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Leslie Gilmour

What it Takes to Become an Architect

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Tuesday, 5 Jun 2018, 13:46

Becoming an architect takes a whole lot of commitment, dedication and desire. Being an architect is a serious professional career; nobody pursues it just because they like to draw or because they think it sounds fun. There is so much more to being an architect than many think and it is no easy process.

Architecture is regarded by many as a multi-discipline career. That is because being an architect is not just about being a good designer, but being a good mathematician and having a scientific way of thinking too.

You cannot simply design a building and hire a construction company to throw it up, either. Planning permissions, building codes and engineering costs all feature heavily in an architect’s career and you need to know all about them.

How do I become an Architect?

This is, of course, the question which you have come here to find the answer for. In Ireland, the title ‘architect’ is protected by legislation and only those with their names on the Register of Architects can use it.

With everything you need to learn, becoming an architect takes a number of years in education and undergoing specialist training. The requirements vary around the world, but in Ireland, the requirements stipulate that –

  • You must graduate with a prescribed degree in architecture
  • Undergo two years’ postgraduate professional training
  • Complete a professional practice examination mandated by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).

To put things into perspective, a prescribed degree in architecture lasts for five years of full-time studies which can easily turn into six years if you elect to take a year out for industrial work placement.

It is a huge commitment, so you need to be absolutely sure that being an architect is the right career for you. If you are up for it academically and know that it is what you want to do, it is a very rewarding and challenging career where no one day is the same.

Three Reasons to Become an Architect

Looking around online, there is a lot of talk about the negative sides of being an architect such as the huge amount of study, the competition for industrial placements and jobs and the long hours that you will work. Instead, let’s look at some of the reasons to pursue a career in architecture.

Simply put, architecture is amazing

Whilst studying at university, you are taught to be a problem solver and use design, construction and history to solve them. It changes the way you think, the way you look at the world and the way you interact with others. Studying at architecture school fine-tunes your brain and makes you think like an architect.

Architecture is a huge industry

And it is constantly growing. The internet, technology and computers have completely transformed the way in which the architecture industry operates and how the profession itself is practiced. It has grown beyond just being a career to an artform in its own right, with thousands of online blogs, vlogs and resources. You can even choose to explore internships or jobs in industry-related companies, such as Corell Timber – or even just talk to different employees to gain a vaster knowledge of the industry as a whole.

The best part of the architecture industry is that it is so vast and dynamic; there is plenty of work available for everybody and no one project is the same. In an architecture career, you can thrive based off of your own unique skills and strengths, rather than having to change yourself to suit the idea of a ‘perfect architect’ because there is no such thing.

Architecture lets you do what you love for the rest of your life

As the saying goes, if you choose a job which you love then you’ll never have to work a day in your life. If architecture is your one true passion, then there is no reason why you cannot do it for the rest of your life.

The architectural career is held in high esteem, it is universally recognised as a professional career with high standards which attracts some of the world’s brightest young minds. As an architect, you will probably meet clients who are truly influential and well-known figures themselves, which reflects just how high-brow an architectural career can be.

Many of today’s most innovative housing and other construction products will have far-reaching positive effects on people for decades to come; it is a profession which truly does its best to help people and that is truly satisfying.

Is it All Fun and Games?

No, but no career is. There are plenty of downsides to becoming an architect, just like there are with any professional career.

Architecture is a career known for having very long hours; the design process can often be lengthy and drawn out. In architectural school and the professional working environment, pulling all-nighters working on projects is the norm. Of course, this type of working environment does not attract everybody – architects included – so there are plenty of firms who adopt a fairly normal Monday to Friday 9 to 5 pattern of working. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to work more hours than normal.

As you have already seen, there is a lot of school involved. If you compare becoming an architect to becoming a doctor or lawyer, you will see that there is just as much – if not more in some cases – school involved. Lawyers typically qualify after six years, doctors after seven whereas some architects can be in education and internships for as many as eight years.

Something you may not have considered is that your career will be in the hands of how the economy is performing. Although this is something regularly overlooked, it is a key consideration. Who is going to be investing in new construction projects when the economy is weak or going through a financial meltdown? Nobody, that’s the answer. Although this is something you’re not going to have to worry about until you are an actual architect, it is still worth thinking about as it can impact your work and overall job security, especially if you’re an independent and not working for a firm.

