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Old 10-13-2014, 02:15 PM   #1
Vernie822
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Work Woes

Hey DIS friends. So this is kind of a vent, but more so I'm looking for advice.

I am new to the corporate world as of January 2013. So almost two years in. I work for a FANTASTIC insurance company as an actuarial analyst. What this means is, I work in ratemaking, evaluating risk for our policyholders, and setting reserves up to pay future claims. Specifically, I work in valuation which is a monthly reporting role for me. I report our financials for 2 lines of business making up over 300,000 policies. I also am responsible for coding some of the systems that determine the values of our policies and all of the specifics for each product we sell.

I explained all of that to say, my job is stressful (NOT knocking other jobs by any means) and at times I come home with no brain power left. I remind myself of that every day. In order to achieve the status of an ASA (Associate of the Society of Actuaries) or FSA (Fellow), one must pass exams. There are 5 exams + some modules needed to become an ASA, plus 3 more exams and some more modules to become a Fellow. Generally this takes anywhere from 6-10 years to complete. I passed one exam in college. I passed 2 in 2013 and I am trying for my fourth exam (first pass this year) in 2 1/2 weeks. These exams require 300+ hours of study time per exam and they are only offered every so often, so the average pass is 1-2 per year.

Now, my work gives us 100 hours of study time per exam that we can take within our work days, so essentially they are paid study hours. On top of that, we have to study on our own. So every weekend for the last few weeks, and even months, I've been spending practically every waking moment studying. With the exception of coaching cheerleading twice a week (games on Fridays, practice Tuesdays).

I am stressed TO THE MAX with everything going on. We were just in WDW a month ago which was the perfect de-stresser. Honestly, I can't wait to go back.

My boss actually pulled me aside today to show me 3 mistakes I have recently made. All of these were silly errors that I could have caught before they got to him. Now he is very easygoing, approachable, and I am way harder on myself than he is. I appreciate him showing me these things and explaining the way he feels before it got any worse. He just said to me "So what's going on?" and I immediately broke down into tears.

I make silly mistakes, and I know this will happen at times. But I'm not willing to use that as an excuse. I know I am better than submitting work with errors - but sometimes I just can't catch them. Life is just crazy with so much going on right now. Wedding planning (which to my mother's dismay I am putting on hold until after this exam haha), studying, coaching (cut down to 1 day a week), and work. Plus trying to be social and occasionally go on a run.




So my question here is..

Do any of you have a specific routine you do at work with breaks, or specific thing you do each day to make sure you get your goals accomplished in the 8 hours you're there, or certain things you do to make sure you're doing your very best!? I need to find something and stick to it.

I struggle with rushing through things to get them done. My boss has taken a few things off my plate. My other 2 team members are men in their 50's, so no studying for them, haha. They are the best and I soooo appreciate their help during this stressful time. Everyone I work with has taken/takes exams so they all understand the struggle I'm going through right now. I just want to be the best I can be, and it's an emotional rollercoaster at the moment.
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Old 10-13-2014, 02:28 PM   #2
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I use Outlook (calendar and tasks) to organize my day. For example:

I block off 30 minutes in my calendar every morning just for going through email that came in after I left the previous day. Anything that I need answer right away, I move to tasks with a due date of today, anything that can wait is moved to tomorrow, anything that is informational or related to an ongoing issue or project, I move to the appropriate e-mail folder, and everything else is deleted.

Once I'm through reading the e-mail, I hit the tasks I just created from the e-mails, then I hit the other stuff in my task list for the day.

I create recurring tasks for anything that I need to do every day (check for vacation or sick leave requests in the HR system, update my time sheet, etc.), and once I complete it, it recreates the task for the next day.

When I have tasks for subordinates, I assign them using tasks in Outlook - better than e-mail for tracking, IMO.

If you break down the things you have to do everyday, it's much less likely that you'll end up hurrying through or missing something. In your case, you could block off your calendar for study times, so that you'll show as "unavailable" for meetings.

Plus, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you can check each item off - doesn't feel like the work is never ending.
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Old 10-13-2014, 02:43 PM   #3
poosiegirl
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I'm normally a lurker but I had to post. I'm an ACAS (a property/casualty associate for the Casualty Actuarial Society). I got my associateship in 2007. I've been exactly where you are and most actuaries have.

