If you’ve read, watched, or listened to much of my advice about how to setup your CPA study plan, you know that I constantly hammer on the idea of studying in the mornings. It helps you with productivity, it helps you stay on task, it helps you lock in quality study time every day before anything can interrupt or spoil it, it helps with stress, it helps you make faster progress, your brain works best in the morning… and on and on.
I just touched on this, but the main thing is that it helps you overcome #1 issue that most CPA candidates struggle with, and that is… fitting in enough study time each day.
When you do 2 highly effective study hours in the morning – every day – it’s hard to go wrong. However, when you leave your study sessions for after work, you’re putting the most important part of your day at risk to 1,000 different things that can “come up” and ruin it. And… it’s very common for people to have 2, 3, or 4+ days slip by each week without getting any meaningful studying done.
But, if you have a water-tight, rock-solid 2-hour study session every morning, it will completely change your CPA study experience.
This all of course comes down to the question of “how bad do you want to pass?”
All we’re talking about here is getting up 1-2 hours earlier. You can also make extra time by compressing your morning routine. The bottom line is, figure out how to have 2 hours to study each morning.
I admit that if you have a 2-hour commute and you have to be to work at 7am, I’d agree that waking up at 2 or 3am is probably too crazy. But the vast majority of people get up at 6 or 7, and so getting up at 4 or 5am is well worth the trouble for several months until your pass your exams.
As already demonstrated, I could give you a lot of reasons why you should do your main study session in the morning, but here are the top 3…
Table of Contents
The Top 3 Reasons to Do Your CPA Study in the Morning
#1: You Lock It In Before Leaving the House
This is by far the most beneficial reason for studying in the mornings. You “lock in” 2 hours of studying every single day that is in the books no matter what else happens that day. It’s done before you even leave the house… it’s a huge accomplishment and you’ll feel better all day.
#2: Your Brain Power
Your “brain power” is at its highest first thing in the morning. This is a proven fact… your brain function is very much like the battery icon on your phone, and works the same way as the day goes on… it goes down. Your study session will go better, you’ll get through more material, and it’s easier to stay on task and focus.
#3: Distraction-Free Zone
It’s most likely silent in your house or apartment early in the morning, which means no distractions and nice, quiet study environment. Studies show that it takes 10-15 minutes to get back “in the zone” after a distraction, so if you’re studying in the evening when people are running around your house and your phone is getting calls, texts, notifications, and emails… it’s easy to see why you feel like you can never fit in your studying.
Now let’s get into my best tips for how to get up early to study…
The Top 5 Ways to Make It Easy to Get Up Early
#1: Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night
No one wants to hear this… I get it. You’re an adult, you can make your own choices, you LIKE binge-watching entires seasons of shows in one night… who doesn’t? But if I can act like your mom for one second… GO TO SLEEP. It comes back to “how bad do you want to get your exams over with??”.
Start by going to bed at the same time every single night. Arrange your entire evening routine around going to bed at the same time each night. If you want to, you can try 3-5mg of melatonin, but only combine that with getting to bed at the exact same time, or you won’t be doing yourself any favors.
If you have to, (or want to) upgrade your bedding or pillows so that it’s a pleasure to climb into bed. Once you’re in bed, treat it like a phone-free area. Your phone and all your messages and updates will be there in the morning (after your study session).
#2: Get Up at the Same Time Every Day
Are you seeing the pattern here? If you’re really going to do this, you need to basically plan your day strategically around 1) fitting in your study time, and 2) using the rest of the day to support that goal. Specifically, by going to bed at the same time, and then getting up at the same time.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day PROVIDES the freedom to do 2 hours of studying before you go to work. Just commit to 7 days at first, and after that, you’ll be used to it.
#3: Get an Alarm That Works
Our phones have made us soft… when the alarm is going off you can make it quiet by pressing any button. As I’m typing all of this out, in some ways this seems ridiculous that I’m approaching 1,000 words about how to get up early… but let’s keep going.
Get an alarm clock, or an alarm clock app, that makes it hard to turn off… especially for when you’re getting used to this new schedule. For example, the “Alarmy” app forces you to register a picture of somewhere in your house (the idea is far away from your bed), and then the alarm won’t turn off until you get up and walk to and take a picture of that same area each day.
#4: Make Your Study Sessions a Ritual You Enjoy
What I did when I was studying was I kept my fridge stocked with my favorite sources of caffeine, primarily diet Red Bull. Then I would bask in the silence and sip my drink while I studied. I honestly got to where I enjoyed my morning study sessions, because I got addicted to making progress. When you’re tired and feel crappy before you even sit down to study, and then you kind of just spin your wheels instead of being effective, that’s when the study process is absolutely unbearable. But when you know exactly what to do and have an exact study routine that is moving you forward, the study process can actually be really rewarding.
#5: Keep Your Study Space Neat and Tidy
Check out this desk… you just want to sit down and do something productive.
Now look at this desk… it makes you feel overwhelmed and half-crazy before you even sit down.
Keeping your study space neat and tidy is a small detail that makes a huge difference in keeping you on the path of “progress and productivity”, while having a messy study space just makes studying harder.
The driving factor behind this, and the entire CPA study process, is “how bad do you want it”… in other words, what are you willing to do to pass these exams. I admit, I felt like I was trying hard my first couple months when I studied for FAR the first time, then I failed it. Getting a failing score took my commitment to an entirely different level, and I was a maniac after that… although I was only doing 2 hours a day with my review course. The rest was trying to study from my phone through the rest of my day as much as possible.
This is what I now refer to as “mini sessions”, and reading review notes on your phone (and listening to audio notes when commuting) can help you add an additional 2-3 hours a day of high-leverage study time, but your main study sessions are crucial.
Feel free to leave any of your own tips, comments, or questions below!