For those that follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I’m an avid runner and post some of my experiences there. My current goal is to become a sub 20 minute 5km runner, which is turning out to be an aggressive goal. I’m probably at around 22 minutes right now. As I always do, I try to learn from different areas of life and cross apply that, to also what I do in IT. When you think about it, it’s not that different! Things I’ve learned from trying to become a better runner, that you can apply in your IT training.
Plan – The saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” is quite accurate. Many runners don’t have a plan and end up just running around the same pace every training session. That leads to mediocre results. The same is true when trying to become better at something in IT. You don’t always need a super detailed plan, but you need a plan. A certification is one of the tools to help you build that plan.
Discipline – A plan is no good if you don’t materialize it. Sometimes it’s tough, and you don’t feel like living up to your commitment, but then don’t expect to see results. Your plan should be realistic, and if there’s no way of materializing it, regroup and reconsider the plan. Becoming good at something is a matter of putting enough time in. Many successful people achieve this due to their level of discipline.
Go Slow To Become Faster – Ironically enough, to become faster, you have to run slower. That is, to build the endurance you need to run fast, you need slow runs and the majority of the time you spend running should be slower runs. I apply the same principle for learning in IT. I read a lot and try to study a little every day rather than trying to spend too much time each day that could easily lead to burnout.
Mix It Up – When running high intensity runs, it really should be high intensity. When you are studying for a certification, have a couple of days per week where you do more intensive studies. When I studied for my CCIE back in the days, I had three evenings per week I dedicated to studies. Trying to do high intensity studies every day will only lead to burnout.
Rest – It’s when you rest that you see the results of the training you put in. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can just rest your way into shape though… However, you need to plan for recovery. The same is true when studying. Make sure to have days when you don’t do much studying. Do something that you enjoy, that makes you relax. Let your brain recover. Don’t always listen to podcasts or audio books. You need the mental recovery.
In the end, training to be a better runner, or to be better at an IT discipline, is not all that different. Good luck with whatever you are training for!