Studying While Working
“Live your life like others won’t, so you can live like others can’t.”–Unknown
When you’re in school, be it college or grad school, or even studying for your actuarial exams, you’re likely also trying to work and earn a living as well.
Work, along with other activities in your life, such as spending time with friends and family, or your hobbies, can take up a lot of your time. And granted, it’s natural to want to do well at our jobs. We want to excel and shine at what we do.
But how to do this while studying?
Destination of this Journey
Today’s destination is about laying the foundation to what’s called “The Study Brand.”
By the end of the journey, you should be able to do the following:
- Have a clear picture and definition of what a study brand is.
- Be able to go through the specific steps to identify what you want your study brand to be.
- Understand what your study brand is right now.
What Is the Study Brand, Pt. I: A Story.
Let’s have a bit of fun and look at what a study brand is by comparing two hypothetical people in two different scenarios. One we’ll call Ariel and the other, we’ll call Baloo.
Both Ariel and Baloo are taking the FM2 exams in August. They work at the same company, have the same exact study schedule and while they might be on different teams and work with different products, they have a lot of overlap in who their managers are and the type of work they do.
All right, exam registration time. Ariel knows for sure she wants to take it in August, so she registers for the exam in May right after she makes that decision. Baloo also knows he wants to take it, but he knows there’s a big project coming up during the summer, and he’s got some vacation time. He ultimately wants to make sure if it makes sense to register.
Ariel, on the other hand, communicates her decision to her managers and gets approval from them. She informs her teams that she’ll be taking her study days on Wednesday and plans to be totally offline those days. Baloo also tells people he’s taking the FM2 but only when they ask him about summer plans.
About two months prior to the exam date, a new project comes up. Ariel already began taking her study days in May, which was easy for her to do because the workload remained consistent.
When informed about the project, Ariel asks when the project is due. The reply? Two weeks before she’s due to take the exam. She promptly talks with her manager about the situation, and it’s agreed that she can have her Wednesday study dates as long as she helps the team meet the needs of the project.
So, let’s see how Baloo handles the situation. He sent out his study schedule, and two weeks after he starts studying, he’s informed about a project that’s due the same time: two weeks before the exam. Baloo decides to take on the project, knowing it’s important to do well on that, plus he wants to do well on the exam. He’s ready and willing to go all out and “crush it” on both the exam and the work project.
Back to Ariel: she works with her team to make sure deadlines don’t fall on Wednesdays, even if it means putting in extra time on Tuesdays and Thursdays to see that the project keeps running smoothly while she’s studying.
Here’s where Ariel really communicates loudly and clearly about her intentions to study on Wednesdays: she has an auto-office message with her phone number available for emergencies and stating very explicitly she’s offline for the day.
Baloo’s approach is a bit different. He wants to make sure he’s there for his team 100% of the time, or as close to it as possible. His goal is to ensure that nothing has to change even though his exam is coming up. He makes himself even more available, even checking his emails periodically throughout his study days to answer questions if they come up. His email check-in times are 9:30 AM, 12:30 PM (after lunch), and again at 4:30 pm during his study breaks just so he can answer quick questions.
So, what do Ariel and Baloo’s study days actually look like? Let’s check those out.
Ariel goes to a remote place to focus on her studying, and she’s even got an application called “Rescue Time,” in order to block sites like Facebook and Netflix, just so she’s not distracted, let alone tempted to be distracted. For her, when it’s study time, it’s study time, and that’s that.
Baloo also goes to a quiet place to study, either in his house or a different part the office somewhere. Like Ariel, he’s also good about his plans. He checks his emails at the designated times he’s set up for himself. Plus this is a good way for him to keep thinking about the other stuff in his life. Also, things have been falling away in his personal life—including his laundry pile. So he’s even able to take care of that during his study days.
In August, one person passed the exam and the other person got exceptional reviews on the project. Between Ariel and Baloo, who do you think got better results with the exam and who had better results with the project.
