TCOBaG: Staying on course

How do I stay on course?

While this is a big, broad topic, there are a few simple things that we can learn, and if applied, will help us in most areas of staying on course, or remaining focused.

First off we need to remember the ‘why’ factor in our goal. If we aren’t strong enough in the reasons we desire reaching a goal, it’s just not likely to happen, especially if that goal is a challenging one, and I do hope my readers are not choosing those simple, light-weight non-challenging goals, eh?

Okay, if we have a strong why, and we have our goal with a deadline, then we need only do a couple of things to keep on track and stay focused.

One, get someone to remind you. Simple, right? Two things this will do. One is that telling someone else about your goal makes you 70% more likely to follow through in order to remain consistent (that’s a whole other article, but it is coming. Promise.) You can also use software to remind you.

The second benefit of this is that you will be reminded about your goal, you will revisit the goal, and you will either stay focused on working towards your goal and attain it, or you will avoid the friend and drop the goal.

Two, ask yourself every day at the beginning of the day what you will do to further your journey on the path to your goal. Sometimes you don’t even need to answer the question at that time, but be open to it, be serious with the question, and if you don’t answer, tell yourself, “Self, give me the answer to this question later today when you’ve had time to mull it over.” This works very well to free you from stressing about it, and you will more often than not suddenly find you’ve been ‘inspired’ with a thought about your project or goal. Try it.

It really is that simple.

Here are a couple of easy tips to help you with this:

Put two notes on the corner of your computer screen, or work area, right in front of you. On one write the Question? Am I still working towards my goal? On the other write: Why do I want this goal?

Put them where you will see them, read them, and answer both questions honestly. It’s best to do this at least a couple of times a day. When you glance at the notes, answer the questions.

Every 3 or 4 days changed the notes, their position, simply reverse them, but do something to keep you from becoming complacent about seeing them, getting too comfortable and failing to notice and respond to them.

That’s it. You will see results from this technique almost immediately. Just remember to change them up occasionally and this method will continue to be useful tool for keeping you on track and focused on your goals.

TCOBag: Willpower vs. Imagination

Who is the winner when your Willpower goes head-to-head with your Imagination?

Willpower, without it, you are left wafting in the breeze, victim of any and every whim that takes you.

Ahhhhh, where did that ‘whim’ come from?

Just popped out of thin air?

That ‘whim’ usually comes from your imagination, and your mind is a powerful projector, a personal ‘movie maker.’

What makes you want to bite into that donut even though you’ve vowed to lose those extra 10 pounds? Is it really a lack of willpower?

I think not.

I think that your imagination is to blame 🙂

The key here is to focus on using your imagination to support your willpower, instead of undermining it.

When the urges strike you, don’t just grit your teeth, clamp down on something nearby and refuse to let go. This method will end in failure more often than not.

Instead, focus on your image, the one you created of the new, better, healthier, wealthier (whichever is closest to your specific goal) and let that feed your willpower.

Tell yourself, “I see myself feeling, looking better, and this donut isn’t part of that plan.” Imagine what it will feel like to obtain that goal, what you will look like, what others will say about you, think about you, or what you will think about yourself when your new goal has been reached and you’ve scratched it off your list.

Ask yourself, after I give in to this urge, how will I feel? Is that how I want to feel? Will it truly be worth it?

Then, willpower and imagination will be working together to help you instead of being locked in a cage match, winner-take-all brawl that willpower is bound to lose.

TCOBaG: I Have No Idea!

Not usually a problem for me, but I get this from my writing students on a regular basis, and friends aspiring to be writers or to write more . . .

What do I write about? I have no idea!

You know that great, “write what you know” crutch, fallback, senseless patter, right?

First, you gotta decide ‘what you know.”

Little brainstorming session.

5 minutes should do it . . .

Paper, pencil, (I like to do this on paper, gives it a physical feel but you can use your computer as long as the solitaire game is at least minimized and you don’t have the sound up for new messages arriving 🙂

Start at the top:
Just start listing all of the topics you’ve ever studied in school.
Magazines you read regularly
Kinds of articles, topics
Sports you like to play or watch
Software you use
Forums you visit
Newsletters (ezines)

Don’t stop writing for 5 minutes, write “I can’t think” or “I have no idea” when you er, ‘have no idea’ but keep the pencil or the typing fingers moving for 5 minutes.

