5-Life-Hacks-for-Passing-the-CPA-Exam

My name is Robert Eyler and I graduated in December, 2011. I studied for my CPA Exam utilizing Roger CPA and thankfully passed all 4 tests by the end of 2012!

I currently work at RSM and lead the Firm in its National Health and Wellness Initiative. I have been flown out to National Trainings to teach yoga and guided meditation sessions. Additionally, I recently sat on a panel to speak on the topic “Being Successful While Choosing a Different Path.” In addition to being a CPA, I run my own Health & Wellness business (GetFit42). I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Behavioral Change Specialist and a Registered Yoga Teacher.

After passing the CPA Exam, I took a long, hard look in the mirror. There has to be a less stressful, less anxiety-inducing, healthier approach to taking this test and to this profession as a whole, I thought. Fast forward 6 years later, and I found an approach that has worked wonders. And just for you, I have compiled a list of 5 TRIED AND TRUE life hacks that will not only ensure that you crush ALL parts of the CPA Exam, but will also set you up for success post-CPA Exam life, both professionally AND personally!

1. Yoga & Meditation

Simply put, these two practices have changed my life. In addition, they will change yours too! I picked these practices up toward the end of 2016. I had always heard of the benefits of yoga and meditation, but historically thought it was a bit too “out there” for me.  Nonetheless, given my weakened state after the CPA Exam, I decided to give it a shot. Today, I can report, this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Yoga

Let me explain a bit about yoga and meditation. In spite of what others might say, you do not need to be any specific religion or believe in any specific ideology to take part in this life-changing practice. Yoga has been proven to enhance mental clarity, brainpower, energy levels, metabolism, feelings of well-being and inner-peace, AND alertness (without caffeine)! Yoga can be found pretty much everywhere and most studios offer up to a FREE week!  Additionally, most have free mats and towels to rent.  You are getting a 100% ROI by giving this life-changing practice a shot! 

Meditation:

This one is a true necessity if you plan to survive as a CPA Exam candidate, an accomplished CPA, a senior, a Manager, or even a Partner!  Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other corporate giants have been known to back this undeniably effective practice!  Meditation has been proven to enhance memory, creativity, and awareness!  Additionally, it can boost individual performance, productivity, and leadership skills!  Personally, I practice meditation 1-3 times per day (minimum), at 10 minutes per session.

Instructions: When the day gets stressful, pause, grab your phone, and set the timer to go off in 10 minutes.  Sit down & keep your back straight (against a wall or chair).  Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold at the top of your inhale for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold at the bottom of your exhale for 4 seconds.  Repeat until timer goes off.  If your mind wanders off (which it certainly will!), simply notice it, forgive it, and calmly bring your focus back to your breathing. 

You may also want to try the Calm Application. This application consists of various meditation topics (i.e. gratitude, empathy, relationships with others, anxiety, stress, etc.) with very soothing music being played in the background. Most of the meditations on this application are ten minutes in length. I recommend starting with the 21 Days of Calm. The first week is FREE! If I still have not convinced you, let it be known that this was rated the #1 App in 2017 and I utilize it every single day!

2. Deep Work

100% of the individuals who study for the CPA Exam have, at one time or another, experienced periods of inattentiveness or difficulty with focusing.

In order to mitigate these bouts of inattentiveness, I offer up the practice of “deep work”, which I stumbled upon while meditating with the Calm App.  With deep work, we are to dedicate pre-set times for uninterrupted work.  Start with 1-2 hours and slowly start to extend the amount of time as you become experienced in this practice.  During these pre-determined work periods, distractions of any kind are to be avoided.  That means turn the phone on DO NOT DISTURB, turn off all notifications, and if possible, disconnect from the internet. By scheduling these periods of extreme, Zen-like focus and flow, we create periods where we are protected from deep distractions. This allows our brain to gather itself into a force of focus. The result is that our attention is concentrated, our work productive, and our time well spent. 

During our study regimen, our sanity requires us to take time-outs to let our minds wander.  This can come in the form of getting caught up on current events, checking Instagram, chatting with colleagues and even going for a short walk (highly recommended!).  Although these time-outs are a necessity, we MUST be sure to schedule time for uninterrupted work during the day.  This practice can be a gift to our study partners as well, because when we dedicate periods to deep work, others (around us) are encouraged to do the same.  Our extreme focus and concentrated energy elevates the vibe of the entire room!

The secrets to success in any human endeavor are extended periods of total concentration, followed by periods of rest, relaxation and meditation!

3. Jot down 3 things/events/people you are grateful for on a daily basis.  

The human brain thinks roughly 60,000 thoughts per day. Approximately 90% of those thoughts are negative. That may seem like a large percentage, but this is actually deemed “normal.” This is how we successfully evolved as a species, providing us with the tools required to survive the harshest of conditions.  This survival mechanism is ingrained in our DNA, as our brains actively and relentlessly search for that next threat, that next issue, that next problem.  When studying for the CPA Exam, oftentimes, I could not shut my mind off, letting it run wild, stressing and worrying about what would be on my next exam, if I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the exam, or if the AC would be working in the ProMetric Building. Now, what if I told you there was a way to change these negative thought patterns? We actually have the power to re-wire our mentality and train our brains to actively search for the positive in each and every situation.

