Studying and time management: It's now a skill I should probably list on my CV alongside everything else I have in there.
I wake up early. Sleep early. By early I mean depending on what's on my plate, don't be shocked to find me at my desk either in the office or the study at home at 3-4am. By 9 am on these days Im pretty much done with any pressing creative (hard focus work) and can 'trade' email or chat by the water cooler all day.
Fact: the only thing that matters is the result. In the case of a ccie, a pass, in a competitive environment, no one wants to be number 2....I want to be at the top...ALWAYS...I want the gold, keep the silver....
Life has never been fair, the path to success is not fair, its not linear, it's negotiable and it most definately changes. I know this, I have been lucky in some ways...very lucky actually .....
I don't do facebook. I totally weaned off facebook during the last 3 months of my CCIE preparation. I might use it to market something in the future but it has no relevance whatsoever in my personal life. All my friends know how to reach me. I am checking out twitter. This doesn't mean you have to, I personally just couldnt handle the distraction.
I like knowing well before hand whats expected of me for me to appropriately schedule it.I was brought up in a household that avoided ambiguity, yes no answers were common, you either did something or didn't.
This is a big pain at my current workplace since a restructuring is taking place. Ad hoc requests and implied responsibilities tend to come up alot. I hate it. It frustrates me and my efforts towards effective time and other resource management.
I don't measure my productivity with Hours worked. I prefer working with results. Your results are a direct reflection of the strategy you employ to get a certain grade or outcome.
Avoid meaningless meetings, infact don't go for any meeting without an agenda. Wait for the minutes. If none come then it can't have been important. On the same note avoid people that bring negative energy to your life. If you can't eg they are your boss...learn to 'zone out' (a skill i don't have but wish I did - just in case:-))
Almost all core concepts on the CCIE blueprint require 20 - 60 minutes of some serious focus including time spent lab'bing up simple scenarios before you 'get it' well enough to answer related questions or teach it. Which is why trying to rush through the material doesn't work very well. If you don't have a study plan that respects this need for the tasks, you are most likely destined for failure.
Time management is a technical skill. There is a huge difference between technique and effort. Learn to schedule work then do it, dont make excuses, do not procrastinate, do the mental labour, don't focus on time, just get it done to get the most satisfactory result possible.
IMHO hours spent on study and work are a terrible metric, to this end the 9-5 sort of job alot of people are into offers no appeal to me. I think compared to most people I do have a very flexible work schedule. Use the time saved to do things you love.
Avoid transcribing, aim to understand. If listening to an on demand video on OSPF/bgp/etc, pause it occassionally to test the scenarios, don't try to take 'blind' notes. Even typing the commands and expected output on notepad if you have no access to routers/gns3/dynamips/dynagen helps more than taking notes as you listen and move along. so learn it like you are going to teach it, synthesize the material. break it down to its littlest pieces, then put it together again.
In the end the point Im trying to make here is : counting hours is meaningless (It was for me) when it comes to studying. (On my first ccie attempt I kept a very detailed log of how long I spent studying for the exam - While the data is good to a statician, I didn't find it to be of any use). So the last time round I focused on learning the material and the concepts, got the knowledge ,acquired the skills until I felt ready. Do this and you might avoid landing yourself in a failure situation.
If you are working on something else that requires 'some serious focus' alongside something like preparing for the CCIE, stop being silly, drop one. There's a high chance you'll miss out on both.
Do not give up, especially if you have already spent well over $10K in personal dollars, Money spent on a CCIE can be a big incentive to working harder, to passing:-)....can also be quite frustrating......
Lastly just have fun, relax enjoy the journey.....