I don’t have the time to work on my grammar!

1 April 2010 

Word count:  770

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

   Image by Anna Theodora. Used with permission.

Yep, we’re all busy – no dispute there.  But we can dispute the excuse that we don’t have the time.  Fact is, we all have the same amount of time every day – 24 hours.  It’s just what we choose to do (or must do) with those 24 hours that’s at issue.

Is it important for you?

When you say you don’t have time for something what you’re really saying is ‘that’s not a priority for me’.

And that’s fine!  You’re in charge of your life – and you get to decide what’s important.  You deserve praise for taking (or making) time to do the many things you’re already doing – so give yourself credit for that.

And if grammar or work on your writing style isn’t a priority for you, no problem.  Don’t feel guilty about it.

But if it is important and you still think you ‘don’t have time to work on it’, then you’ll need to re-think your priorities.

Think about how you’ve made the time for what you already do – caring for your family, working a full-time job, maintaining your health.  What have you given up so that you have time for the things you’re already doing?  Is there something you might change to give yourself a bit of that time for grammar work?

Schedule ‘appointments’

Scheduling things can serve as a reminder to do something important, for example, scheduling exercise ‘appointments’ to stay fit.  It can also give you an excuse when someone asks you to do something you’d rather not!  (‘Sorry, I’ve got an appointment.’)

And don’t forget to schedule time for breaks from work.  

Tune out distractions

When we’re doing something we love, nothing can distract us from it.  You don’t hear noisy neighbours.  You lose track of time.  You don’t get tired.  There have been times when I’ve been doing something so interesting that I didn’t realize I had skipped a meal – I wasn’t even hungry.

But when you’re doing a chore that you’re not interested in very much, any distraction becomes an excuse to quit and do something else.  

Is there a way to capture some of the enthusiasm you have when you do something you love -- and keep from getting distracted when you’re doing chores?  How are you able to focus?  Try the same things to get other stuff done (like grammar revision). 

Reclaim ‘stolen’ time

A few months ago I wrote about how to discipline yourself to improve your English.  One of the tips I borrowed from Dave Navarro was to reduce things that steal your time and use that time to do what’s important to you.

Some of those things are excuses (too much TV or video games), and some are genuine reasons (urgent family needs).  Only you know who (or what) takes up your time, and only you can decide which things you cannot do.  

But you don’t have to take back much time from the ‘time thieves’ in your life.  Even 10-15 minutes a day spent on improving your language will go a very long way.

Take advantage of other ‘down’ time

I read recently that Victorian author, Anthony Trollope, wrote most of his 37 novels in his spare time – outside of his full-time job.  How did he do it?  Two ways:  he got up at 5:30 every morning and wrote before having breakfast; and he wrote while on the train going to work.

I will NOT suggest that you get up at 5:30am, unless you just like that sort of thing.  You should certainly work on grammar only when you’re awake and alert.  But I’m sure that taking some of your travel time to read or write something in English is a reasonable request.  

Read things you enjoy.  It can be the news or a novel – a comic book or fashion magazine.  If you spend only 15 minutes a day reading, you can finish 30 or 40 average length books in a year.  But more importantly, you’ll pick up proper grammar (including those pesky prepositions) and new vocabulary (even without a dictionary).

Keep a small notebook with you to jot down your thoughts.  I’ve taken advantage of long red traffic lights to jot down ideas in the notebook in my car.  You could write ‘letters’ to your kids – stuff you want to share with them later in their lives.  Write down the funny stuff you see around you.  (For example, recently I saw a tattoo-covered triad member riding a pink motorcycle!  Kind of like a Hell’s Angel or one of the Sons of Anarchy riding on Paris Hilton’s pink motor scooter. It made me laugh – so I wrote it down.)

Copyright 2014 DeGolyer Associates Ltd |  Contact Deborah at:  writewithtaste@me.com