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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

The most wonderful time of the year...

Joseph Mills finds the path to success with small wins and extremely rapid thinking



From October to the beginning of January is my favourite time of the year. Our anniversary, birthdays, Christmas and New Year are all that much sweeter for being out and about in the crisp air with the hounds, rosy cheeks, woolly hats, flasks and minced pies. Not to mention the fact that most of us can take a breather from the other nine months of the year when we are frantic with exams.

For those of you who read my article back in March about the goals I set out to achieve this year, I have succumbed to the cliché of 99% of those who set New Year goals and haven’t, really, had much success. It wasn’t until last month, in fact, that I truly settled into a routine that has enabled me to make consistent progress in every aspect of my life. I am a sucker when it comes to motivational speeches, quotes, YouTube videos, memes – you name it, I’ve probably seen it. It’s not that I want to ‘hype myself up’ by listening to these theatrically effective orators – I just want to see how their attitude to each day differs from mine.

The greatest outcome from absorbing all this is the importance of the ‘small wins’. These can be really simple, such as taking the dogs out, making the bed, getting clothes ready for the next day – whatever it is, they are achievements. The amalgamation of all these has allowed me to make leaps and bounds with my longer-term goals. This change in attitude will definitely help going into the next exam sitting. 

The problems I face are no different to those facing any other student of the institute. Long, mentally draining days, nights and weekends. We are not going to want to be an actuary 24/7. I even thought about going to the dark side; accountancy. But our satisfaction with the profession prevails, loops back on itself and, boom, we’re back in love with extremely rapid thinking (ERT). 

‘ERT’ is the new addition to my lexicon, by the way – like those getting down and dirty with INDEX and MATCH with a sprinkle of SUMIF, it’s a pathway to embracing my inner nerd. 

With forever fluctuating motivation for most things in life, settling into a routine has been key for me. But the next one does make me uneasy. Let me explain – this is my routine when not studying:

05:15 – Alarm (snoozed once)

06:30 – Gym 

09:00 – Work

17:30 – Home 

22:00 – Bed 

Not to forget the housework, cooking and other jobs everyone has to do. Oh and the fact I have to eat 4,000 calories each day in preparation for my Three Peaks Challenge. With minimal time to spend with my girlfriend and dogs as it is, what am I going to do when I have to start studying again? 

Do I get less sleep? Wait, no, I’m not getting enough as it is. Do I go to the gym less? Well, I could, but my mind works better when I consistently exercise and eat well. So I guess it is just the ‘me’ time and social time I have to sacrifice. As do all students, to some extent or another. 

But the important thing to remember is that it will all be worth it. We are all stepping in the common direction of FIA, one small win at a time. 

Joseph Mills is joint student editor