The path to ITIL Expert is a long one, paved with many exams along the way. You do a really interesting module and then, thump, you’re brought back down to earth with Service Offerings and Agreements, or one of the others that really doesn’t appeal to you. Still, it will be worth it … right? Sticking with the exams and building up your credits is definitely worth it. But it is hard to keep motivated when you’re balancing studying with work, and work with your home life. Here’s how can you keep on top of everything:
Plan your work – “Set boundaries,” advises Linda Henman, president of Henman Performance Group. “Decide what will be work time and what will be free time. Schedule study times, and put them on the calendar. Then schedule activities such as working out and dinner. Schedule study for high-energy times of the day or night.”
Henman also advises creating realistic targets around each of the ITIL modules that you are taking. “Goals keep us motivated,” she said. “For each module, set a timeline and daily goals. Crossing things off the list gives a feeling of accomplishment.”
If daily goals sound like too much commitment, try to at least set yourself weekly study targets. The great thing about crossing tasks off the list once you’ve hit the target is you get to treat yourself for a job well done.
“When a week’s objectives have been met, treat yourself to something you enjoy, like dinner out or tickets to an event,” Henman said.
Focus on the end goal – “Periodically remind yourself of why you’re after the certification,” said Stephen Balzac, president of 7 Steps Ahead. “How will it change your life, even if in only a small way? Why is this important to you? Make it personal.”
Continually reminding yourself of the sense of professional achievement (and hopefully bigger salary and more impressive job title) the exams offer helps you maintain a focus on why you’re bothering in the first place. It also helps to remind yourself of how far you have come already.
“Pilots may care more about the runway ahead, but for most of us, it’s how much we’ve done that keeps us motivated,” he said.
Make it relevant – You’re studying for a work-based qualification, so tie it in with what you’re doing during office hours. “Try to incorporate what you are studying into your work,” said Phara McLachlan, CEO of Animus Solutions. “This will not only help you learn and retain information, but it will also help you realize how you will use your new knowledge in the work environment and how it will benefit you. It also helps keep you motivated and focused, and not bored with just plain studying!”
Think about what modules you’re currently taking and how you can apply the learning in your workplace already. If you aren’t currently in a role where you can do that, think about what’s transferable between your course and the job you do and try to find something that you can do differently as a result of your studying.
Dealing with difficult modules – Unfortunately, modular courses mean that sometimes you find yourself studying something that isn’t of personal interest to you in your current role, or a module that you find really, really hard. All jobs have bits that we don’t like, but we’re paid to do them regardless. When it comes to studying and needing those credits, we have less of a choice.
“There’s always going to be things you don’t want to do or are not particularly interested in,” said Balzac. “Set aside time each day to work on those things, and give yourself permission to quit for the day when the time is up. By working for a specific amount of time, you create a sense of accomplishment each day, whereas if you leave the daily work open-ended, you deny yourself that feeling of accomplishment. And if you do more than you’ve allocated in a given day, that’s fine, you can feel virtuous because you worked ahead!”
Henman agrees. “Break it into manageable ‘bites’,” she said. “Do the undesirable first thing in the morning and get it out of the way. Once the day’s objective is met, move on to something you enjoy.”
If you hit a stumbling block with one of your modules, don’t feel like you have to manage all by yourself. “Reach out to industry groups such as ITSM Academy for help and advice,” suggests McLachlan. “I also recommend getting a ‘study buddy’ or several, to study with – create a competition, challenge each other. You can also utilize your buddy to help quiz you and make preparation more enjoyable because you aren’t going through it alone.”
At the end of the day, you don’t have to study for ITIL exams. You could find a job that doesn’t require the certifications. You could leave IT altogether. But if you’re passionate about service delivery, excited about providing excellent experiences for your customers, you’ll find the motivation to do your job to the best of your ability and get the qualifications to help you on the way.
Elizabeth Harrin is Computer Weekly’s IT Blogger of the Year 2010. She is also director of The Otobos Group The Otobos Group, a business writing consultancy specializing in IT and project management. She’s the author of “Social Media for Project Managers ” and “Project Management in the Real World”. She has a decade of experience in IT and business change functions in healthcare and financial services, and is ITIL v3 Foundation certified.