Creating Your Personalized Study Roadmap—A Plan You Can Actually Stick To! 

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (pronounced: “Gerta.”) 

Let’s face it: there are only 24 hours in a day. Even if we had one extra hour, do you really honestly think of using that hour to study? Well, if you’re “Hermione Granger” from the Harry Potter books, you might (she is the uber-geek’s uber-geek!), and there’s nothing wrong with that. But most people just aren’t that way. We like having our personal time, away from the heavy mental lifting.

In truth, it’s not that you don’t have enough time in the day for your actuarial goals, it’s that you likely haven’t set aside the time you have to consistently work towards them. And yes, it can be very challenging. But there’s a tool you can use to carve out time for both your studies and your personal time and not feel guilty about enjoying the latter.


It’s called the Personalized Study Roadmap. You can use it to complete a plan you can actually stick to, especially while keeping in mind today’s quote.

Destination of This Journey 

By the end of the journey, you’ll be able to: 

  • Identify the five steps to creating a personalized study roadmap.
  • Actually use them to create that roadmap, which takes your life into account, giving you an honest picture of where you are in your studying at all times, and helps you build confidence and find the motivation to study. 

Once More: Start With You In Mind—The Non-Negotiables 

Remember when this was talked about a couple episodes ago? The importance of this concept—especially those non-negotiables–was really hammered home, and with good reason. Establishing the non-negotiables in your life helps set boundaries between your personal and professional life as far as your study plans go. 

But in case you missed out on episode 17, let’s recap what non-negotiables really are: 

They are those events, experiences and so on that might be happening prior to an exam. These events are ones you really cannot and should not give up, such as commitments to  family and friends, to weddings and baptisms, to spending time on other projects, or even just chilling with your friends. Whatever those events might be, map them out, put them on the calendar and protect them fiercely. 

Being specific here helps: list the dates and plan for them ahead of time.  Life happens, and life definitely wins out, so don’t fight it—go with the flow of life by planning for it. 

Step 2: Determine Weekly Study Hours 

So what are your weekly study hours? They’re the time that you must commit to in order to pass your exam. But again, life happens, you need to plan for it, and so you need to account for this when you’re planning your study time. 

As a rule of thumb, it’s recommended you study 100 hours for each hour of whatever exam you’re taking, so for a 3-hour exam, you need to put in 300 hours of study. But how to calculate how many hours a week when you’re accounting for life, your non-negotiables and everything? There’s a formula you can use called the Actuarial Journey Study Formula to solve this.

 Let’s say you plan to study more than 3 months prior to exam time, about 15 weeks. “Hope studying,” as you might know by now, is pointless and unrealistic. Especially since you might have a project that’s due during one of the weeks before exam time. So let’s put that week down as non-negotiable. 

Now, let’s move onto buffer weeks. What are “buffer” weeks? Those are the weeks where no matter how hard you try, things go off the rails. Life literally happens—events out of your control do a number on you and you fall off course. You need to bank on that. It’s a bit like a long commute to work—you know traffic will be heavy at a certain point, and if you have toll booths and lots of construction in your city (e.g. Chicago), you need to plan for both. Think of that in broader life terms and you’ll understand what you need to do. 

But don’t just plan on one buffer week, plan on two of them, and get ahead of studying before you have the remotest chance of falling behind, since one week will most likely be spent catching up on studying due to things that just plain pop up, out of your control.  The second week you’ll want to spend honing your skills a bit extra, and here’s why: 

One piece of advice you might want to take with you from this point on is: be able to pass the test a week before the actual exam. This means you should be looking to get a 7 or 8 on the exam by the week before. So the extra buffer week will allow you to hone the skills and up your chances of passing. 

To sum this up and get your adjusted number of study weeks, here’s the math:

You have 15 weeks before the exam, minus one week blocked off for that non-negotiable project, minus two buffer weeks, which leaves you with 12 weeks, or three months’ worth of actual studying. 300 hours of recommended study time divided by 12 gives you a very realistic and do-able 30 hours of study time a week. 

Now, doesn’t it make you feel a bit better to have that quantified and measurable, something you can take to your calendar and map out? 

Which brings us to: 

Step 3: Create Your “Default” Weekly Recurring Study Schedule. 

Let’s get a bit more quantified and real, here. 

Don’t just say “I’ll study for two hours on Wednesday.” Make that a definite time frame of 6-8 in the morning or evening. You can even think of it as an appointment, one you make with yourself—or you can think of it like a class or extracurricular event. Whatever helps you solidify it both in your mind and on the calendar, each meeting should have a definite start and end time.  

And whatever meetings you schedule whenever, this will be your standard study time. You really don’t want to skip this step because it will be the key indicator of when you need to study and when you don’t. 

This is where it can all come together with the Personalized Study Road Map. You’ve taken the time to map out everything that’s important to you, as well as your study times, you’ll really know what’s at stake if you don’t stay on top of business. 

That being said, when it’s time to study, make sure that that’s what you’re doing—as saying yes to something else—like cat memes—is saying no to something else, like studying. And you end up jeopardizing your chances of passing the next exam, as well as the things that are non-negotiable to you, whatever they are. 

Step 4: Adjust for the Non-Negotiables 

Okay, so you’ve created your default schedule. But wait. You’ve got some scheduling conflicts. How do you resolve this? 

Look at each time a non-negotiable event conflicts with a chosen block of study time. Then, look over the next two weeks. Where can you adjust and reschedule the study time? Use two weeks out from the conflicting events so you don’t feel pressured to add time in just one or two days. Spread it out over a longer period of time and it’ll be more manageable. But can you adjust for non-negotiables more than 2 weeks out? Of course you can. This will give you even more weeks to spread out missed time. 

Step 5: Track Your Progress 

You’ve created your schedule and adjusted for non-negotiables, but there’s one last thing you need to consider: tracking your progress. This could be just one red X through each day on your calendar, or it could be as elaborate as tracking each hour you spend on a given day. Whatever you do, schedule your tracking as well as everything else. 

You could also have an external system where you check in with an accountability partner, a study group or a special mentor. You can even do a combo of both personal and external. There really is no real right or wrong way—just whatever works for you, as long as it’s consistent, and that you adapt the system along the way. 

You’ve Reached Your Destination 

So, let’s recap the five steps and the destination for the journey: 

1) Establish non-negotiables.

2) Determine weekly study hours.

3) Create your “Default” schedule.

4) Adjust for non-negotiables—in case of conflicts.

5) Track your progress. 

You’ll want to be able to identify these five steps to create a Personalized Studying Roadmap, and actually use these steps to create a roadmap that: 

  • Takes your life into account.
  • Gives you an honest picture of where you are in your studies.
  • Helps you build confidence and gives you motivation to study even when you don’t want to. 

When you have a quantifiable, measurable path like this, it saves you loads of time and hassle, and you will know exactly where you are for your study time, as well as your personal life. 

Want more help with your journey?

  1. Actuarial Community: Feeling alone on your journey? Become a part of the Actuarial Journey Community!
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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?