Time is limited to 24 hours each day and those of us who get a lot done don’t have any more extra hours of magical time hidden away. What we do have though, is an understanding of time management.
The success of any mission in life or work may be greatly enhanced by planning ahead of time and then executing to the best of one’s ability when the planned for time arrives. So, in this article, I will share how to optimize your career using the top ten time / study management tips and skills.
This article is divided into two sections. The first section comprises of five (5) tips that address the planning of your certifications.
The second section comprises of five (5) more tips focused on the execution of your certifications plan.
Follow these ten (10) tips and you will be able to make the most out of limited time and ultimately find more time to spend with those you love:
List Your Certifications
Start by writing down every certification you want to take month by month or year by year. Some certifications may be repetitious, for example re-certifying every 3 years for your PMP until your retire.
Don’t worry about the order in which you write them down, until you feel satisfied that every / most of your certifications goals are emptied out of your thoughts onto paper or on an electronic notepad.
Rank Your Certifications
Rank each certifications based on the effort required and the benefit you plan to get from taking each.
Describe the effort required for a certification in terms of “how difficult” or “how much study time” will be needed.
Describe the benefit of a certification in terms of the “expected payback to your career (salary, promotions, industry recognition, etc.)“.
Finally enter all this information into a spreadsheet or table for tracking your certification plans and / or progress!
Set Deadlines for Certifications
What you want to do now is set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) certification goals.
This means given yourself enough (realistic) time to achieve each certification and then assigning a deadline in the form of a day for each month when you will take the planned certification.
Execute the Plan. Take your Certifications
– Planning your certifications by itself is not enough. When the time comes, you must execute your plans by taking the certifications … without procrastinating out of fear, worry or low self-confidence.
So, to reap the benefits of this planning exercise, you will need to actually sit down, make the effort to study consistently and then make the final effort to push through and / or take your certifications.
Measure / Evaluate Certification Progress
Use the list you just prepared as a starting point for evaluating your certifications’ progress on a monthly basis.
You want to track the “date you actually take each” certification against the “date you planned to take” the certification.
If you find yourself slipping or missing your target certification completion dates, consider; relaxing your expectations, giving yourself more time, squeezing more time from your already busy schedule or studying better and harder within the same allotted time.
Do Recapture Downtime
Evaluate how you spend time daily in the car while driving to / from work, during 30 minute / 1 hour lunch breaks or even while exercising.
Invest in a portable device that for example allows you to watch training videos or take online quizzes or play technical information from training instructors.
The point is; fill your void moments by listening to or watching audio / visual information or reading textbooks / articles that will further your certification goals.
Don’t Do It All … Ask For Help
Re-evaluate your environment and then identify those who may be sympathetic to your certifications goals or plans.
Then ask for help from friends / family members. When asking for unpaid help, be courteous and considerate by letting the friend or family member know that this is not going to be a permanent arrangement but “help wanted” for a limited amount of time.
Often friends and family want to help but don’t know where to begin or do not want to offend you by asking. So, tell them specifically what you need help with, and you may be surprised how quickly household chores (for example) will get done without you!
If you need permanent, on-going help with household chores because your certification goals span years, consider paying for professional house cleaners!
If you need safe childcare, ask family members for short-term help or hire screened nanny services for on-going, long term certification goals.
Multitasking is so easily abused. The idea of juggling several balls sounds so much more impressive than simply tossing one ball back and forth in the air.
However I can assure you that to achieve your certification goals in this real world with excellence, it will be more effective to finish any certification first before starting on another.
So, focus only on taking one certification at a time and whenever you study make sure you do nothing else; work, life, etc. but study. Each time you check something off of a certification from your list, you will be even more motivated to go down the list to your next certification goal.
Do Rest & Exercise
Try starting up and operating a car without gasoline and you’ll discover that there are laws in the universe that define what is possible and what’s not!
The same goes for you when you push yourself through your day job on a daily basis and then at the same time, attempt to push yourself through any rigorous certification plan night after night!
Without a good amount of sleep, rest and exercise, you will deny your body and brain the time needed to regenerate.
And guess what? If you are not sufficiently rested and exercised, you will not operate at “peak mental capacity” and so will be unable to make the best efforts towards your certifications!
Do Study SMART & Hard
Pareto’s Law a.k.a the 80/20 rule applied to certification studies implies that 80% of unfocused study effort only generates 20% of certification results. On the other hand, a few highly effective study techniques will get you 80% of the results you need.
You have been learning about “how to plan for your certifications“. In this next section, will learn “how to execute your certifications plans.
One of the most effective of these study technique is the: “SQ3R” or Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review technique. Here is a summary of the SQ3R Technique:
Survey – Your first attempt at reading should be to form a general idea of a chapter or textbook.
You should resist the temptation to read a new textbook by plunging right ahead, instead you skim the chapters, headings, sub-titles, principles, concepts, etc. to get a general idea of what the book is about.
Question – Write down some questions about the book or chapter based on the initial survey. Questions like “how does this chapter help me” are great.
Read – With the background, outline, ideas and questions generated from the first two (2) exercises begin reading your study textbook. Don’t just read passively, think about how the new information fits your outline and ideas about the topic.
Recite – Engage your memory / recall by reading out loud answers to the questions you generated previously.
You may also recite and recall out loud important principles you encountered. Apart from boosting your mind’s retention, this exercise will also help you prepare for the oral question & answer format of most job interviews.
Review – Finally, go through the answers, concepts, principles, facts you learned and see how much of that you understand, or are able to recall or answer correctly. Then plan what you need to study next perhaps the same chapter or a brand new chapter.
Bringing It Home
Here is an example of how to design a spreadsheet for tracking your certification plans and/or progress …
|#||Certification||Effort||Benefit||Planned Date||Actual Date|
|1.||Six Sigma Green Belt||200 hours||$10,000 salary increase||June 1, 2012||January 8, 2013|
So, now you know it … the “Top Ten (10) Study / Time Management Techniques for your Certifications!”
It is possible to achieve your lifelong certifications goals by managing your time and effort better.
Learning these highly effective study or time management skills will also help take you career to a whole new level because the same skills can be used on the job to help you achieve even more for your organization.
Remember: “Plan First” and then “Execute your plan” … and you will achieve your certification or study goals.