Creating a burn down chart—a graphical representation of work left to do versus the time you have left in which to complete it—and hanging it on your refrigerator so that you and your family can track your goals and progress can be a great visual motivator. It's also a fun way to create buy-in for your family, so that they can support you in your goal of earning PMP certification and help keep you accountable for achieving it. Meeting your weekly study goals are small victories that you should celebrate on your path to PMP certification.
If you find yourself slipping against your weekly study goals, you'll know you need to either buckle down and stick to your study plan or reevaluate it if it's not realistic.
4. Select an Appropriate Study Location
Give some thought to your ideal study environment. Do you require complete quiet or prefer to have some light noise in the background? Do you prefer to study in a dimly lit space or a bright room? Your ideal study location should prevent (or at least) minimize interruptions and distractions. Studying in a place where you feel energized and can concentrate is critical to your success. Preparing for the PMP exam is not something you want to do in front of the TV or with your family buzzing around.
5. Communicate with Your "Stakeholders"
Your stakeholders in your effort to earn PMP certification are the people who are likely to be affected by your study schedule, such as family members, friends and some co-workers. Set expectations with them early about your study needs, and communicate with them often. Make sure they understand why becoming PMP certified is so important to you and why you need to devote some time away from household or social obligations to prepare for the exam. To ensure your stakeholders buy into your efforts, explain how they'll benefit from your having PMP certification.
Fill in family members on your study schedule so that they know when you're unavailable to take phone calls and can't be disturbed. If you have small children, you can opt to use a "signal" like hanging a red rope in front of the door where you study. That way your child knows that when the rope is up, mommy/daddy may not be disturbed.
6. Stay Flexible
After you define your PMP exam study plan, do not forget to remain flexible. Changes are a normal part of any project. Having a plan will help you quickly get back on track. Remember that being able to gracefully handle changes and uncertainty is what will make you a great project manager.
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, is a noted project management expert with nearly 20 years of project management experience in various industries. He has helped over 11,000 students in their PMP Exam Prep with The Project Management PrepCast, a downloadable and portable exam prep video workshop. A former PMI Chapter president, Fichtner is currently an active volunteer in his local PMI chapter and a member of PMI's New Media Council. He is also the host of the Project Management Podcast and the PDU Podcast.
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