Obtaining your CTA while working and still being able to spend time with friends and family is not impossible. Here are some tips

Every year, I hear the question, ‘Is it possible to pass CTA and work full time?’ Think about this − if it were not possible, if it were such an impossible task, would SAICA have an entire trainee programme dedicated to students who are still studying?

Asking fellow students how they balance work/CTA/life often seems like a good idea, but all too often have I seen the questions veering into the wrong direction with students advising each other it is indeed impossible, and if they can they must ask for recess on their training contracts to study full time. I have seen students advising each other it will be the most emotionally and mentally challenging year of their lives, and it makes me feel despondent because this is (putting it plainly) awful advice!

One of our brightest up-and-coming first-year trainees came to me asking me if she could work half day for the next few months as she was not finding time to work and study for CTA. I cannot say I was surprised; it is not the first time a trainee has come up with the idea and it wouldn’t be the last.

My first question was whether she was making any effort at this time to study at night or on weekends (and I did not mean the one hour you page through your textbook on the ‘I know this’ method to make yourself feel better). How much time are you spending on social media, or the latest distraction for a student’s procrastination tendencies − binge-watching Netflix series.

The point I wanted to make was not to make her feel guilty for not studying (I am not her mother), it was to make her realise she already has time to study which she is not using. The main principle I was communicating is that if you already have time available to study and you are not using it, what are the chances that if you get more time that you will use it to study?

Taking a pen and paper, we broke down the basic structure of a day considering both whether a person is working at the office or at the client. Most people’s days follow a similar routine:

  • 6 am to 8 am − Preparing for and travelling to work
  • 8 am to 5 pm − Working (whether at the office or client, including travel time)
  • 5 pm to 6 pm − Travelling home and eating dinner

So here is the big question: what do you do for the rest of the 12 hours of the day? An average person sleeps eight hours a day, which leaves you with four hours for studying. If you push yourself a little bit, then you have five hours study time per day and if you push it the extra mile, you have six hours.

Considering CTA is a nine-month journey, losing an extra hour or two of sleep every day for nine months does not seem too bad.

But what about weekends … Does doing CTA and working mean you will not see your friends or family for nine whole months? No − it just means that you probably will not go out every Saturday and Sunday; you need to compromise. If you are going out on Saturday do it without feeling guilty, enjoy your time with friends /family but have the discipline to study an extra hour or two on Sunday.

There is an inspirational speech on YouTube: ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger 2018 − The speech that broke the Internet − Most inspiring ever …’ in this speech he tells you about his journey to becoming Mr Universe, how through hard work, perseverance and compromise he realised his dream. There are three really important messages in his speech: you have more time you think you have; when you get knocked down, get back up again; and do not be afraid of failing!

So, sit down and work out a schedule, stick to that schedule as religiously as you stuck to the Game of Thrones episode releases, and keep on believing that you can do it!

AUTHOR │ Chantal Potgieter AGSA, Registered Tax Practitioner, BComp Acc Science, is Audit Manager at Diastoleus Professio Incorporated