Achieving Your Perfect Work/Life Balance As An Actuary
For many, juggling the responsibilities of daily life can prove to be a real challenge. This is true for aspiring actuaries and those already in the field. Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of these people. With just a small mindset change and a little bit of preparation, we’re going to show you exactly how to supercharge your work/life balance.
These strategies will especially work for you if:
- You’re trying to change careers, but are struggling to find time outside of your job to study.
- You’re an aspiring actuary who needs help balancing life with college.
- You’re already working in the field, but feel as if something is missing.
What challenges do you face?
We’ve been in your position. Without an optimized work/life balance, you may feel as if you’re “sacrificing” important areas of your life just to pass your tests. You may feel as if you’re studying too much, thus putting yourself at risk of getting burned out.
Conversely, you may have difficulties finding the time to study. Maybe you feel guilty when you go out with friends, or take some time off, because you’re not studying.
Does any of this resonate with you? There doesn’t have to be a trade-off between doing well on your actuarial journey and doing well in other areas of your life. You can have fun and be happy without feeling guilty about not studying.
Whether you’re a father, a mother, single, married, a construction worker, a lawyer, a singer, or (fill in the blank!) You’ll be pleased to find that these strategies can truly work for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort required to make a change in their lives.
Here’s what you’ll be learning:
- How to define YOUR ideal work/life balance.
- About the number one word that halts your progress, why it’s poisonous, and how to eliminate it from your vocabulary.
- The three step framework to implementing your work/life balance.
- The most common mistake Journeyers make and how to avoid it.
- How to define exactly WHEN you need to study, and when you DON’T.
Defining your ideal work/life balance.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but the term “work/life balance” means different things to different people. What works for you may not work so well for the next guy. You need to determine what your priorities are. You need to prioritize.
Don’t worry, we know how shallow that advice is. “Prioritize” is a word that gets passed around like bubble gum. Like all shallow advice, most people have no problem giving it, and few people actually elaborate on how to apply it to your life.
So, allow us to be one of the few.
“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” -Greg Keown
In order to understand what your ideal work/life balance is, it’s helpful to understand first what it’s not.
- Your work/life balance will not necessarily be a true balance. You will not always allocate equal amounts of time to work and life. (If you have 5 roles and 5 hours, you won’t always give one hour to each role.)
- Your work/life balance will rarely be the same as someone else’s. You are your own unique person, with your own challenges, priorities, and drawbacks.
- Your work/life balance will not be a series of shortcuts and workarounds. You need to put in the time/effort required to achieve what you want.
- Your work/life balance does not involve trying to avoid fundamental truths. You need to get proper amounts of sleep. You need exercise. You need 100 hours of studying per hour of an exam.
So, what is your ideal work/life balance and how do you find it? The place to start is at the definition.
Having an ideal work/life balance is having the time to do the things you WANT to do, while still having the time to do the things you NEED to do.
Logically, the first thing you need to do is determine what’s important to you. You also need to recognize the difference between urgency and importance. Something can be important without being urgent, and vice versa.
Next, you’re going to want to implement a technique known as counter-balancing. By doing this, you accept that there’s no such thing as a perfect work/life balance. Instead of trying to do a little bit of everything, allotting a specific amount of time to each task, you focus on what’s important, and consciously pursue those things over others.
When you do this, things will go off “balance”, and that’s okay. You’ll be more productive and moving closer towards your ideal work/life balance.
Read this article for more about counter-balancing.
Now, we come across a paradox. That is, if the method one uses for achieving a perfect work/life balance involves purposefully bringing things out of balance, then how can we call it a “balance?”
Because of this paradox, we like to refer to the ideal work/life balance as the study lifestyle. This name is much more suitable for your goal. If you think about it, you won’t be able to achieve the perfect work/life balance until it becomes a part of who you are.
When you master the study lifestyle, you’ll have time to do the things you WANT to do, while still having time to do the things you NEED to do!
Now, let’s talk about loss aversion.
Some of you may already be familiar with the term, but to those who are not, allow us to demonstrate:
Let’s play a game. We’ll call it “the quarter game”. In this game, we flip a quarter. If it lands on heads, I have to give you one hundred dollars. If it lands on tails, you have to give me one hundred dollars.
Do you want to play this game?
Most people would say no. Why? Even though you have fifty percent chance of winning, you also have a fifty percent chance of losing…
This example demonstrates loss aversion beautifully. Loss aversion simply states that, psychologically, we tend to place a greater emotional weight on losing something than we do on gaining something.
In other words, the pain of loss is stronger than the reward/pleasure of gain.
Studies show that the fear of loss is about twice as strong as the reward with gaining something. Back to the example; To get you to play, I’d likely have to double my offer to two hundred dollars when the quarter lands on heads.
So, what does this have to do with achieving your study lifestyle?
Simply put, we tend to view studying as “losing something” or “giving something up.”
“I want to go to the game tonight, but I have to study.”
“I’d really love to go to the movies with you, but I have to study.”
“I can’t go to the beach today. I have to study.”
Do any of those quotes contain something you’ve thought about before? Chances are, you believe that you’re “giving up” something to study.
If you think that you have to sacrifice something to pass your exams and become an actuary, you’ll never achieve the study lifestyle.
“Sacrifice”. This is the number one word that holds you back. Remove it from your vocabulary, and don’t let it alter your mindset.