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Leslie Gilmour

Why Studying is a Great Way to Spend Your Retirement

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People have various reasons why they consider taking early retirement. However, very few people take the time to plan on how they spend their retirement days. Long gone are the days when retired folks would retreatment to their farms and experience the therapeutic nature of the country life. It was undeniable that all retired persons would get back to their farms and spend their days farming and look after grandchildren.

You need to plan on how to spend your time to avoid stress complications and dying early. You need to plan for ways of ensuring your brain remains active. What better way than considering to further your studies.  Studies have proven a credible way of not only spending your retirement money wisely but also your time. Hence, you need to plan on what you study for the first ten years after retirement to ensure your brain remains occupied and your money goes into proper use.

1.    Taking time to study is the best way of investing in yourself. You are never too old to either sharpen your skills further or add more knowledge to your life. Studies have a way of calming your nerves and ensuring your time is properly utilized and none of your time goes to waste. Studies have a special way of blending your busy corporate life with the life of a retiree by making sure you are not too idle for wild activities like alcohol drinking. Studies help you invest in yourself wisely; you can become a professor and offer valuable impact to the younger generation by teaching at institutions of higher learning. Besides, studies open you to lots of possibilities other than confining you to your house and reading magazines.

2.    You should take the time to study seriously after retirement seriously as it helps you keep your moods and general health in check. Retirees tend to have lots of free time at their disposal, and this can expose them to paying attention to small issues. Such petty matters have a way of preoccupying your mind and can lead to stress. However, studies take a lot of your time, and you end up lacking time to check on everything. The result is that your moods remain relatively stable avoiding lifestyle disease like high blood pressure. Studies conducted globally indicate retirees who take the time to study live longer than those who just idle around. Studies help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and helps you keep fit as you go out frequently hence you have not the time to add weight and lazy around.

3.    Studies help retired people avoid some social challenges associated with idle retired people. For instance, you will find retired individuals in some conflicts that do not make sense. Such conflicts can be easily avoided if a retiree takes the time to study. Conflicts are mainly domestic as the retirees want to exercise authority over their family members as they are used in their former places of work. Studies can help the retiree have a blind eye for such people since their time is occupied by books. A retiree can positively impact the society with their added knowledge as people will occasionally consult them as they are perceived beacons of wisdom. Consequently, studies are likely to improve on their social ranking.

4.    The structure and availability of pension funds influence people on when they retire and what to do with their time and money. If you live in a country where retired people are highly regarded, you may still consider studying a viable option as you are motivated to give back to the society further. However, in most countries all over the globe, retired people are considered as second class citizens, and they have to meet all their bills. No better way a retiree can regain their dignity than taking time and limited resources to study as you are assured of getting juicy returns. Universities and research institutions all over the world lack adequate professors. If a retiree advanced their education and attained the status of a senior professor, you are more likely to be rehired as a consultant. Such consultants are highly paid, and you are likely to get a return on investment for your finances soon.

5.    Retired couples who make the joint decision to study are likely to enjoy their joint retirement as opposed to when one person makes the decision to study and the other person does not. Besides, taking time study as a couple is a bold step that paves the way for the children to appreciate the value of education. Retired couples who choose to study are adored by the society as they hardly have enough time for conflicts. One sure recipe for conflicts is having lots of free time at your disposal. Hence, retired couples who choose to study are likely to appreciate each other more, as opposed to having a lot of time for finding fault in each other.

6.    Labor force anticipation and raising your kids can motivate you to study while you are retired.  Not all retired persons are done raising their children. As such, they can choose to study further to ensure they remain relevant in the current labor market. Such a decision secures the stability of their families as their cash flows remain steady. Besides, the retired persons who choose to enhance their study further are likely to cause less conflict with their growing children. Studies help them relate positively with their children as their mind is still active. 


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Leslie Gilmour

What Type of Accountancy Suits Your Personality

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Tuesday, 5 Jun 2018, 13:48

To someone from the outside, accounting is simply accounting. On average, not that many people require the services of forensic accountants or auditors over the course of their lives. To people in industry and to students who are looking to become accountants, the different kinds of accounting have different kinds of allure. To take this a step further, the different kinds of accounting call for different kinds of personalities.

