Chronicles of a Frazzled HOSPA Learner: A Survival Guide

Part One – Starting Out

“But you wanted to do it!” said my boss, leaning back in his chair, away from the vast expanse of his foreboding dark wooden desk.  The three floors of stairs I had to climb to his office had left me breathless and my blind planic (my made-up word for a state of panic exacerbated by not planning what you’re going to say, in advance) was turning my brain into mush, squashing my amygdala as I groped around for something vaguely viable to say.

The truth is, I DID want to!  As so often happens in independent hotels, my desire for personal growth, to take on more responsibility and learn new things had led to me…. well….. growing, taking on more responsibility and learning new things, one of which was revenue management.  Show an interest or aptitude for something in an independent hotel and it’s pretty much yours from then on – so many don’t have the luxury of having an onsite Revenue Manager, and so, it’s given to the Reservations Manager or Sales Manager, with minimal training!  Hence, 6 months ago, I had found myself in that same office, same sweaty palms, and squashed amygdala, trying to articulate why the hotel should part with a portion of his hard-won profit to sponsor me to do the HOSPA Revenue Management Levels 1,2 and 3!

“Yeah, I did, I mean…. I DO…. but, I didn’t know there would be so many books!”, I said, blurting out exactly what was on my mind.

It’s fair to say that the euphoria of convincing my boss to open his wallet and enrol me onto the course had given way to absolute meltdown, as the pile of study material had arrived (this was 2017 and, although the internet was around, HOSPA had not caught on yet😉), unceremoniously plonked on my doorstep by the delivery guy.  What was I thinking! I didn’t have time for this!  Looking back, I REALLY DIDN’T have time for this!  I had an ultra-demanding two year old at home, had just signed up to run the London marathon, was spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to get my side-line mobile catering business off the ground as well as my 40 hour a week job and now…….. I had this pile of books…………

When I ruminate on all that I learned in my two years as a HOSPA student, one of the most critical things was the time management skills that I simply HAD to learn to do all the things I really wanted to do.  When that seemingly insurmountable pile of stress landed, what happened next was maybe fate and maybe fortune: my flight or flight mechanism kicked in – I ran out of the door, into my car and drove over to a corporate networking event I was booked onto; and, upon hearing some poor girl say that she was a Life Coach in her 60 second pitch, proceeded to dump the whole problem on her before we’d even swapped business cards!

Her advice was as simple as it was effective but still resonates with me now: “One thing at a time”

I would guess that most people considering a HOSPA course are already working in hospitality.  Already, like me, juggling life:  work, family, hobbies, some balancing family time against work, caring for small people or ailing parents, or both; a constant cycle of domesticity – barely keeping the fridge stocked, ironing pile touching the ceiling, I hear you!

If that’s you, then here’s my advice on getting started and planning your time:

  • Start with being brutally honest:  do you REALLY want this?  Because if you WANT to, or better still, NEEDto, then you’ll find the time.
  • Desire is a great starting point, so decide that you want to and then…. Do nothing.  Rest with that for a week or so, even a month, before signing up or having that conversation with your boss.  How many times have you decided you wanted that dress, watch, car, only have completely changed your mind later!  You really don’t want to have to explain to your boss or other half why you’ve changed your mind AFTER that payment has left the account!
  • Be laser-focussed with your time.  Buy a notebook and start planning!  It’s amazing how much being aware of how you spend your time, helps here.  Could that half hour spent scrolling on social media be spent on learning?  Much of HOSPA is reading – could you squeeze in half an hour on the train into work, in your lunch break, when the kids are in the bath?
  • Include significant people in your life in this – chances are, they are going to be impacted in some way.  If your significant other can’t cook but the only time you have free to study on a Tuesday night is 6pm then that needs a conversation, or a takeaway!
  • For some, like me, if may be “back to school” for the first time in 20 years!  Go easy on yourself – studying is a skill in its own right and requires time management, lots of reading, writing long blocks of text for assignments, as well as referencing, word counts – fun to some, horror for most!  Go easy on yourself, this is all part of the learning process, and your tutor is here to help.
  • Sacrifices will need to be made but be honest with yourself on what you are willing to give up and what you are not.  My commitment to my son (then 2) was that I would still get in the bath with him every night and to my wife was that we would still have an hour at night chilling and watching Netflix. Most of the time I managed to keep these non-negotiables!
  • Don’t beat yourself up if the plan doesn’t unfold as you expect.  Even with the best laid plans, life gets in the way.  If the dog eats a wasp nest and needs taking to the vets – that’s fine – you can make up that time and, if not, missing the odd study session won’t mean much in the long run.
  • HOSPA doesn’t take a holiday!  There will be times when you’re approaching an exam and need to study, but that clashes with your trip to Tenerife.  I can’t tell you what to do here but once I finished swearing because the study books tipped the case over the weight limit (thankfully, it’s 2024 now and you won’t have that issue 😉), I planned around it – did a little reading in the evening before dinner or at the side of the pool.  Honestly, it helped having a genuine interest in what I was reading – not like studying for GCSE Geography!
  • Plan in a treat yourself after each exam, assignment, or module.  It can’t all be sacrifice!  This will wire your brain to expect a little reward for all that effort and keep you focussed and motivated.  Even if it’s just a takeaway and a bottle of wine.  Celebrate the wins!
  • I’ve always found mental reframing helpful:  “I have to study” reframed in your brain as “I getto study” (not everyone does) is much more motivating and I still use it today (I get to do the school run, not everyone does) and find it a useful when I’m struggling or feeling bitter about some responsibility or other (disclaimer – doesn’t seem to work with the ironing for some reason….)

If you enjoyed this, you’re gonna love part 2! Now where can I squeeze that in on my To Do List…..