Here’s how: 

Every day, preferably upon waking up, grab a pen and piece of paper (or journal) and jot down the date, your current location, and 3 things/events/people you are grateful for. It’s really THIS easy! I recommend performing this activity as soon as you wake up! What this means is do not reach for your phone, do not scroll through the Gram, stay away from Facebook, avoid your e-mail, and instead, grab for your journal/piece of paper and get to work!  Practicing gratitude helps train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this contributes to improved mental health over time. Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t!  I discovered that practicing this for just 7 continuous days drastically shifted my thought patterns to consciously (and unconsciously) search for the positive in every situation. 

4. Embrace the 74s

The great Jim Rohn once said, “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”  In order for each and every one of us to grow, we must first change.  For example, if I receive a 74 on AUD, and I want to pass with a 75, I cannot get there without change.  This means changing my eating habits, my daily routines, and even my weekend festivities.  If I am an Associate who has been getting horrible reviews on all of my jobs, but I want to make Partner one day, I must change the specific activity patterns that are resulting in me receiving horrible reviews so that I can become a more valuable asset to the Firm. 

When failure or change occurs, we have three different options on how to respond.  We can either 1) complain about said change/failure and express how unfair it is that it happened to us, 2) ignore said change/failure, tuck it down deep, and focus on other areas of life to distract us from dealing with it, or 3) accept said change/failure, adapt to our new circumstance(s) and use said change/failure to help better our lives.  If you haven’t already figured it out, I highly recommend choosing option 3. 

After I took audit, I waited an excruciating 6 weeks to receive my score. To my dismay, I received a 74. My initial reaction included emotions of fear, anger, disappointment and frustration. “I studied SO hard, how could I have gotten a 74?!” The funny thing about this situation is that no matter how frustrated, or angry, or disappointed I got, only one thing could change that 74. And that one thing was more hard work, more focus, and more dedication. See, as much as I didn’t agree with the 74, it didn’t matter. Point blank period: I didn’t get it done.  Rather than choosing option 1 or 2 above, I accepted the minor setback, the failed attempt, and painstakingly followed option 3 as noted above. On my next attempt, I passed with an 82! The key here is to drastically modify our perspective and use that 74 as a tool to grow, be, and do better!  

5. Harness the Power of Fear

“I am definitely not ready to sit for my CPA Exam tomorrow. I need more time to study!” For 99% of us, this is typically our thought pattern the day before we sit for the CPA Exam.  Luckily for us, these thoughts don’t represent our true selves. Those thoughts are based in fear and fear is illusory!  Below are a few ways to harness the power of fear, accept it, and utilize said fear to our advantage!

Get uncomfortable with being comfortable:

I read somewhere one time that discomfort is a side effect of growth.  Nothing worth having comes easy and as such, we are bound to feel fearful or uncomfortable when attempting a task that we really want to accomplish!  Fear is a natural part of life and is often ignited over a fear to fail.  That being said, we must fail (multiple times) in order to grow and progress in life.  Be at peace with this fact and understand that every failure gets you one step closer to success!

Embrace it! 

We spend a majority of our working lives trying to avoid fear, and as a result, we end up steering right into it.  The more we focus on the outcomes we fear (failing that exam), the more our brains dwell on and process this information, and we end up on a trajectory aimed straight for that pessimistic assumption! It is normal to feel fear, so we should not try and suppress it.  If we can learn to embrace and examine what exactly is causing this fear, we will learn to overcome it and find positive ways to reach our dreams and goals.

Analyze it:

I suggest to many of my clients when they feel fear to sit with it for a bit and examine it.  Fear can actually help us determine exactly what it is we DO NOT want.  I am a firm believer that the energy and vibes we feel are living things.  Maybe the energy or vibes we picked up from our latest interview didn't go so well or the date we just went on went horrible and we become fearful about how to get out of the next one.  Instead of letting this fear overcome us, we can use it to our advantage by sitting with it, observing & analyzing it, and determining a plan of attack from there!  Essentially, we should take those experiences as lessons and find other ways to achieve positive outcomes.

USE THE FEAR TO YOUR ADVANTAGE: 

When I was studying for my CPA Exam, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do.  Fear of failing that exam kept me focused and determined to pass it.  When I played football, fear of losing the game lit a fire under me (the fight or flight response kicked in every single game) and allowed me to perform at my absolute best.  We must learn how to use fear to our advantage without letting it paralyze us & consume us, entirely.  And trust me, there is a fine line between the two.

If you’ve made it this far, I am grateful for you! Utilizing these 5 techniques and additional sub-techniques are GUARANTEED to set you up for success not just while sitting for the CPA Exam, but beyond. These guidelines help make you more balanced, energetic, and optimistic! Utilizing these techniques will equip you with the tools needed to live an awesome, happy, and fulfilling life!  

Now, GO CRUSH THOSE EXAMS!

Robert Eyler at the RSM National Experienced In Charge Conference in St. Charles, IL!