This is my topic for this post – finding the type of accountancy that best suits various personalities and deciding on which sub-specialization to pursue – but bear in mind there are many areas of specialisation – PAYE, Company Formation, Practice, International – below is just a small sample.

accounting personality types

Auditing

According to the UK laws, a business is required to have an annual audit conducted by an independent, external organization. Audits are conducted in general by accountants (not necessarily accountants) who go through a company's books and ensure that the company is well-run. Audits can also be required by potential partners or buyers of the business, while some companies also like to do their own internal audits from time to time.

Auditing is best done by someone who is ready to jump from company to company, from job to job and who is quick to find their way around any company in a matter of seconds. Auditors also have to be inquisitive and have a penchant for noticing the slightest discrepancies which may hide major issues. This type of accounting also requires great communication skills and a certain level of confidence, as auditor's words can sometimes decide fates of entire companies.

Tax Accounting

Tax accounting, as its name would suggest, is all about taxes. In essence, tax accountants track all of the transactions that a company has engaged in and that might have an effect on how much the company owes in tax. In addition to this, tax accountants are always on a lookout for ways in which they can reduce the amount of taxes the company has to pay.

It should be pointed out that some tax accountants are also hired by individual clients, as opposed to corporate ones. These are invariably very wealthy individuals who have plenty to pay (and look for ways to reduce the amount).

Tax accountants have to be able to handle immense amounts of information, make sense of it all and find ways in which this information can be used in order to reduce the amount of taxes their clients will have to pay. Creativity is another personality trait that works out well for tax accountants as their job sometimes entails making some seriously complex and difficult maneuvers in order to save their client's money.

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is what comes to mind to laypeople when they think about accountancy – staying on top of financial transactions that occur as a part of a company's everyday functioning. Financial accountants analyse a company's financial position, share value and more, all for the benefit of regulators and shareholders.

A financial accountant is someone who is meticulous and who is ready to work in a team. In large companies, these are often huge teams where interpersonal skills and proclivities can also play a big role. Another great trait that will serve a financial accountant well is adaptability since most companies have their own processes and software and it can often be difficult to find one's way in all of it.

Perfectionists will also find financial accounting quite attractive as there is a lot to get in order and work on until every single digit falls into place.

Management accounting

Management accounting is actually quite similar to financial accounting – it revolves around establishing, analysing and reporting where a company stands financially. The difference is who receives the report and the accountant's input. This time, the insights are provided internally, mostly to managers and other members of the C-suite.

According to the information provided by management accountants, the managerial staff then makes decisions that guide a company in the future. Moreover, top management accountants often join the managerial staff, becoming important figures in their companies.

Management accounting is perfect for people who are highly analytical and who are naturally talented in noticing trends and patterns that can be acted on in the real world. Minds that are not foreign to strategic thinking also tend to thrive in this type of accounting.

Of course, a certain amount of ambition is also a welcome trait in a management accountant, especially one who wishes to move up the ladder, so to say. This kind of impact also requires someone who is not too afraid to voice their opinion and stand behind it, even when it is particularly risky.

Forensic accounting

Forensic accounting probably sounds the most alluring of all the types of accounting and many accountants (especially those who do the forensic kind) will tell you that this is just the case. Forensic accounting entails detective work, solving crimes that might have been committed by people and organizations.

While much of forensic accounting actually has to do with embezzlements, fraud, and similar crimes, some of it is less cinematic, like when forensic accountants go through decades of a marriage to decide who made what when and who is entitled to what.

As you might expect, accountants that excel in this kind of accounting are those with an inquisitive mind and a tenacity to pursue a case until it is resolved without a shadow of a doubt. Advanced analytical and logical minds also tend to have great careers as forensic accountants.

Instead of a Closing Word

It should be pointed out that these are mostly some ideas and that these are in no way any indication as to how someone will perform in a certain sub-specialization of accountancy. For example, someone who is not particularly ambitious can still make a spectacular management accountant. Similarly, just because you have an analytical mind, it does not mean you will make a flawless forensic accountant.

