Starting Again

Something very strange happened to me at the gym at the weekend. In the middle of a (rather hard) spin session. I smiled. Positively beamed in fact! What on earth had happened?? I had got ‘back in the zone’.

For those of you who were good enough to read some of my previous posts, I am currently in training for something called Tough Mudder which is happening in 14 weeks (ahhh!). As such, I’m heading to the gym on a regular basis to prepare. And what I’m trying to do is draw parallels from my training / experiences to help you guys studying for your ACCA exams at the moment. There are a lot of similarities, believe me! Anyway, the purpose of this post is to tell you all about getting back in the zone – so coming back to training / studying after a break.

I had a very busy December with conferences, Christmas parties, Exam reviews, a short holiday, a longer holiday, which meant I didn’t really get to the gym probably for over a month. Oops. But everyone needs some down time. I wouldn’t expect (or want!) you guys to come out of your exams at the start of December and start studying again for the next sitting. Your brain (and your sanity) needs some time off. But this leaves you with a problem. Starting again…

Starting something can be scary. But starting something when you have a fair idea of what you’re letting yourself in for (without the novelty of it being new and exciting) can be worse. So what do you do?

1.       Make a plan.

Sit down and make a plan for what you’re going to do. I could spend (maybe) hours wandering around the shiny machines, watching the classes going on, without actually doing anything. Fitness, like learning, unfortunately doesn’t happen by osmosis. Think about:

  • When (how much time do you have to study? Evenings/Weekends/Lunch-hours?)
  • What (what will you spend your precious time doing? Reviewing the assumed knowledge? Reading around the topic? Using your free starter pack to get ahead with the first stage of studying?)
  • Why (now this might seem strange, but why are you studying? Keeping our goal in mind helps to focus the mind and improve motivation. Did you not have enough time to study your last paper? Did you struggle with the assumed knowledge? Do you want to be the next prizewinner?)

2.       Don’t go too hard too soon.

I could have thrown myself back into the gym, all guns blazing, every class, three times a day for the first three days… and then I probably would have injured myself (or possible worse). Your brain (and concentration) are like muscles – you need to start gently to get them warmed up, building up to longer periods of studying. Ease yourself back into studying – and take this into account on your timetable, start nice and gently watching the paper overview or reading the recent exam review. Then crack on with looking at knowledge topics.

3.       Persevere

My first session back at the gym was horrible. Actually horrible. It hurt. I was rubbish. I’d gone ‘backwards’ in ability. And I find it really difficult when I’m not good at something. Starting to study again can be similar. You start to look at the assumed knowledge and realise you have forgotten some/most/all of what you’d done before. And it feels like you’re back at square one.

But don’t despair! Once you start to go back over things (a kind of very delayed revision…) you’ll start to jog your memory. It won’t take as long to get back to where you were as it did when you first started. So stick with it. You’ll start to remember bits and then more and then you’ll be back firing on full cyclinders!

Then, before you know it, having worked out what you were doing, easing into it and sticking with it, you’ll suddenly find yourself smiling having just done a lecture example / question on a topic that you thought was horrible. And you’ll feel awesome (but hopefully less sweaty than I was at the time…) and ready to get back to class. Amazing indeed!

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