Now that you’re aware of loss aversion, you need to make it work FOR you, not against you. A good exercise to accomplish this is to write down what you have to lose if you don’t study, pass your exams, and accomplish your goal of becoming an actuary.
This will serve as a powerful reminder to place your top priorities before anything else, even if they aren’t urgent. And you’ll be one step closer to achieving the study lifestyle.
So far, we’ve learned that the perfect work/life balance is actually called the study lifestyle.
We’ve learned what the study lifestyle is NOT, and we’ve covered some valuable steps and strategies for achieving it. We talked about counter-balancing and loss aversion.
Ready? Let’s keep moving.
Implementing the three step process to start your study lifestyle
The three step process is simple, yet effective.
- Put first things first.
- Schedule your study times, start and end. Be specific.
- Set routines.
When implementing this process, the most important skill you’ll need is self-discipline. Whether you’re already strong with this skill, or you’re just starting out, you’ll be cultivating it by following this process!
First things first.
In his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey emphasis how effective people give more attention to those activities that will make the most difference in their lives.
And, as we talked about earlier, they recognize the difference between something that’s important and something that’s urgent.
For example, a text message from your friend can be urgent. However, that doesn’t mean it’s important.
By putting first things first, and by knowing the difference between importance and urgency, effective people are able to create a schedule where massive action is taken towards things that make a massive difference. Over time, the life-altering effects are of this are also massive.
After analyzing what your important activities are, you can start crafting the schedule for your study lifestyle. Usually, the best time to get your studying done is in the morning. By getting things done in the morning, you’ll feel empowered and “free” for the rest of the day.
Here’s an example:
Mon-Fri: Study from 5am-7am. Work 9am-5pm.
Sat: Study from 8am-12pm.
You may not be able to picture yourself waking up that early, but think about the compounding effect it will have on your life. If you follow the schedule above, you’ll be giving yourself fourteen extra hours per week of studying. That’s fifty-six hours per month.
The benefits of starting early and putting first things first will extend far beyond studying. You’ll find yourself having the time you need to hang out with your family, work on other projects, and relax or play.
Schedule your study times.
According to one of Actuarial Journey’s recent surveys, “finding the time to study” ranked among the top of the numerous challenges that students face.
How do you avoid this? Well, as long you are trying to “find” the time to study, you’ll have trouble doing it. You have to make the time.
When you schedule and write down your study times, you turn it from a hope/dream into a goal. While it may not seem like much, the physical act of taking your desire to study and putting it down on paper will move mountains over time.
As you follow and adhere to your schedule, it becomes part of who you are. It becomes a segment of your lifestyle. Your study lifestyle.
So, clearly schedule WHEN you are going to study, and when you are going to STOP doing. Then, actually DO it. Your self-discipline will be tested.
By following the first two steps, you will naturally begin to fall into routines. Don’t let this happen to you. You need to purposely set your routines. This keeps you in control and helps you stick to your schedules.
When you set your routines, you’ll be able to define exactly what you do to follow your schedules and how you do it. For example, if your schedule says that you must study every day from 5AM-8AM, your routine might be something like this:
- On the night before, make sure all study materials are in order, in place, and ready to go. Make sure clothes for the day are already out, ready to put on.
- Wake up at 4:45. Brush teeth, drink three glasses of water, stretch and meditate for five minutes.
- Begin studying. Study in 45 minute blocks, taking 5 minute breaks. Eat fruit and nuts to stay energized during the session.
- Finish the session. Reward yourself with a nice, nutritious breakfast.
A positive side effect to setting routines is that people will start to respect your time. They know that you’re going to be busy every day during certain times, and will not bother you or try to schedule something during that time. They’ll also know where to find you in case of an emergency.
Learn from the mistakes of others.
Living the study lifestyle takes practice and self-discipline. It all starts with your mindset; what you see and what you believe in. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to find out that the most common mistake people make is simply employing the wrong mindset, or, even worse, a dangerous mindset.
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” – Abraham Maslow
The “hammer” mindset is born from the neglect to put first things first, schedule your study times, and establish routines.
As an aspiring actuary, you know that you need to spend tons of hours studying. However, without these study lifestyle tools, you will tend to view every minute as potential study time. As a result, whenever you’re not studying, you will begin to suffer from loss aversion. You will get overwhelmed. You will feel as if you aren’t making any progress.
Avoid this by implementing the tools we talked about earlier. When you have your study lifestyle scheduled and planned out, you have full control over when to use your hammer and bang out some study time.
We’ve covered a lot of content in a short period of time. You’ve learned about every tool you need to successfully adopt a study lifestyle. You know about counter-balancing, and how a perfect work/life balance cannot be achieved. You are aware of loss aversion, and how to make it work for you.
You know the three step process that will bring your study lifestyle to fruition. And, finally, you know the number one mistake to avoid.
With your newfound knowledge, get out there and make your study lifestyle a reality. And remember, self-discipline is the most essential skill you’ll need along your actuarial journey.
Want more help with your journey?
- Actuarial Community: Feeling alone on your journey? Become a part of the Actuarial Journey Community!
- Create a study plan you’ll actually stick to!: This free video series will show you the step-by-step process to create you own Personalized Study Roadmap and design your Study Lifestyle
- Actuarial Job Course: a completely free full-length course with videos, worksheets, tools, and community all geared to help your get your entry-level actuarial job and start your actuarial career.
- Actuarial Journey Podcast: Get more insights and lessons learned each week sent directly to your phone!
Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?