulted Nestlé about the situation and they made a significantly more attractive offer, aware they were not willing to lose Thomas’ prodigious talent and dedication to his job. Nestlé offered Thomas the full-time position of business analytics executive, as well as to fund the remainder of his AAT qualification and then his CIMA qualification.

Browse the full range of AAT study support resources here

Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.

Related articles