Busy season is the period of time between the beginning of the year and the end of the accounting season for public accounting professionals. For audit professionals, this is usually March 15 while tax season typically runs through April 15. It’s the busiest time of year for CPA firms, hence the name “busy season.”
This time of year can seem daunting and exciting for accounting professionals. It’s so rewarding to get through, but the long hours do take up a fair amount of your time. If you’re studying for the CPA Exam during busy season, it can truly seem impossible. But with a few tips and tricks, you can not only have a successful busy season, but you can pass at least one section of the CPA Exam as well. Whether it’s your first busy season or you’re a seasoned professional, we’ll give you six tips to survive busy season and pass the CPA Exam by maximizing your time and minimizing your stress.
Get everyone onboard
Before you do anything else this busy season, let everyone know your schedule is going to be crazy for the next few months. Be as specific as possible and let them know the specific hours you’re going to be busy during the day and which days you work during the week. This sets initial expectations and helps family and friends understand when you can’t make social gatherings or are often later than normal coming home. By setting this expectation early, you can spend more time working or studying guilt free.
Having said that, it’s also important to schedule time with your friends and family to relax and recharge. Occasionally catching up with your normal social circles will help you decompress from a full schedule of work and study, and it will help you show up to your next obligation feeling great instead of drained. This may look like having a family dinner every Sunday night or having a date night with your significant other once a week.
The second thing you need to do post-scheduling time with friends and family is to schedule your own personal downtime each week. In this case, let’s think of downtime as activities that help you recharge your batteries. If you work out regularly, skipping the gym for a couple of months isn’t going to make you feel great, and both your work and study efficiency will suffer. So it’s really important to prioritize the activities that you were consistently doing before busy season that made you feel better inside and out.
To maintain your work-life balance, be very specific. Pick ideal dates and times and shift your schedule around to accommodate those activities. Instead of saying, “I’m going to run at the end of the day three times a week,” say, “I’m going to run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6 to 7 p.m.” Maybe you can add two or three extra hours of study or work in on the weekend to accommodate spending a few hours a week on your downtime activity. Having this downtime scheduled will make you feel happier and more energized, which will directly translate into more efficient work and study times (i.e. working smarter, not harder).
Don’t let travel kill positive vibes
It’s easy to fall out of step when you travel a lot during busy season. Travel is hard on your body, it takes a fair amount of time, and there are plenty of obstacles to keep you from working and studying (hello terrible airport wifi). You should plan ahead for this and do everything you can to keep the positive vibes running while you travel. For busy season studying, find a course that has a mobile app that can be utilized during travel. Even better is a course that comes with free flashcards you can swipe through as you wait in a security line, sit on the tarmac, or wait for your Uber.
Also, despite any travel, it’s really important that you still stick with your downtime that you scheduled above. Most anything you can do at home to unwind you can do while you travel.
Create a study schedule
Scheduling seems to be a big part of maximizing your time during busy season, doesn’t it? The reality is that scheduling (and sticking to your schedule) can work wonders on your sanity. Since accountants tend to be natural born planners, it only feeds into us feeling more together and accomplished during the busiest time of year. Studying for the CPA Exam during busy season definitely warrants its own schedule. Build a study plan in Excel or via pencil and paper that notes when you’re going to study during the week and for how long. If you’re a really efficient planner, you can also note what you’ll study during each of your study sessions.
However, if you simply don’t have time to put a study schedule together during busy season (and let’s be honest, who does?), you should find a CPA review course that does the work for you. Remember, we’re all about working smarter, not harder during busy season.
All of Surgent CPA Review’s courses create a study schedule for you based on when your test date is, when you can study, and the duration of time you have to study during each session. It then adapts as you move through the material so it automatically updates what you need to study each day. Your Daily Surge shows up every day on your dashboard and includes videos, quiz questions, and reading material that are good “next steps” based on your progress. There’s no guesswork in your study plan, helping you study as efficiently as possible day to day. Obviously, this is a huge advantage if you’re trying to study for the CPA Exam during busy season.
Utilize time-saving technology
Saving time and studying fewer hours to pass a section of the CPA Exam is a necessary recipe if you’re studying during busy season (and we’ll take it during any other time of year also). Adaptive learning technology is a great way to save you time while studying. The best technologies consider real CPA Exam weightings while also adapting to your strengths and weaknesses as you move through the course. This means the technology helps you become well rounded based on what’s most important and highest weighted on the actual CPA Exam. And it does it in a shorter amount of time than if you were to try and review the weightings and analyze your progress on your own.
Surgent’s CPA Exam Review Courses utilize A.S.A.P.® Technology by implementing a real-time algorithm that identifies where you need help. Your course schedule then automatically adapts to help you work on these weaker areas. Surgent also has MyMCQ™, which efficiently pushes you toward your next level of proficiency in any CPA Exam topic. Instead of wasting time on multiple choice questions you’ve already mastered, MyMCQ adapts and increases the difficulty of the questions, pushing you to reach the level of proficiency you need to pass the CPA Exam. You’ll study more efficiently and for less time while still mastering the skills you need to pass the CPA Exam.
Know when you’re ready to sit for the CPA Exam
Chances are your decision fatigue is at an all-time high during busy season. Your brain is working hard with very few breaks, so trying to decide if you’re ready to sit for the CPA Exam is like trying to decide which show you should watch next on Netflix: next to impossible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just ploughing through multiple choice questions whenever you can with no end in sight, while also feeling like you’re not ready to sit and pass yet. However, with Surgent’s adaptive learning technology, you’ll know exactly when you’re ready to sit and pass. And the sooner you can sit and pass, the sooner you can move on to the next exam, take a break for a few weeks, or celebrate passing all four parts of the CPA Exam.
Through Surgent’s ReadySCORE™ feature, you’ll be able to track what your relative CPA Exam score would be at any point during the course. You can monitor how you’re doing overall and how you’re doing by topic and pinpoint exactly when you’re ready to take the Exam, saving you both time and brainpower, both of which you’ll need during busy season.
Hopefully these 6 tips and tricks have inspired you to take busy season head on and maximize your work, study, and play time. If you’re studying for the CPA Exam and are ready to study while taking on busy season, check out Surgent CPA Review. You may just leave this busy season with one more section of the CPA Exam conquered.