Let’s be honest from the start
Let’s not sugarcoat things.
Learning English can be hard work!
I know. I’m with you.
It’s not just learning English that is hard work, learning any language is hard work. It requires effort, determination and patience.
Over the years (in order of success) I’ve learnt Spanish, French, Galician, Portuguese and German and I’m now teaching myself Swedish. It was, and still is hard sometimes.
That’s why I decided to make it easier for myself.
I decided to get more efficient!
Efficient: using resources such as time, materials, or energy well without wasting any
- more focused
- more productive
- more motivated
- less stressed
- more do-able
- more enjoyable!
It’s a no-brainer!
So if you’re feeling like I did; without focus, disorganized, too tired, too busy or demotivated, read on…
I’m going to share 3 simple things I did to become more efficient and enjoy learning a language more.
Tip #1 Set goals
This will give you focus and cut out all the unnecessary, low priority stuff.
When you set your goals, ask yourself:
Why are you learning English?
What do you need or want to do in English?
What are your priorities? (what’s essential, what’s desirable, what’s not important)
Make sure your goals are SMART:
- Is your goal specific enough? Is it detailed and clear?
- Is it measurable? How will you know when you have achieved it?
- Is it achievable? Be honest with yourself. Is it possible to achieve or too difficult at the moment?
- Is it relevant? Does it help you move in the right direction?
- Is it time-bound? Have you set a deadline to achieve your goal?
Improve my English is not a SMART goal. You need to be much more specific e.g do a 10 minute presentation in English for my colleagues
Finally, when you have a goal, write it down. Research says you are 42% more likely to achieve it!
#Tip 2 Get organized
Make sure you know exactly where to find everything.
- Use a tool like Google Drive to keep worksheets, notes, etc. organised. Create folders (colour code if you’re like me) and give them obvious names: Listening practise, Reading, Speaking tips, Writing prompts, Vocabulary, Grammar…
- Use a productivity tool like Asana or similar to add your goals with deadlines and create checklists.
- Use a bookmarking tool and create folders to save resources in. I use Pearltrees and Chrome bookmarks to save interesting websites. Save websites for listening practice (podcasts, TedTalks…) reading practise, grammar practise etc.
- Use a note-taking app to save interesting links, vocabulary, ideas etc. (great for when you are out and about) I highly recommend Google Keep. You can pin notes, add labels and my favourite thing, colour code!
- Or if you prefer good old pen and paper, get yourself some notebooks, post-its and coloured pens
- Alternatively, use a combination like me.
Tip #3 Make time
To save time you need to make time.
Decide when and how long you’re going to dedicate to learning English. If you don’t have much time don’t be over-ambitious: instead, be consistent. It’s better to turn up for less time regularly than not at all or once in a blue moon.
And if you can’t make time, make the most of time:
Work smarter and multi-task when you can. Notice I said “when you can.” Listen up carefully because if you get this one wrong, you’ll end up being less productive and efficient, and we definitely don’t want that!
Research shows that we can only focus on one conscious task at a time (despite what we think!) If we do more than one task which requires our attention then we won’t perform as well and we will make mistakes.
Have you never been caught out in a meeting when you’re asked a question by your boss that you can’t answer because you were texting home to see what was for dinner?
So don’t practise your presentation in English while sending a text to your friend at the same time. It won’t work!
What you can do, however, is practise your English when you are doing automatic routine tasks i.e tasks that are not active thinking tasks and require no conscious effort.
So you have my permission to…
- listen to a podcast in English while you are doing the ironing or driving to work
- rehearse your presentation while you’re washing up
- learn those phrasal verbs while you’re out for a jog (in fact doing gentle exercise while learning has been proven to help memory)
How efficient do you think you are when it comes to learning English?
Take my quiz “Are you a Smart English Learner?”
Happy Smarter Learning!