What is the Study Brand, Pt II
First off, let’s reiterate what a brand is. At the core, a brand is an identifying mark. Beyond that, there’s the perceptions and feelings associated with that mark, or logo. In our daily lives, we see brands and logos all the time. Whether it’s between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, or Coke and Pepsi, for cola drinks, and so on. Even when choosing a place to work you might apply “brand logic” to your choice—it definitely goes beyond a pretty picture on a sign. You end up choosing a company according to what it stands for.
“But I’m not a business,” you might say. “Why should I be concerned about building a brand?”
To tell you the truth, you are in the business of you. You have a product you’re selling and you have your life. It might be the work you do at your job, where you’re paid with your salary and bonuses, or it might be where someone listens to you, and you’re paid with their time. Believe it or not, your brand determines how effective you are. Are you known for getting things done and achieving great results for the company? Or perhaps maybe you’re the person people go to if they’ve got relationship issues.
Ultimately, these are brought about because of your brand and how people perceive you.
So concerning your study brand, what perceptions do people have about your studying? Do they respect your study time and support you in your endeavors? Or do they know that you might still go out with them if they ask enough times, even if you’ve designated that day as study day?
Your study brand is a term best described as the perception your friends and family have about your studying. The study brand helps you avoid having to constantly explain that you’re studying. When the brand you put forth is consistent, and you actually act on it, or what you might call “positive study brand delivery,” the folks in your life come to understand and respect it. Over time, you’ll have to explain less and less why you can’t go out on Thursdays or that you’re no longer canceling and rescheduling study times for family events.
What might even end up happening is that you start attending more family dinners and evenings out with friends than before and the studying is still going well for you.
“How does that work?” you ask. It’s because you’ve established, communicated and delivered on your study brand. People know you’re taking your studying seriously and they’re the ones that need to plan ahead and schedule around your consistent study times in advance.
Three Phases of a Study Brand
Let’s go back to Ariel and Baloo real quickly. One did well on the exam and the other did well on the project. Out of the two, whom did you think had the better exam results, and who had the better project results?
The answer is Ariel, for both the project and the exam. Did that surprise you, or not?
If it surprised you, you’re not alone. Let’s shine a light on why Ariel did so well on both her exam and the project. It’s about the three phases of a successful study brand.
1) Establish It. This is where you set expectations. These are actually twofold. Ariel set expectations for herself that she would register for the August exam in May. She committed to that exam date. She then set external expectations from others, and others knew what to expect from her.
2) Communicate. Ariel left no one out of the loop concerning her plans and defined everything clearly. In exchange for her being able to study on Wednesdays, Ariel committed to working extra on the project on the day before and day after. And she also mentioned her study days on her team calls and set her auto-office alert so that people would know she was unavailable.
Now, this is not a “soft unavailable,” where you make yourself available even when you say you’re not. She left a name and number so she could be reached in emergencies, which allowed her to not be tethered to her computer all the time. She could have her physical materials with her and not have to be on the computer at the same time.
3) Deliver It. This is the final phase of the successful study brand. This is where Ariel really shone. She lived her study brand. Ben Franklin really hit it on the head with one of his famous quotes: “Well done is better than well said.” By being offline and waiting for people to talk to her, Ariel lived her brand, and the office manager was able to plan far in advance so there were no Wednesday deadlines. Ariel reciprocated by putting in more time on Tuesdays and Thursdays to make the project a success.
You’ve Reached Your Destination
Let’s recap here: you are in the business of you, and you have a brand you carry around with you. It’s how you establish, communicate and deliver your brand that you continue to succeed at having a good work-life balance.
You should now have an idea of what a study brand is and the three phases that allow you to successfully deliver your brand:
- Deliver it.
Studying while working and having a good work-life balance doesn’t have to be a big challenge. The more you realize that you are in the business of you and that you have a responsibility to establish, communicate and deliver on your study brand, which can be applied to other parts of your life, the better your chances of really nailing the kind of work-life balance you really want.
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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?