Work to live, not live to work

Burnt matches
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

19 September 2016

You’re studying to become an extraordinary CA, and you’re also working hard within your training firm to apply the knowledge and skills you have developed with ICAS. How well do you juggle competing priorities to avoid burnout? We’ve got simple tips to help reduce the stress.

Long hours, requests for caffeine infusions and the odd late night can apply pressure to even the most organised and zen-like individual, and it’s something that all of our students will experience at some point in their career.

One of the key ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed with workload is acknowledging and feeling like you have a life outside of this, which creates a peaceful place for your busy brain. 

It may not be possible to reduce the number of hours that you work, but it is possible to work smarter and plan better for a happy and fulfilled life.

Track time

What is it that you do every day, and how long does it take you? Keep a log of your average week, and note the balance between work activities and your personal life. Think of this stage as the assessment for whether your life could be streamlined for happiness at every stage.

Make time

Now that you have your daily log, investigate ways to shave minutes and hours off of your days and weeks by adjusting tasks for optimal results. Need to commute? Check you’re using the fastest route, or if a slightly earlier train can make the same journey, avoiding rush-hour. You can then use your commute to book your supermarket shop, process emails, or organise priorities for the day ahead.

Also, have a think about quick-cook meals, or become inspired by the ‘meal-prep queens’ who post photos of their perfectly organised meals for each day of the week (hint: it’s essentially the same three meals multiplied by seven!).

Get yourself a lunch box (or more than a few) and think about a healthy meal that could be prepped, and frozen if needed, at the weekend and enjoyed during the week. 

Whether that’s rainbow salads for lunch or vegetarian lasagna for dinner, you’ll suddenly find several hours of time have become available, and you haven’t sacrificed your health to do so! 

What’s more, some successful individuals swear by it as a sure-fire way to free up your brainpower for more pressing matters.

Do something that makes you happy at least once a day

Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, told Inc. Magazine that he uses his train commute to help cement relationships and improve his mood; by writing three thank you cards a day for individuals in his life, such as staff, investors, and partners.

He chooses handwritten formats to cut down on email volume and add a personal touch: “It allows me to focus on others and transforms my mood from bad to good, from good to great, or from great to ecstatic.

“You can’t be upset and grateful at the same time, and this practice puts me in a great mood – to have a great day – every single day.”

Organise a next-day list

Ever had that dreaded feeling that you’ve forgotten something? It might seem like a time-consuming activity, but spending ten minutes to write out your schedule for the next day will get all those ‘must remembers’ down on your preferred medium, and out of your head. 

You can set reminders, especially if you’ve set time limits on tasks, such as 30 minutes for exercising. Check out our feature on to-do apps - Habitica is great for gaming fans and anyone who wouldn’t mind some positive re-enforcement for another day well done!

Tip: Remember to plan in ‘overspill’ time for work or study activities – that way if anything over-runs, you are not off-schedule for the rest of the day.

45 minutes of me-time

If you have a hobby, love to exercise, or just want to relax in a bubble bath, try and find 45 minutes in your day to do so. Make it as routine as brushing your teeth, and you will also have that to look forward to at the end of a long day!


Set aside 15 mins for reflection or meditation to remove racing thoughts that could disturb sleep. You can journal, speak to yourself, or sit in the lotus position; whatever feels natural and gives your brain notice that you are moving into a restful period.


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