BY DEAN EVANS ⋅ JUNE 7 2013
You might feel stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated at your progress (or lack of it) when studying accountancy. Fortunately, there are study apps and technology you can use to help you learn and revise more effectively. Technology expert Dean Evans logs in
Most of us have busy lives and juggle multiple tasks. So it can often be hard to get work done. This is especially true if you’re trying to absorb new information and learn new skills as part of studying the AAT Accounting Qualification.
Here are some tips for using new technology to give you a helping hand.
Step 1: Improve your time management when you study
Quick question: are you using your time efficiently? Or are you dilly-dallying every time you sit down to study because you don’t know what to do next and it takes you 5-10 minutes to get going?
Poor time management is a common problem. Parkinson’s Law maintains that: ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. In other words, if you don’t plan your time, you won’t make the best use of that time. You won’t be as focused. Or as driven.
Solutions? The most powerful one is to methodically plan out your work/study on a calendar and set aside 60 or 90 minute blocks of time to tackle specific tasks or topics. Treat these as unbreakable ‘appointments with yourself’ and use timer onlineclock.net to track them.
Google Calendar might be ideal for organising these blocks into a schedule. It’s accessible via any connected device and enables you to set handy email/pop-up reminders. Or you can use a digital to-do list to give you a nudge, such as Any.do, Teuxdeux or Wunderlist. There are also a host of productivity apps available to help you claw back some precious time.
Step 2: Eliminate distractions when revising
One of the biggest obstacles to effective working or studying is our misconception that we can multitask. We can’t. We’re just not wired that way.
Having the TV on in the background while you read through course material, or reading email as soon as it arrives never allows you to devote your full attention to a task. These aren’t the only distractions either. There’s Facebook, Twitter, your mobile phone, food, drink, kids, other people… in fact, you can be distracted by anything that is more entertaining than the task you need to complete.
So switch off. Literally. Switch off your mobile phone. Tell people you don’t want to be disturbed. Start a study session with enough food and drink (within easy reach) to keep you fuelled. If you’re working on a computer, don’t just minimise your email and other websites, close them down.
There are apps that can help you with this last bit. Self Control (Mac-only) enables you to block emails and website access for a specified period of time. Freedom (Mac/PC) does the same, and its Web-muting talents come recommended by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Zadie Smith and Nick Hornby.
Step 3: Enhance your focus
When you know exactly what you’re doing and you have an environment that’s free of distractions, you’re two thirds of the way to becoming more productive. The final step is to make the most of your time and enhance your focus.
Again, modern technology can help you out here. A decent pair of noise cancelling headphones, like the Blaupunkt 2013 Comfort 112(£50, Amazon), can shut off the outside world and fill your ears with music from Spotify.
While it’s not advisable to work and listen to music at the same time, recent research has suggested that ‘listening to music before you study or revise can have a beneficial, motivating effect’.
Online service Evernote is perfect for capturing, storing and sorting notes and ideas. It uses cloud storage, so your content is everywhere you need it to be. StudyBlue will also be useful. This Apple/Android app encourages you to make digital flashcards of your important notes, so you can test yourself on key concepts, ideas and facts. ‘A century of research has shown that repeated testing works,’ said the BBC when they looked into the most effective revision techniques.