Personality traits can make it easier for some people, but in the end, it will mostly come down to studying hard, working hard and never settling for the knowledge you already possess.

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Leslie Gilmour

How to Balance Part Time Study, Life, and Work

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Life is all about juggling.  There is a constant battle between all of the things in our lives that seem to be in competition with each other for the spotlight.  Sometimes, there are just too many balls in the air and juggling may seem impossible.  Some people thrive when faced with the challenge of having to do too many things at once.  They face their over-packed schedules head on with great result.  If you’re like the rest of the world who find themselves overwhelmed by trying to balance study, life, and work, you’re in luck.  There are some great tips and techniques that will help you stay your path and best of all, do it successfully.

Make a plan

The first step to a maintaining a well-balanced life is to make a plan.  The best way to stick to the plan is to make the plan reasonable.  Overloading yourself with too many tasks in too short an amount of time is the fastest way to failure.  One tip for making the best plan is to put it in writing.  Whether you use a computer organizer or a daily journal, writing down your plans for the day is the best way to hold yourself accountable. 

Make a list of all of the tasks and events you have coming up.  To go the extra mile, color code these events and separated them by urgency.  For example; big exams and deadlines should take precedence over an upcoming party.  Most people are very visual, so being able to actually see all of the things they need to do written out in front of them helps them to stay focused.  Over time you will find that this repetition will help you to not only create a habit but also to change the way you plan things in the future.

Stay organized

Once you have your planner in place, the next step to a seemingly balanced life is to organize it.  Many times a chaotic life is a direct result to the disorganization in your life that may already exist.  While there is beauty in chaos, it’s not the ideal way to juggle your life.  The best place to start organizing is in the area that you do most of your work.  Whether it is your home office, a study desk or even your favorite spot on your couch, organisation is the key to a stress-free life.

When starting the quest for organization, it is perfectly fine to use tools at your disposal to help you along the way.  You are only human after all.  Did you know that one of the best tools available to you is already in the palm of your hand?  Cell phones have come a long away from clunky devices that do little more than make a phone call.  You can not only organize your whole life on your phone but you can customize the way you do things as well.  Whether you are setting reminders for yourself to help you stay on task or are keeping track of hours worked, there is no other technology that is so easily accessible and that also is already such a large part of your life.  People are constantly on their cell phones anyhow.  So why not use it to your advantage?

Find time to play

While the important things like work and study will naturally be filling up your dancing card faster than you want, once and a while it is okay to find time to play.  Not only is it healthy, it is also a whole lot more fun than working.  Some people confuse finding the perfect balance in their lives with just staying on top of work and study, but life is equally, if not more important.  Taking care of your mental health should never be overlooked.  Making room for activities that keep you happy is the key to making everything in your life rotate the way it should.

Recently, I took a Saturday afternoon off study to help the kids put up new wall stickers.  We had bought these about a month before and they had been sitting waiting on me to find space in my schedule.  Just taking the time out and doing it left me feeling much better – and left the kids much happier.

Having a life isn’t always a distraction.  Certain activities can actually help your brain to focus while also keeping your motivated.  Hitting the gym with friends or any group activity that keeps your body moving will not only help to give you enough endurance to tackle a week’s worth of daunting tasks, but will also release endorphins so that you can blow through your work with a smile on your face.  So while planning out your week, skip the pencil, and pen in a social life.

Hold yourself accountable and forgive yourself

The last step to finding the perfect harmony in your life is to stick to the plans you make.  When it comes to keeping your life in order, you are the boss.  So hold yourself accountable.  If you plan out your week, try your hardest to stick to it.  There are few feelings in the world as good as setting your mind to complete a perfect week and then actually doing.  The satisfaction you feel from succeeding will be even greater when you know that you were responsible for it.  If you have followed the first few steps to a perfectly balanced life, being able to keep your life in check is no longer impossible.

On the other side of things, is failure.  Failure is okay.  Along with accountable is forgiveness.  Being too hard on yourself for letting one of the balls in your life drop to the floor will not always motivate you to pick that ball up and try again.  Give yourself some credit for everything you have already managed to accomplish and keep pushing forward.  When you accept that balancing your life doesn’t always work out perfectly, you are more likely to try harder the next time around.

