When you’ve been in the work world for a few years, it’s hard to get back into a studying mode, to carve out reading time in your new-crisis-every-minute schedule, and to focus on one topic when you’re used to multitasking. You’ll need to find time for those activities, however, if you want to attain a Cisco, Microsoft, or CompTIA certification. Whether you believe that certifications are worthwhile or worthless, they can make it easier to get a job, or at least get a foot in the door.

If you need a little motivational boost to your certification effort, consider these tips for planning, working through, and successfully completing a certification project. These suggestions from TechRepublic writers and members can help with each phase.

Schedule your studying carefully
Maybe you’ve tried the certification route before, only to get bogged down by missed study sessions or the sheer volume of the material you needed to cover. Several tactics can help you stay on track with your study plan.

First, keeping your study sessions short can increase your chances of success. Some members recommend spending only 30 to 45 minutes at a stretch with your books and then taking a break. Several test takers say this boosted their retention of the material.

Also, don’t schedule study time after work. It’s too easy to turn on the TV and forget all about the three chapters you were supposed to read instead. One member shared this comment in a discussion post: “I get up at 5:30 A.M., have breakfast and study from 6:30 to 7:30, and then leave for the office. I used to study at night before moving into the IT field, but at the end of the IT workday, the last thing I want to do is study technology!”

Another member switched to public transportation for his daily commute so that he could read on his way to work.

Keep your motivation high
Once you’ve established a studying schedule, the next risk to your certification goal is simply burning out. To avoid this, apply the same strategic analysis of the amount of studying you do to the timing of the studying you do.

TechRepublic columnist Erik Eckel recommends a two-weeks-on, one-week-off schedule. This helps you stay focused during your studying time because you know you have a break coming up.

One TechRepublic member schedules the test before he is quite ready to take it. Setting this deadline helps him stay motivated, but he admits he has to reschedule it at least once to allow for enough studying time.

Eckel also suggests multitasking by reading during business travel or listening to books on tape while exercising. He took his certification book with him to the allergist’s office to read while he waited for his shots. Another member keeps flash cards in his briefcase to review during lunch breaks.

Plan for test day
When you’ve made it this far and crammed all the right information into your brain, the last thing you want is to show up on the wrong day or not be able to find the testing center.

Eckel recommends:

  • Visiting the test center before test day.
  • Scheduling your test day carefully to avoid work conflicts.
  • Calling ahead to confirm the day and time of the scheduled exam.

TechRepublic members suggest taking time off work on the day of the test, following up with the vendor to make sure the paperwork is completed correctly, and keeping your biological clock in mind and scheduling your exam appropriately.

Innovative motivators

Have you developed an innovative way to stay focused and motivated while studying for certification exams? Send us your catch phrase, mantra, or study strategy or post it in the discussion below.