025 How to prepare a study plan and stick to it

025 How to prepare a study plan and stick to it

Introduction

Hello again and welcome back to the Art of Business English. Today I have a really useful episode for you. If you are serious about improving your English, then you need to set realistic goals and prepare yourself to reach your objectives.

Do you often think that you should work harder at your English but never seem to find the time? Do you often wonder what is the best way to practice your English? Well, if you have asked yourself these questions then you will get some serious value out of today’s lesson. I am going to show you step by step, how to create a study plan and then give you some tips on how you can stick to it.

So, in today’s episode we will be covering the following

  1. How to set realistic goals
  2. How to manage your time
  3. How to develop a study plan
  4. How to locate resources

So, let’s take a look at these top 4 tips. 

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Goal setting 

We all start out with good intentions, but we often find that we don't achieve our goals. What are the reasons for this? Well, basically many people set unrealistic goals or goals that don't fit in with their lifestyle. The problem with setting unrealistic goals is that we feel defeated and demotivated when we fail to achieve these goals. The result of this, for example, with learning English can be the feeling that you will never learn English or that languages are not your thing. Obviously, this is ridiculous, and I hate when people tell me that they were born bad at learning languages. It is true that some people find it easier than others, however, learning a language is like any other skill, with practice you improve and master it.

So, what is the best step. Firstly, you need to set realistic goals. When learning English, the mathematics are simple. The more hours you can dedicate to your English, the faster you will improve. The trap here is that if you then decide that you will spend 2 or 3 hours a day studying English, then you will improve quickly. What happens here is that you can only do this for a few weeks. Then it becomes too much and instead of doing less hours you get frustrated with your failure and decide to give up.

The second issue with language learning is that things don't improve overnight. Progress is slow and steady. You don't wake up one day to the next and suddenly understand everything. The acquisition of a language occurs over time.

Therefore, the first rule is to set realistic learning goals. For example, if you work, have kids and a busy life, I recommend dedicating between 15 minutes and 1 hour a day maximum to your English. The goal should also be measurable, meaning we can easily see the progress we are making.

I want you to think about what you could realistically dedicate in terms of time to studying English. Once you have done that, we can move onto the next part of the episode and look at time management. 

Time Management


The wonderful thing about being an animal living on this planet is that we all have the same number of hours in a day. It doesn't matter if you're the richest person on Earth or an average worker. We can only achieve so much in one day. We need to balance, family, kids, exercise, friendships and work. We should also add personal development to this. So, how can we manage our time.

The first rule is to make the time in your calendar. You need to spend 20 minutes reviewing your Google calendar or what ever system you use for tracking your agenda. I recommend waking up 30-60 minutes earlier in the morning, as this will give you the quiet time you need to study. I don't recommend studying late at night after a long day. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier and use the 30 minutes in the morning. You will be much more productive and motivated.

Secondly, and most importantly. If you plan to study during the day mark the time in your calendar as something such as weekly team meeting or something that is very hard to change. If others have access to your calendar, then make sure you protect this study time or disguise it. You need to mentally block this time and if someone asks you to meet or do something, just say you can't as you are busy. Society and technology are constantly trying to steal our precious time and most people allow this to take place. They have reminders and notifications and many external distractions. They answer the phone whenever it rings. Turn the phone of, flight mode, do not disturb. You will save time and most things are not urgent at all.

Right, we have decided on how much time we will spend studying and what time/days. Let's now move on to how to develop a study plan. 

Developing a study plan

Now I am going to explain how to prepare a study plan. You can download an example from the AOBE website.

The first thing you need to understand is what things you need to study. When learning a language, it is generally accepted that there are 5 main areas that need to be worked on. These are, listening, speaking, grammar, reading and writing.

In this example, I am going to develop a 5-day study plan, the time is irrelevant, as you can dedicate 15, 30 or 60 minutes. Just modify the activities to fit the time you have available.

Firstly, you can start on Monday by listening to a podcast, like you are now. Many podcasts are only 20 minutes long, so perfect for a quick English lesson. Many sites like the AOBE also provide you with study material and extra material.

On Tuesday you can program a speaking class. In this case, you will need to find a conversation class. Some companies provide this at work, this is fine. If you don't have access to qualified English coaches, then contact us as we can assist you with this.

On Wednesday you can focus on improving your grammar. There are many, many grammar books that you can find online or websites dedicated to grammar. Personally, I prefer purchasing a digital grammar book as this allows you to follow a logical progression, instead of looking for random grammar on websites. There are generally accepted grammar steps to learn, so better to have a book.

On Thursday, you can do some reading. In fact, reading is very easy and can be done every day. If you listen to a podcast and have the transcript, you will also be reading. If you follow a grammar book, you will read. If you want to enjoy reading, then I encourage you to purchase a subscription to a magazine in English. This way you can read about a topic that you enjoy and learn at the same time. The beauty of magazines is that you only read short articles and you don't need to follow a story line and remember the plot and all the characters. If you want to save money, then simply read one news article in English and take some vocabulary down. Another option is to find a blog you like and follow the posts. For the more adventurous, you could start reading a book. However, make sure it is adapted to your level or you will not enjoy the experience and stop within a short period of time.

Finally, on Friday you can do a bit of writing. I suggest journaling, this has become very popular. It is a great way to put down your thoughts and is good for your mental well-being. If you have an English coach, then you can write emails to them, or get them to help you correct your work emails in English. Writing is a very important skill and most students try and avoid it.

So, that is how we can put together a study plan. It is important to note, that this should all be mapped out over a 4 -week period in advance. You should develop your study plan for a month and have all the material and resources in place before you start. You cannot prepare your study plan on a weekly basis. This will lead to failure. Remember to download the study plan at the AOBE to help you plan your month.

Let's look at some ways to find study material. 

How to find resources

Firstly, if you need listening material, I recommend the AOBE weekly podcast. You can listen to it on iTunes or from our website. Obviously, there are many more podcasts, you can search for them on the iTunes directory.

For grammar books and material, you can do 1 of the following 2 things. Purchase a grammar book from Amazon, preferably with answers so you can self-study. The most famous grammar book is English Grammar in Use. There is a link to the book in the show notes. You could also do a Google search for a PDF version of the book. Secondly, you could do a Google search for English grammar websites or take an English grammar online course.

With regards to speaking, we recommend starting English coaching and conversation classes with the AOBE team. We offer online classes via our interactive learning platform. If you need an experienced English coach, then get in touch.

Fourthly, for your reading, I have mentioned lots of ideas already. The most important thing here is to find something that you're interested in a search for that topic. This will be the most enjoyable way to acquire new knowledge and practice your English at the same time.

Finally, writing is something we should do as often as possible. If you have the chance write as many emails as possible at work. There are many resources and videos at the AOBE website for improving your writing skills. If you work with a trainer, be sure to send them a weekly writing task for correction. It takes quite a long time to learn how to write effectively in a foreign language. 

Final thoughts 

Well that is all we have time for today. Make sure you download your free copy of the study plan template. If you have any questions regarding this episode, then please get in touch. If you are interested in English coaching services, then please contact us as we will be more than happy to advise you on the best strategy for your learning needs.

I hope you have enjoyed this episode, make sure you share it with your friends and family. Until next week, take care and I look forward to having your all again soon. Bye for now.

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About the Author Andrew

Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

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