Think you don't have time for a course? You probably do

Jan 14, 2019

"I'd love to but I don't have time"

“I don’t have time” is for most of us a default justification to turn something down – be it an invitation or a request for help. It would be very hard to dispute it so more often than not we get away with it…the perfect excuse.

What type of "busy" are you?

There are two types of busy people: those who say they are busy and those who don’t. Generally, the ones who say they are “too busy” are actually procrastinating and not achieving a whole lot. The ones who don’t are quietly but efficiently getting on with the tasks at hand.

There is the old adage that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. The reason is pretty simple: the more you do, the more you can do. Why? Well, if you are busy and have a track record of getting things done you are likely a good project manager. You are assigned a task or engagement, guesstimate the resources required to complete it (the most important one being time), anticipate the hiccups that might arise, include contingency plans, factor in other things around that deadline and then either commit to it or delegate or turn it down.

The efficient task juggler automatically does this. When juggling four balls and thrown a fifth, it is unlikely to really destabilise them. They may need to concentrate a little harder, juggle a little faster but they apply the same technique and system to ball five that they did to balls one, two, three and four.

So, look at your own systems and ask why do you say “no”. If you are considering taking on a course of study and have already said “no”, have another look. Why not make this the year of “yes”?

Look at your week and maximise your time

Look at a week. That’s 168 hours. Hopefully, you’ll be asleep for about 50 of these. If you work full time, take away your working week – for argument’s sake let’s say 40. If you commute, take away another 10 or so. If you have children you can lop off another 25. You might also have leisure commitments like sport or a choir that entails training or rehearsals not to mention matches and performances; maybe you volunteer in a community group; you may care for or have to visit parents or family members? Time is precious for all of us. If you take out all of your commitments you might have about 30 hours to do other things. For most things, that’s plenty.

A professional development course will take about 10 hours out of your week. That’s reading, working on an assignment, exam preparation, watching recorded content, attending a class. So how might you fit this in? The key is to be opportunistic and grasp any time you have no matter how small a slice and make it productive. The time required will not be in a convenient block so this is where you will need to apply those project management skills.

Do you spend 10 minutes on a bus in the mornings? Put away the smartphone, and take out your notes. Maybe it’s a little longer. Even better, jot down some notes towards your assignment. Can you spend time on your lunchbreak to Google some resources or background reading? Are you the chaperone for your kids GAA training on a Saturday morning? Great! There’s some time to sit in the clubhouse or car and read some more, you might get through a full module in that time. A half day on Sunday? There’s time to really concentrate on a bigger chunk to reread a module, to work on an assignment or prepare for your exam.

This is not intended to trivialise or to make it sound easy. It’s not. You do have to put in the effort and more importantly to make the commitment to doing it consistently. Even the best juggler only has two hands. You can only keep this up for so long because eventually something can slip and fall. The reason this can work for you is that it is finite. The juggling of that extra ball has an end time – you can let it go within a reasonable timeframe of starting.

Remember the balance

Taking on more than you can reasonably do means that you will at best let yourself and others down. The worse outcome is that something major in your life suffers like the work project, your job, your relationship, friendships, family life or mental health. Don’t be afraid to prioritise and call in the help. If it’s not possible to do it, what can you delegate for six months? Do you need to get a babysitter for a few hours a week to let you study in peace? Can you give up your lunch breaks a couple of days a week to catch up on reading? Can you get a cleaner in once a week to take that off your to-do list?

One of the most important things to remember is your own downtime. Don’t negotiate on this. You will still need me-time. If that’s a trip to the cinema, a long walk with the dog, a jog around the block, a Netflix binge, put the books away and keep that in your diary.  

If you need some help, there are a number of project management tools online that can be very helpful. Some are aimed at teams and some at individuals. If you find these cumbersome and just one more password to remember, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned diary, Post-It notes or to-do list or even an Excel spreadsheet laying out your tasks and timelines.

If you want to explore software, have a look at:

These are just three but there are plenty out there, not to mention any number of books and courses.

The most important thing is to keep the end goal in mind and that’s you and your personal and professional development. Take a good look at your hours, days, weeks and see how to improve your months and years. It is more than likely that you can find the time, it is there if you are savvy about how to find it and use it.

So many benefits

Don’t forget to look beyond the qualification and see the softer skills you will learn: time management, workload management, self-care, resilience, project management that you will inevitably be able to apply to other aspects of your work, home and social life. And you might make some new friends and professional connections along the way too.

Win win!

Good luck and happy juggling.

 Amy Dawson is on the Professional Development team at Chartered Accountants Ireland. The new Certificate and Diploma programmes for spring 2019 are starting shortly and booking is open now. There will be a free open evening for these on Wednesday 23 January for which you can register here.