Finding Time to Study While Working, And Science-Backed Ways for Making the Best of That Time

If you are single and studying full time for professional exams such as CIMA, you are one of the lucky ones. Most CIMA students are studying while they work. And quite a few have family obligations to deal with, including kids.

But passing your exams is also a priority, especially if you have already started. Putting off studies is never a good idea. You tend to lose momentum and also your motivation if you keep putting things off. 

Here are a few tips from successful professionals who managed to find time to study while working. 

1. Know yourself.

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Knowing your best learning styles, what times you study best, for how long you can effectively study at a stretch are all important. To effectively plan study time into your busy schedule, you need to know about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, your habits and preferences.

2. Make realistic study goals.

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First, spend a bit of time to create study goals for the time all the way up to the exams.

Allocate the total time, over each week to ensure all subjects are thoroughly covered.

Unrealistic goals will not get you to exam success. SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound—are what will make it work.

3. Plan and strategise

Include your timelines. How many subjects are you studying? Some of them may require more time than others. Decide how much time you plan to allocate for studying each subject. And how much time you want to allocate for practice tests.

Don’t forget to schedule enough time for breaks.

Be realistic. You may need to spend more hours to certain subjects than others. 

Stick to your plan.

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3. Allocate sufficient time for past papers and practice exams.
Practice exams are extremely important for successfully passing CIMA exams.

Studying is committing things to memory. Recall, as you do so with practice exams, is an entirely different process. To do well in CIMA or any other professional exams, you need practice not just in committing things to memory, but also with recall.  

Check out the practice exams available at the Practice Tests Academy. You can get instant access to FREE CIMA Demo Questions any OT professional CIMA exams by registering with Practice Tests Academy. Do it now.

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4. Your recall skills can be enhanced.

Aside from practice tests, there are other ways to enhance your memory and recall.

  • Using multiple hooks during the study process which you can then use for effective recall.
  • Making mind maps to summarize what you have studied is a great idea too. You can then hang to memory map on your wall to check it out at other times.
  • We would like to recommend you read Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. You can learn quite a few tips and tricks supported by neuroscience and psychology for enhancing your powers of recall.

home office350x2335. Create the best environment for study.

This depends on you of course, and where you live, and your family.

But good lighting, a relatively disturbance-free environment and times are best for anyone who is studying.

  • Reduce interruptions. Some people are more prone to disturbances than others.
  • Get everything you need in one place. That includes some water if you are thirsty and snacks if you need them.  
  • Sometimes your household or neighbourhood may be noisy at the times you study. Consider investing in noise cancelling earphones.
  • Tell others you are studying at certain times so they know not to interrupt.
  • Switch off your phone. Yes, that is possible and lots of people do it too, when they need to focus.
  • Make sure to silence the system alerts and to activate privacy settings on your phone, social media and email to improve your chances of concentration and focus.

6. multitasking 400x300Quit multitasking.

Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Ancient teachers like the Buddha and modern neuroscientists agree on this.

Are you used to listening to music while studying? Do you want the noise of the TV in the background? You are only making your brain less effective at learning, with these things.

Neuroscience shows that each time you look away, or think of something and try to get back your focus, you are wasting your brain capacity and time. Even though we are talking about milliseconds and microseconds here, these matter to your thought flow and focus.

7. Learn to focus.

The focus is a skill, not just a noun and a verb. This is one of the best skills any student or professional can learn to propel them towards success and excellence.

We recommend reading Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman.

Watch this video: Daniel Goleman speaking on Focus, the Hidden Driver of Excellence at Google. 

8. Experiment on how best you can focus.  

Experiment on how best you can focusWe can give you lists of ideas. But unless you try out a few ways that appeal to or work for you, you are not going to find how best to prep your own mind for studying.

Some may focus better after a nap. Others may focus better after a short session of quiet contemplation –or if you prefer to call it meditation.

Exercise works too. There is evidence that your hormones give you a high following physical exercise, which last for a number of hours afterwards. Studying during that time will make you more effective and more productive.

Also, before you study, sit down and take a minute to make a quiet resolution that you will make the best of the time available to you. Do not underestimate the power of resolution!


Untitled design 129. Free your mind. 

If there are pressing issues at work or home, it is best to be done with those first. Then you can focus on your studies. Otherwise they will be nagging you at the back of your mind preventing you concentrating on your studies. 


10. Know when to stop.

Remember the law of diminishing marginal returns? You learn best with a fresh mind. Not getting up from your desk for three hours may be an act of sheer will, but it is not doing yourself or your brain a favour. Nor is it really productive.

Instead its best to get up, stretch, do some fun thing for a change—whatever that works for you, such as taking a walk, playing a game, writing a poem, listening to music, a chat with friends or family, petting your dog or cat--and have the discipline to come back to study.

Grit is the most important quality for success. And nowhere is it more important than when you have to force yourself to sit down for a study session. 


Study with kids 11. If you have kids

Try to schedule study time when kids are asleep or otherwise occupied.

Older kids may respect your need for quiet time, but little ones can interrupt, and do so constantly. Find ways around this. Yes, you can.

If you and your friends who are studying together have the same issues, maybe you can arrange play dates to get you a bit of quiet time. And then do the same for your friends. It is all up to you. 


12. Too tired after work, to study?

Again, you have to find the best times to study. Are you an early bird or a night owl? By now you should know whether you study best at night or in the early morning hours. If you are studying full time, this is not an issue.

Consider what you can do to feel less tired.

How about some meditation? How about doing something relaxing? How about taking a walk or exercise. It all depends on you. A bath, a snack, a chat can all be relaxing and refreshing methods before you begin studying.

Just don’t sit down to study while you are tired to find yourself nodding off to sleep. It is far better to take a short nap and get to studying later. Getting sufficient sleep is good for your brain too and enhances cognition. Insufficient sleep can diminish cognition.  

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13. You must find the strength and persevere if you want to pass your professional exams.  

The whole idea of CIMA exams and the qualification is to make you a professional. That includes achieving a million things within the limited time you have at work. Successful people and unsuccessful people both have just 24 hours in a day.

Learning to manage time is a critical skill for professional success. Think of finding the time, and strategizing about making the most of study time, as a training for that career as a management accounting professional.

Keep visiting our blog for more articles that help CIMA students like you succeed. 

Is there anything particular you would like to read about? DO let us know by placing a comment below this post! Or simply drop us an email on



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