Having worked behind the scenes of IT training for 17 years now I can say with some confidence that everybody experiences a slump at some point. For most of us, we have to fit our studies into a busy life including work, commuting and family commitments.
Some exams such as the Cisco CCNP involve around six or more months of hard work so it’s no wonder many of us run out of steam and just quit. I see around 90% of students just throw the towel in, in fact. It’s a great pity because these are the first people to be let go when a company downsizes because they aren’t certified.
So, here’s my thoughts on getting motivated.
Write down why you started to study in the first place
Was it recognition from peers or your boss, chances of promotion, increase in salary, make a career change or personal development? Whatever the reason if it’s strong enough you will feel motivated to hit the books. If it’s a weak reason, then the first bump in the road will cause you to stop.
Plan out your tasks and chunk it all down
If you are training for a marathon you don’t do a 26-mile run on day 1. You must break your big task into smaller, more achievable ones in order to avoid overwhelm and burn out. Work out the milestones you need to reach by when and then plan from the end back to the beginning. Be realistic, if you are busy working and have a family then planning for 5-hour daily study sessions may not be realistic.
Get an easy win
We rarely get congratulated once we reach adulthood. It’s as if we are expected to just get on with it. If you are really struggling then find the easiest exam possible and take it. Exams such as the Microsoft MTA Operating System Fundamentals can be passed with just a few hours of study.
Passing that will be a boost to your morale and motivation and can be listed on your resume.
Set up a rewards system
When I was studying for my part time law degree many years ago I’d reward myself with a cup of tea after each hour of study. After 2 hours, I’d need a break and I’d watch 20 minutes of my favorite TV show on VHS cassette.
Our mind works very well when we have a reward. If you get your set amount of study hours in by the end of the week then go out and have a pizza or see a movie. Get your family involved so they can see you working to achieve success. It’s a great example to set for children.
Start a dream book
It may sound a bit new age but this works really well.
I knew that when I passed my CCNP at work I’d get a big pay rise and be moved to a much better team. I bought an art book and filled it with pictures of a car I really wanted, places I wanted to go on holiday and a house I wanted to buy. It really motivated me to pick up the books and study because I could see what was going to happen when I passed.
As strange as it sounds, I even started to look forward to my study sessions because I knew what was going to happen when I finally passed the exams.
Find a study partner
It’s a long and lonely road to pass IT exams and most of the time we make that journey alone. For this reason, when I started my first IT training website I set up a forum discussion for people who wanted to connect with other students who lived nearby. Having somebody to connect with who can relate to your journey is a huge morale boost.
I read about this recently in a book from a guy who passed his Cisco CCIE exam. He and his study buddy would speak on the phone daily. They would explain what they had studied, what they were going to study the next day and any struggles they were experiencing. It was useful because it was rare that they were both feeling demotivated at the same time so one could encourage the other and it brought in an element of accountability.
Take a break
Don’t kick yourself if you need to take a break from studying. Sometimes we fall ill, get overwhelmed or side tracked. Don’t turn this into an extended holiday. Have a day off, do something fun and then hit the books again feeling refreshed.
When I first started out studying IP subnetting I hit a wall. It was like trying to learn Latin. I wasted weeks trying to get through the subnetting chapter in the book. I finally made a breakthrough and could continue.
Looking back, I should have left subnetting along for a while and continued with the book. I would have come back to it later on when I’d let the information sink in. I did the same thing with my running plan. I’d skip the big hill for a few weeks until I’d built up some stamina and then I was eventually ready to tackle it.
Probably not a PC thing to say now but you can broadly define people into winners and quitters.
The quitters complain and make excuses and band together in a pity party about how unfair it all is. The winners have the same challenges to overcome but persist nonetheless. The split is always around 90/10 in any walk of life. 10% of my students put the work in, pass exams, get the promotions and pay rises. The rest just quietly quit and are never heard from again.
Success in IT is the same as in life, you have to do the work to get the rewards. I’ve had to press on with my studying through illness, bereavement, redundancy, divorce and many other of life's challenges. We all do.
If you want to make a start today on the path to IT certification then click here to get a 7 day trail of my IT certification website for $7.