We're in a unique field. I've failed several exams before I got my ACAS. The weeks right before the exam were awful. Even the work that felt easy and not stressful two months ago seemed more daunting. Hang in there. It's the nature of the job.

My employer always gave us study hours too. What I found worked best was to not space them out evenly, instead leave a lot more for the end. The last two weeks it wouldn't be unusual to study at least half of my work day, go home, eat and study until I crashed. Wake up the next day and repeat.

Your manager knows about the exam schedule and shouldn't have a problem adjusting work loads. As a ACAS I certainly don't mind picking up some extra stuff to let the students study now.

Just relax, focus on your exam and it'll all be over in 2 1/2 weeks. We've all been there, and the more exams you take the better you'll get at balancing it all out!
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Old 10-13-2014, 03:27 PM   #4
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My job has very specific, exact time deadlines for certain tasks, and while that can be a pain, it forces me to do certain things in a certain order by a certain time.
You might consider outlining specific time deadlines for daily tasks.

In my case, I have tasks that HAVE to be done within the following time frames after I arrive at work:

The first is 15 minutes after I arrive at work.
The second is 30 minutes after I arrive.
The third is 2 hours after I arrive at work.
The fourth and final deadline is 4 hours after I arrive.
Basically, about 80% of my tasks HAVE to be done in the first half of my shift.
The last four hours of my shift are spent answering the phone, and assisting my supervisor who comes in 4 1/2 hours after I do. Most days there is enough stuff to keep me busy the last half of my shift, but at a more relaxed pace. Sometimes though, it can be nuts, but there aren't normally any time specific deadlines after the first 4 hours of my shift.
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Old 10-13-2014, 05:01 PM   #5
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I just wanted to add that I planned my wedding while taking exams, bought my first house and then bought my second house all while taking exams. The one key thing is that the people who you're closest to (fiance, family, friends) have to understand that sometimes life waits for the exam to be done. Not for the whole 4-6 month study period, but those last three weeks studying is more important than just about everything.

I had a schedule for everyday of the week. Including during the work day. I also gave myself permission to deviate when I needed. I doubt there is an actuary in your office who doesn't know what you're going through. I'd also bet that those who are done with exams wouldn't trade places with you no matter what!

Welcome to the club! The exam process is hard, but there is no better feeling than when you pass!

PS - I cried a lot those last weeks, crying was just one way to relieve the stress and the pressure. I also cried every time I found out my results - good or bad. Just part of deal. One piece of advice - don't take a sitting off until you're done! I stopped when I got pregnant with my first (I already had the ACAS) and six years later haven't worked up the nerve to get those last two.

Good Luck on the exam!
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:35 PM   #6
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No advice but just hugs. My nephew was in that field and decided to do something else due to the stress. Anyhow, saying prayers for you. Hang in there!!!
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:46 PM   #7
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One thing that helps me - try to get away from your desk at lunch time. Go out and take a walk. I always come back refreshed.
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:51 PM   #8
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Hang in there-keep studying. You are not getting married until 2016, so any planning can wait a couple of weeks!

My DD is a jr in college, and has passed both the P and FM tests this summer. She was a bundle of stressful nerves this summer, toss in some hormones and a bad break-up with her boyfriendd of two years. And, she just got her FM score. She wasn't happy with her score (took two times to pass) even though-the end result was-she passed.

Just as I told her-do your best with the test, manage your time best as you can.

Hopefully you have some online study guides...my DD has found them helpful!

Best of luck to you!
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:52 PM   #9
Vernie822
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poosiegirl View Post
I just wanted to add that I planned my wedding while taking exams, bought my first house and then bought my second house all while taking exams. The one key thing is that the people who you're closest to (fiance, family, friends) have to understand that sometimes life waits for the exam to be done. Not for the whole 4-6 month study period, but those last three weeks studying is more important than just about everything.

I had a schedule for everyday of the week. Including during the work day. I also gave myself permission to deviate when I needed. I doubt there is an actuary in your office who doesn't know what you're going through. I'd also bet that those who are done with exams wouldn't trade places with you no matter what!

Welcome to the club! The exam process is hard, but there is no better feeling than when you pass!

PS - I cried a lot those last weeks, crying was just one way to relieve the stress and the pressure. I also cried every time I found out my results - good or bad. Just part of deal. One piece of advice - don't take a sitting off until you're done! I stopped when I got pregnant with my first (I already had the ACAS) and six years later haven't worked up the nerve to get those last two.