Final Thoughts

Finding out how to balance study, work and life is a whole lot easier said than it is done.  By making a plan and following through, half the battle is already over with.  Like everything in life, finding that harmony will be full of trials and errors but as long as you remember to keep moving forward you will find that over time, the never ending juggling act will almost be second nature to you.  Good luck.


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Leslie Gilmour

Why Spend an Erasmus Semester or Year Abroad

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There are so many benefits to spending a semester or year abroad. Not only will you get some amazing shots for your Instagram, but you’ll meet new people, eat new foods, and gain countless experiences that wouldn’t be possible if you were still in your home country. 

People always say “do it while you’re young” and this is a perfect example. If you don’t spend time abroad now, you will likely never get the chance. In a few years’ time, you’ll be graduated from uni, have a solid career, and be on your way to starting a family. 

Sure, you may have a part-time job now, or a significant other; but these aren’t good enough reasons to skip out on doing an Erasmus semester abroad. I spent one year at Vienna University while at university, this was before I went on to do more study with the OU. 

I picked Vienna simply because I could study in English, but for me, it was a great choice.  The summer before starting I walked the Camino de Santiago and met my now current other half who is from Prague.  Commuting between Vienna and Prague by train was easy. At the end of the year, I hired a courier service to move all my things back to Ireland, where I was based at the time.

Find Yourself

Going abroad gives you the opportunity to actually find yourself. Think about it; you won’t know anyone, and no one has any expectations of you. You can be whoever you want to be. If you have always been known as “Shy little Kate, from Bristol”, you can make an extra effort to be outgoing, and try new things. Even if you have never been much of a writer, now is a perfect opportunity to keep track of your thoughts.  Hold on to your memories by keeping a journal to reflect on your time, and the changes that occur while you’re away. Spending an Erasmus semester is a great alternative if you didn’t get to experience a gap year. 

Make Connections

Spending an Erasmus semester abroad can have many benefits; socially and professionally. You can make many work connections overseas that you would have never met if you didn’t take the leap. It isn’t rare to find that the company you worked for overseas to offer you a job when you graduate. You will also meet so many different people, from different walks of life, who knows what doors might open!

Better Yourself

Not only will you find yourself on your Erasmus semester abroad, you will also better yourself. There are ridiculous amounts of ways to spend your time overseas, and almost all the ways include a way to make yourself better, whether that be in a physical way, mental way, or to set you up for the future. 

You will pick up on new cultures and languages, not only in the new place that you’re living, but also anywhere else you’re living. You will be so close to other countries, it would be a shame not to save some money before hand to visit the neighbouring countries and see what they have to offer. You may find that you enjoy a new sport that is popular in your country, which will keep you fit and you’ll have a hobby for life. How great will it to say, “Oh yes, I picked up cycling in Denmark, there is just no other way to get around.” 

It Can Open Opportunities

By jumping into the deep end and moving to another country, you will have many opportunities open. For example, on your resume, employers will be very impressed by your ability to pick up and move to a country where you likely don’t know the language, or anyone living there. This will show prospective employers your courage, resistance and adaptability. Also, any odd jobs you pick up to make ends meet show your diversity of skills on a resume. 

Ask any HR executive, a popular question in interviews for any position will go something along these lines... “Tell us about a difficult situation you overcame, and how you managed to overcome it.” Instead of having no idea what to say, you will now have countless stories to show your fast-thinking and ability to overcome hardships. Maybe you’ll tell them the time you got sick in Spain, and the only doctor on call didn’t speak English, so you had to explain using your “Spanglish”. Or how you once ended up on the wrong train in France and ended up 100 kilometres from where you were meant to be with no cell phone! Living abroad will provide plenty of hardships, or uncomfortable situations, but your reaction to them is everything. 

Just remember, no matter how bad it is right now, it will probably be a funny story you’re telling your host family over dinner in a week or two. Not only are there professional opportunities, think about how many people you will meet! You’ll make tons of new friends, and maybe even a significant other. The best part is, you’ll be meeting people from all over the world, which provides the perfect opportunity to visit an exotic place later on- you have to visit your friends right?

