As someone who speaks very fluent English and even teaches on occasions I have developed a few strategies that are ideal for getting a better grasp on the English language without even really trying. Most students don’t enjoy reading masses and masses of textbooks on the subject but they do enjoy other areas of reading and that is what I try to incorporate into my teachings…
Read, read and read. It doesn’t have to be anything boring, just read about what you’re interested in. If you like soccer, then read about soccer. If you like music, then read about music. If you like poetry, then read a few poems.
Even if you just do this for ten minutes a day whilst you enjoy your morning coffee you will notice a vast improvement. Reading anything that is professionally written in English will allow you to have a much greater understanding of the language and best of all – you will hardly even notice your learning!
Write, write and write. It is all very well and good being able to speak the language but if you can’t write as well as you speak then you’re not advancing enough as you should be.
It will be difficult at first to write anything fluently but again, practice makes perfect. By the time you have written several letters, articles, poems (whatever it is that you enjoy) you will start to get a real feel for the language that will obviously help develop your written English but also your speaking too.
Speak, speak and speak. Don’t just sit in silence trying to improve your English. Start discussing subjects you enjoy with others who are trying to accomplish the same goal or even better speak to an English person if you are confident enough. If you feel you confident enough to do this it will help massively.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, people won’t mind and you will learn from these mistakes.
READ the dictionary. You should take this with you everywhere so that every time you hear a word that you don’t understand you can quickly see what it means in your dictionary. Chances are, if you look it up you won’t forget it and you may start to understand similar words without having to check.
Thursday, 29 December 2011
You’ve seen it before. Every checkmark only leaves two more unfinished tasks. Your to-do list has become an living organism, spawning more and more work while leaving you less and less time to finish. Is it possible to stop your to-do list, or will it just become an unstoppable blob of extra work?
Your best weapon against the rising tide of to-do is dedicating a day to destroying that list. Instead of wandering around, attacking various projects before putting them down, you go for the kill. Set up a massive to-do list and wipe it clean.
Few things are more satisfying than after a day of ending your to-do list. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Clear your schedule. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you give yourself a large chunk of time. A to-do ending day can’t be filled with all the regular errands of your life. The entire day needs to be focused on killing that list, so pick a day where you can have complete control over your time.
- Wake up early. Building momentum is critical. Even if waking up at 5 am isn’t a usual event for you, it can be helpful here. Which do you think will give you the right start: dragging yourself out of bed at ten o’clock, or forcing yourself to start moving at six?
- Collect your to-do list. If you have tasks and projects scattered over different parts of your life, you need to collect them into one list. One list detailing everything you want to have accomplished, on one piece of paper you can hold in front of you.
- Know the end. What does being finished look like? Every task should have a clear goal and purpose beyond just getting done. You can spend an entire day attacking your to-do list and accomplishing nothing if you aren’t clear on the final picture.
- Put hard tasks first. Pick your biggest and most difficult tasks and start on them first. Putting off the hard work is a sure sign it won’t get done. By putting the difficult tasks first, you also build a momentum that allows you to focus easily.
- Isolate yourself. Lock yourself in a room, unplug your phone and internet if you have to. Anything to ensure that interruptions won’t break your focus. A few hours of complete focus can accomplish what would take several days of multitasking.
- Set your rest breaks. Working continuously for several hours can be difficult to do with mentally straining work, especially if you aren’t used to it. My suggestion is to set short, but meaningful breaks in advance so you won’t be tempted to procrastinate.
- Match breaks with tasks, not time. Your breaks should match up with the large to-do chunks on your list, not at a specific time. If you plan to finish a report you expect to take ninety minutes, finish it in one chunk. Taking a break while working on a major task will only break your flow.
- Be patient when accelerating. It can take time to build up speed. When I write an article, it can take me up to fifteen minutes to get a clear idea on what I want to write. During this build-up time, the temptation is to quit or move on to something easier. Avoid that temptation and be patient.
- Give yourself meaningful rewards. If you finish your to-do list, take a break. Go out and have fun, watch a television show, meet up with friends or just stare blankly at a wall. Feeling the urge to be completely productive 24/7 is an easy way to ensure you never do.
- Does it need to be done? Cross off any items that lack long-term importance. Purify your to-do list so it only contains tasks that will be significant months and years from now. If your to-do list doesn’t seem important, it probably isn’t.
- Energize your diet. Engineer your food and exercise routine to give you the energy you need throughout the day. Eat lighter foods and avoid simple carbohydrates (which spike your blood glucose and then drop it). Drink plenty of water and eat smaller meals more frequently. Your goal is to create a diet that will keep your fuel levels even throughout the day.
- To exercise or not to exercise? Exercise is definitely a good idea. But whether you should bother heading to the gym on an intense project attacking day depends. I would say that a quick run can give you enough added energy to make up for the time loss. But if your exercise is long and prescheduled, you might want to leave it out to focus completely on your to-do list.
- Collect resources ahead of time. The night before you plan your epic battle against your to-do, prepare. Make sure you have all the right tools, information and resources to get the job done. Nothing feels worse than a half-finished list because you needed to wait on information from a third party.
- Chunk, don’t spread. Don’t spread tasks over all your waking hours like butter on toast. Intensity trumps time-management. Get as much done as possible and give yourself large chunks for both work and play. Spreading yourself too thin results in only a half-effort.