Good Luck on the exam!
Thank you to EVERYONE for the advice! It is so much appreciated. Sometimes you need an 'outsider''s perspective.

It is stressful but you are right - it will be so worth it. Crying does relieve my stress, haha!!! I cried twice today.. PMS related and exam related.

Thankfully I have a very supportive fiancé and family, and friends too - but sometimes they just don't get why I can't hang out all the time.

I think I overdid it this weekend. People say actuary is a low stress job - I must disagree.

Part of my problem is that I am naturally a pretty structured person. I like having lists, to do lists, my days planned out, but I always have random stuff going on at work so it's hard to nail down a schedule.

I've decided that when I come in, every day, I'll spend 30 minutes organizing my thoughts. Making my 3 "main goals" for the day, and deciding what my daily schedule will be like. I generally have a list for the week, but I want to be able to make a more concrete one each day. I'll break for 15 minutes at 10:30 and 2:30 and just walk away from the computer, go outside and go for a walk (hard to do when you live in Erie and it's negative 9 degrees out half the time lol), or just sit in the break area and relax. Maybe I'll even start bringing a book.

For me it's a problem of having so many things going on at once, and wanting to jump from one to the next. I am going to make it my plan to really focus on the task at hand and to do a good job to get it completed on time and correctly!!

I think I need to start doing other things to unplug and de-stress, but this should be a good start!
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Trip Report In Progress: A Very Magical Disney Proposal.. September 2014
Dining Report: Is there a fast pass for the margarita booth? 7 Days of DDP + Food and Wine
Art of Animation with mom, cousin and aunt - March 7-10, 2015!
Polynesian - September 2015!

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Old 10-13-2014, 07:01 PM   #10
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Knowing you are stressed is the key. I have an on-again/off-again stressy job and people's paychecks depend on me doing my job correctly. When I am in stress time periods, I go over things more than once and match things up once more before I submit something or move to the next item. I KNOW my job inside and out but we're human and we will make mistakes. It is catching them before everyone else does that is the gravy.
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:32 PM   #11
poosiegirl
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We always joke in our office that the "low stress" is only for those who are finished with exams! Now that I'm done I still have stressful days, but nothing like the studying ones.

I made lists, lots and lots of lists (and still do). Things that have to get done right away, things that have to get done today, things that have to get done this week and things that can wait until after the exam.

Working in insurance even my coworkers who weren't actuaries knew the deal and were willing to work around the exam schedule.

Out of curiosity which exam are you sitting for? Hang in you're almost there!
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:42 PM   #12
Vernie822
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Thanks! I'm sitting for MLC. I work in life insurance. So it's a pretty big one. I've failed it once. Some of these concepts are brutal.
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Trip Report In Progress: A Very Magical Disney Proposal.. September 2014
Dining Report: Is there a fast pass for the margarita booth? 7 Days of DDP + Food and Wine
Art of Animation with mom, cousin and aunt - March 7-10, 2015!
Polynesian - September 2015!

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Old 10-13-2014, 09:09 PM   #13
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Dont feel bad for crying. Crying is a great release.

Are you a runner/ mover? can you study and move at the same time to burn off all the stress????
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Old 10-13-2014, 09:23 PM   #14
poosiegirl
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I took that exam in one of it's previous incarnations, I had to take SOA 1-4 and then 5-7 were CAS specific. I used to carry around flashcards with me every where, I'm not sure how much they helped but it made me feel better to have them.

Good Luck!
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Old 10-13-2014, 10:31 PM   #15
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I've been there and isn't fun. Good news is that you will be on he other side soon.

One of the thing that helped me the most (and still does at my still stressful job) is keeping rigorous calendars and lists. My outlook calendar rules the schedules and includes all defined time activities--meetings, lunches, work sessions, team meetings, gum.

I also handwritten out a to do list for the next week every Friday afternoon. I review it on Monday morning and pencil in when each item is going to happen. This process repeats in a less formal routine thought the week. Interruptions still happen but when I get back to my office, I know exactly what to turn to.

I would also build a study schedule and add it to all of the above.

Finally, make sure you schedule 30minutes a day for you to just relax or do something that makes you happy. It will give you strength.
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