Financial Support

This one may surprise you, but now is the perfect time to spend a semester abroad, because every Erasmus student receives a grant. How much will depend on your home country and where you’re planning to go, but every little bit helps. 

While it won’t cover your entire semester, it is certainly more than if you decide to plan a trip when you’re out of school. If you do an Erasmus work placement, you will receive the grant money AND a salary. Not only this, but it is so easy to make extra money in your spare time. Teaching English, some teacher training helps, interpreting or freelance translating is all ways to earn extra income as well. Lastly, depending on where you’re from, you may get a great exchange rate, or find that the cost of living is lower than in your home country.

So what are you waiting for?


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Leslie Gilmour

How Mature Study Can Change Your Life

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I mentioned in my last post about the Camino, that I walked while being a mature student.  Leaving behind my accounting career and studying English Literature and Philosophy was not started with a new career in mind.  It did however, lead to a new career in marketing, by a circuitous route.

I had always loved writing and reading and wanted to be able to express myself better in written form.  That was one of my main reasons for the subjects I choose to study.  I had tried unsuccessfully a few times to write a novel. After tearing up the last one I woke the next morning thinking I should build a website. Where that came from I have no idea, but it was the beginning of a new direction.

I spent some time learning HTML & CSS, there are many free courses online that will help.  I then started writing, and immediately thought - this is what my study prepared me for, research and writing.  I loved it, web writing was short concise articles and that suited me better then than trying to write a novel, (it is still a dream). I built a website that nobody visited and that resulted in me learning marketing.

A Word on Dreams

My dream to write a book eventually came about.  I wrote a guidebook, it is the most difficult single piece of work I have ever completed.

Just because something is a dream does not mean it will be easy.

How the Open University's Free Courses Can Help

A friend studied addiction part time while working in a completely unrelated field.  More than 15 years later she now runs a counselling centre, (after much more study). The cost of a part-time study is not expensive, but your time is, and making large mistakes in direction can be costly in the longer term.  

There are a multitude of free courses available via Open Learn.  For example, if you think becoming a therapist is for you then this free course on diagnosis in counselling and psychotherapy might be a place to explore how strong your desire is. This could lead you to study the degree in counselling.

Marketing - The New Dream Jobs?

Someone else I know decided early on that marketing was her main love and was going to be her career.  But, even once you know what you want to do and become qualified enough it does not mean that learning is not required. She is now the marketing manager of a company that installs SAP Business One for small businesses.

This type of job requires intimate understanding of your product and service.  You are not expected to install SAP Business One, but you are expected to know every way it can help a business and all of the details that are involved in setting up.

Learning really is life long.

Do you think a new career in marketing is for you?  Look at these free options to get you started: Marketing in the 21st Century, Stakeholders in marketing and finance, or Products, services and branding.

I have read in many places that we are all marketers - at least you should be of yourself, especially in this age of social media and openness online.  The above courses give a great introduction to different areas of marketing, and if they spark your interest there is a degree course in business management that specialises in marketing.

Commitment is Required

Just because a course is free does not mean you can just treat it lightly.  This is the road to failure.  I don’t know the statistics for OpenLearn dropout rate but I have seen stats on free course dropout for Massive Open Online Courses and the percentage is staggeringly high.

Start planning.  I have a two-year-old, this makes a huge difference compared to being child free.  My only time for study is 90 minutes between his bedtime and me becoming too tired to study more.  I study four nights per week - Mon to Thur.  Even though I have worked in this job for ten years, and don’t ever imagine doing something else, it changes constantly and study is required to stay relevant at the cutting edge.

Each course in the OU will give indications of time commitments.  Decide when you will have that time available and stick to it, miss it once and it becomes very easy to miss again.  Once you do that it can become hard to catch up, do everything you can to avoid becoming disheartened.

It takes some time to understand a new discipline.  So, stick with it.  You might not understand much for a while, but breaking study down into smaller goals helps.  Talk about your study, explain the class you have just taken to someone else - these all help to gain a better understanding.  Write, write, and write - this is how I learn.  You might be different, but I still remember research from essays I wrote at university.

My last bit of advice.  Turn off the television, this one simple action can free up many hours to create a better life.


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