Last week, I wrote an article aimed at those studying for any of the various networking certifications entitled, “Why You Should Be Blogging”. I talked about the benefits of blogging and how to get started.
There’s a real easy way you can use your blog to help ensure your meet your goals and that’s by simply holding yourself accountable, in public.
Let’s assume that you’re studying for Cisco’s CCIE certification. You’ve already passed the written and are now labbing as much as possibly in your spare time. Chances are good that you plan to take the lab exam “some day”, but you haven’t set a firm date.
That needs to change.
Some of you already blog and keep what I’d call a “progress log”; keeping track of what you studied, how well you’re learning it, things you’re having trouble with, etc. I didn’t really do that when I was preparing for the various exams, though I wish that I had.
Progress logs make it easy to see “where you’ve been” and “where you’re going”, with regard to your certification studies. In addition, if you write that you’re currently studying BGP route reflectors and having trouble, for example, the likelihood of you getting help from others who have “been there” are quite high.
Progress logs are great, but you can — and should — take it one step further.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Making others aware of your goals is a great way to ensure you meet them. If you tell yourself, half-assed, “I think I’d like to take the lab by the end of the year,” you’ve sorta set a goal, but no one but you knows about it except you. That makes it way too easy to put off or simply neglect your studying and push back the date.
Contrast that with telling everyone you know, publicly via your blog, “I’m going to take the lab by the end of the year!”. Now, others are aware of your goal and will likely try to hold you to it. Occasionally, others will ask how you’re progressing.
I used to teach networking courses at a .edu and have helped several students (and friends) on their way to certification. Whenever someone mentions to me that they’re going to take the “X” certification exam, one of the first things I ask them is “When?”.
Many times, they haven’t even thought that far ahead. By asking them, however, I’ve made them put some thought into it and try to figure out, realistically, when they can meet that goal. In addition, I keep track and will constantly badger them, asking how they are progressing, why they haven’t been studying, etc. I’m holding them accountable, whether they like it or not.
By using your blog, you can easily hold yourself accountable. By publicly declaring what your goal(s) is/are, you are forced to hold yourself to a higher standard. It’s harder to let your goals slip because you’ll have to admit to your groups or peers (or the world) that you didn’t follow through.
Getting started is amazingly easy.
1. Find others with common goals.
In order for this to work, somebody has to know about it. There’s no shortage of people studying for the CCIE. Find some of them and let them know what your goals are.
If you read Evil Routers, you probably also read several other networking blogs and, thus, already know many others who share your certification goals. You may already even follow several of us on Twitter.
2. Choose your medium.
You don’t absolutely need a blog, but I highly recommend it. It’s easy to find and update and others can easily track your progress using your RSS feed. In addition, it’s out there for all the world to see.
If you don’t already have a blog, check out the “Why You Should Be Blogging” article where I explained how to get one up and running quickly.
An alternative to a blog would be social media. Start sharing your goals on Twitter or Facebook and make sure that everyone knows about them.
3. Come up with a schedule.
This is a simple step, but it is absolutely critical to your success. I suggest once a week as that doesn’t require too much time, but is still frequent enough to be able to manage and keep track of.
4. Tell what you’ve done and what you’re going to do.
Once a week (or on whatever schedule you’ve come up with), you must post an update describing what you’ve done since your last update. Include what you learned, what you had problems with, and what your next step(s) is/are — your goals for the coming week.
The parts on what you’ve done and what you’re going to do should be clear, exact, and quantifiable. Did you meet your goals? Why not? What are you going to do about it?
The amount of detail you include will vary by person, but this is a great opportunity to use your blog to simply “think out loud”. Too much information is better than too little.
Here’s an example to help you get going: “I’m going to re-read Chapter 7 of Routing TCP/IP, Volume I and complete three mock labs this week”. Clear, concise, and easily measurable. Next week, when determining if you met your goals, it’s a simply yes/no answer.
RELATED: For a great example of exactly what I’m talking about, check out this status update from @cciejourney.
5. Penalize yourself if you don’t succeed.
This step is optional, but can be a great motivator.
I’ve heard of others who penalize themselves financially whenever they don’t meet their goals, for example, giving $25 to a non-profit. This might be a good method (none of us want to just throw money away), but it’s probably not for everyone.
Right now, it’s smack in the middle of the (American) football season and I usually spend my Sundays watching the ballgames. If I were doing this right now, I’d likely use that to penalize myself: didn’t meet my goals this week? No football for me.
Admitting to the world that you didn’t meet your goals isn’t easy. For some of us, that can be a big blow to the ego and that’s all it takes.
Oh, and forget to post your weekly update? Yeah, penalize yourself for that too.
Get To It!
As you can see, I haven’t described anything earth-shattering or revolutionary here. The method I’ve outlined will help you meet your goals if you follow through, I’m certain of that. It’s been proven to work in other situations and there’s no reason why it can’t work for you.
Getting started is often the hardest step in any project we work on. In the next 10 minutes, however, you can be well on your way to holding yourself accountable to the public — get to it!
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.