For many of the readers you will have already been through this and have your own stories to tell, for others you are going through it right now.
The balance between study and family life is a very tricky one. You are studying to better yourself, make yourself a better engineer, to improve your job prospects, maybe a pay rise and to hopefully give you a better quality of life. (a lot of better’s in there!)
Along the way though you have to make a sacrifice and that is time away from the ones close to you. If you have decided to attempt the CCIE Lab earlier in your life then you have friends and a social life to contend with, as for those of us who have left it until after we got married and had children, well we all know what that is like.
Not that I am saying that after you get married and have children that you have no friends and a social life but I have met many younger engineers who have not a care in the world and say they just don’t have time to study! I actually have more friends a better social life after having a family, this makes studying even harder, anyway I seem to be going of topic here. The key to this for me is a very understanding wife! If your wife / partner understands what you are trying to achieve and the enormity of the task in hand then explaining that you need 2 hours a night study time and a day at the weekend is a little easier to get.
What you do need though is an agreement.
For me the agreement is 2 evenings free in the week and my 8 hour lab at the weekend to be split over 2 days, 4 hours Saturday morning, 4 hours Sunday afternoon.
This hasn’t always been the case and it is at this point that I will tell you that I have been studying for my CCIE in R&S on and off for the last 5 years. More off than on!
Why have I not completed it yet? Many reasons, but one was that I was just not studying efficiently, I would have months off and then when I started again it felt like I was starting from the beginning again. It was only after attending an INE CCIE Bootcamp in February that I have finally got my head straight, my home life straight and a focus to complete my CCIE this year.
I had tried many study methods, which included:
1: Going to bed at 9pm getting up at 4am and studying for 3 hours every morning
This lasted about 3 days as I am just not a morning person
2: Studying from 10pm until I fell asleep in my chair
I did this method for quite a while, after I had sorted everything at home, I finally got into my study around 10pm by that time I was already tired and trying to focus did just not work, inevitably I would either just give up or fall asleep reading or watching a training video.
3: Trying to study on the sofa whilst my wife was watching TV
I thought this one was going to work and it did for a bit but I was far too easily distracted with the TV or talking to my wife. So after going through this whole process I wish that I had started using my current method which is working really well.
4: Focused awake study time 7:30-10pm 3 nights a week and an 8 hour lab at the weekend.
Until you find your method you don’t realise how bad the others were, I am now focussing during the entire study period, my family know exactly the routine and I know I have fixed time at the weekend to complete a full scale lab, even though it currently is spread across two days. As I get closer to the lab, this will have to change.
I now also have every Cisco book and all the INE workbooks / videos on my IPAD which enables me to dip into something wherever I am, waiting at the school gate, sat in the dentist I just keep putting the knowledge in.
I now have a clear focussed plan to make my first attempt in August 2012
Keeping the motivation?
The motivation to continue is becoming stronger the more I am learning as I am getting closer to the goal, I find I want to study more and more.
I am also getting more sleep which a few years ago with a new baby in the house was not easy.
It would be great to hear from anyone who has any suggestions, but I believe now you have to find your own pattern and what works for you and your family.Roger Perkin
Roger Perkin is a 39 year old Cisco Engineer working for Cobham in the UK. He currently holds CCNP and CCSP. When not troubleshooting networks and studying for his CCIE he spends his time kite surfing, running, travelling to Africa to support a school his wife has setup and spending time with his daughter. He is also the author of his CCIE Blog – http://www.rogerperkin.co.uk/ccie