Budgeting Time for Certification Study
Time is an interesting thing. Although intangible, it is nonetheless very real. It’s also a commodity of sorts, and it is often described in terms found in discussions about money: Phrases such as “How did you spend your time?” and “It saved me some time” are quite common. Time differs from capital in two important respects, however.
First, while the supply and value of money fluctuates — that is, a government or central bank can print or coin varying amounts of currency, which in turn affects its worth — the same properties are fixed for time.
A second is a second is a second, and 60 of them always will make a minute. (Einstein’s theory of relativity notwithstanding — I doubt any of us work at light speed, although sometimes it can feel like it.)
Additionally, money spent can be replaced, whereas time cannot. Once finished, a day is gone forever.
Because time is a commodity, you should consider the way you use it as an investment. And one of the best ways you can spend your time is in activities that will boost your professional proficiency and profile such as IT certification.
Any worthwhile credential should require a great deal of study on the part of the candidate. Therefore, if you’re seeking a certification, you should be prepared to devote significant amounts of your schedule to brushing up on the topics covered in the exam.
To maximize your time, you should systematically allot segments of it for study, much in the same way you might formulate a budget for your monthly income and expenses.
Here are a few bits of advice on budgeting time for IT certification aspirants:
- Take an extended view of your schedule before committing to a credential. Consider some of the things you might have on the horizon this year. Do you have serious obligations to deal with at work (such as a major project rollout) that might hamper your ability to allocate ample time to study? Are you planning major changes in your private life, including buying and renovating a house or starting a family? If there are momentous, potentially time-consuming events in your immediate future, you might want to contemplate holding off on certification for the time being.
- Figure out how much time you have each week. Every Saturday or Sunday, you should take a few minutes (it shouldn’t require more than a half hour) and go over your schedule for the coming week. Determine exactly how many hours you can devote to reading books, working on your home lab, taking practice tests or whatever other learning methods on which you decide. If you can, try to arrange this session at a time when you know your mind is at its sharpest, and your energy level is at its highest. Also, let your friends and family in on when you’ll be concentrating on your studies so they won’t bother you.
- Ascertain how much time you waste. Actually, this is a kind of a subset of the previous recommendation. Part of figuring out how much of your time you can spend on study entails discerning how much time you waste. This doesn’t necessarily mean the things you do to relax and entertain yourself — leisure is an important and necessary part of life. People waste time for several reasons: inefficiencies in their routine, not being able to think of anything better to do, getting thrown off by unexpected occurrences, etc. To determine where you might be losing minutes and even hours in your schedule, create a written activity log. This acts as a sort of “check register” that records and monitors how you’re spending your time, so you don’t have to rely on your imperfect and selective memory of a day’s events.
- Apply time management products. In addition to the aforementioned activity log, use time management tools such as day planners or even something as simple as Post-it notes. Moreover, as IT pros, you should be especially adept at leveraging technical solutions such as PDAs and e-mail calendars to formulate a learning schedule. Remember, just figuring out when you can study is half the battle!