CFA Bazooka: Beat Procrastination, Boost Motivation

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By Sophie

Back in the days when I first embarked on my CFA journey, there were many moments inevitable self doubt such as “remind-me-why-I-chose-to-do-the-CFA-again?”, sprinkled with the occasional tempting thought of giving up. There’s nothing to feel guilty about as these thoughts are completely normal. 

However, your self-awareness of this situation is the key to discovering what motivates you and how to reduce procrastination. 

Sounds lovely, how do we do that?
Luckily for us, Dr Piers Steel has the answer, and he’s distilled his comprehensive studies into a simple equation for procrastination (yay, says the CFA equation lovers!). Whether you’re preparing for December Level I, or the June exams in a few weeks, let’s equip ourselves with some procrastination-blocking, motivational boosting bazooka for the CFA exams! (Erm, OK, you were supposed to roar in unison, like 2 seconds ago?)

The Procrastination Equation? Woot?
Sounds simple? Let’s go through these terms below.

It’s basically our perceived odds of getting the reward for doing a task. The higher the chances of getting a huge reward, the more motivated we are. Simples.

However, a fine balance must be achieved between excessive optimism and pessimism – having a healthy dose of optimism and positivity, sprinkled with some necessary pessimism to stay realistic. Why? So that you don’t misjudge and think you can pull of a last minute and only start studying for the CFA 1 month before.

What can we do to reasonably increase expectancy?

  • Make your source of inspiration easily accessible and visible. Whether it’s inspiring images or quotes, check out our Pinterest motivation board for some awesome ideas. 
  • Monitor and log your daily progress: ticking off the number of  practice papers done or pages studied, jotting down your scores – seeing your improvement over time keeps you going!  

Value is derived from a combination of how much one enjoys doing a task and the benefits one receives after finishing it. Clearly the higher they both are, the less you would procrastinate.  

How do we increase value?

  • Luckily, increasing our energy levels is quite straightforward: get some good sleep (especially if you need it), break a sweat and get some exercise for an endorphin boost. Finally, eat well
  • Take mini breaks during your studies. It breaks the monotony and improves focus
  • Are you taking on too much and over-stressing yourself? If you are a little behind schedule, here’s a game plan for damage control.
  • On the flip side, increasing the rewards for finishing your revision is easier, though preferably not junk food related! Reward yourself with experience-based activities such as dinner with friends/family, watch a movie in the cinema, picnic in the park – and watch your productivity skyrocket later.



This is a measure of how short your attention span is to the task at hand, i.e. how easily distracted you can be. Not surprisingly, this is the biggest source of procrastination.

How do we reduce impulsiveness?

  • Set specific, measurable goals for every task. This means revise 2 study sessions, finish 1 practice paper today, etc. So you’ll feel terrible if you fail to complete what you set out to do (which should be realistic in the first place). 
  • Track your progress, or tell others of your goals to stay accountable and on track of your study plan. 

  • The obvious and most effective of all is to attack distractions at source: reduce temptation by cutting off access to surfing social media or news sites. Download browser plug-ins such as Stayfocusd (for Chrome) that limits the amount of time you can spend on “time-wasting” sites. 
  • Make your study routine a habit – Your family and friends will get used to your study schedule, which reduces impulsiveness.
  • Give yourself a little treat before revising – little things such as a nice cuppa coffee or tea before work helps form the habit that you are in “work mode” now.

This is simply the length of time from now until reward is received. Unfortunately it’s not something we can easily change (yet?). 

So just keep pushing and doing what you’re doing, keep us posted too. It’s tough and stressful towards the end, but hey, the freedom is near and we’re all here for you!  

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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