Now, look at your list.

Anything jump out at you?


Want to try again for 5 more minutes?

Thought not 🙂

Look over the list. Grab the first 7 that seem to stick out.

Narrow that down to the top 3 and list them in order of your knowledge, interest, and desire to write about them.



Now you know what to write about.

Not painful at all, eh?

Teaching Private English Lesson Tips

If you’re considering teaching private English lessons, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First off, it is not going to be like teaching in a school or classroom, so some of the things that set up and kick off your lessons will not be in place. You are not going to be spending time getting everyone checked off for attendance or making sure who has their textbook.

So what do you need to do to get started then?

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your private lessons.

1. Make sure you stick to the time allotted. Running over will only cheapen the value of your time, starting late will encourage students to do the same.

2. Have a small whiteboard handy. This is great if you’re working on a table in a coffee shop, or even in your own home. Keep a couple of extra markers handy as well as it is a major pain to have your marker run dry.

Having the whiteboard can help you to quickly give examples, show spelling, or have the student or students do the same.

3. Have students pay you in an envelope. Especially if you are teaching in Japan or Korea, people don’t like to just hand off cash. Give them an envelope that has the months listed on it. This way you can check off the “Paid” months. It also gives that impression of both professionalism and continuity.

4. Be prepared with what you are going to do. Don’t just sit down and say “what do you want to do today?” Treat the lesson the same as you would any other class but allow yourself some freedom to go where the student likes and wants to go depending on the material you have planned for the day.

5. Give the student some prep work for the next lesson. No one, and I mean no one, likes homework, but you have to instill in the student the idea that the lesson is great, but it alone is not going to be enough to see real or rapid improvement in their English skills. Don’t call it homework, call it prep work. Have them bring some questions, write down a certain number of phrases they have come across during the week that they thought were interesting or did not fully understand and you will then go over them at the next meeting.

6. Ask them what kinds of information they want to learn. Classes, especially at schools and universities, have an outcome in mind. This means that students all too often learn what is taught only and that does not always match their needs or desires. Learning should always include at least some material that the student has a desire to know and hopefully use.

6. Don’t take breaks! This goes for during the lesson and between. Taking a break during the lesson, even a scheduled one will give the impression that you are stalling out the time. Get to it, stay with it, and finish on time.

You also want to avoid taking breaks for the week from lessons. The more times you take a ‘day off’ the more students will find that time was more fun being spent at the coffee shop, or playing with their friends. Retention is the key to success in private English lessons, and taking those breaks leads to more breaks and all too often permanent breaks by the students.

That should get you started.

Remember to make it fun. Be upbeat. Greet them warmly. Look happy to be doing the lesson. This will help the student to start off the lesson in a positive frame of mind, and it will help you to do so as well.

Teaching Tips – Taking Attendance

It’s something you have got to do, in most classes. It takes up time, it’s a cause for embarrassment if you get a name wrong, and it sets the tone for what you have on the plate for your class that day.

So, how do you take attendance and not make it a waste of time?

Taking Classroom Attendance

Most classes begin with taking attendance. It can be a time-consuming, often overly so, task. It can also be a cause of embarrassment for the student or the teacher.

If you have big classes, this also may be the only time there is a real one-to-one conversation going on between the teacher and the student.

So, what to do with this beast? How can you use this time-killer to your advantage? How can you get students to understand it’s importance?

Glad you asked.

First, even if your grades don’t reflect this, stress to your students the importance of good attendance, and of keeping a good record of attendance.

I often use this shopping analogy when I talk about attendance and participation in class.

Ask the students if they have ever gone to a department store, picked out something they liked, wanted, or needed, took it to the cash register, paid for it, and then said, “Thank you” and intentionally walked off and left the item behind?

If they understand your story, they should all answer quickly, and with a laugh, “Zero!”

You answer, “Of course not. Even if you were shopping with money from your parents you wouldn’t even consider doing this.”

“But in a way,” you say, “When you sign up for this class, pay your money, or your parents pay, or even on a scholarship, and then don’t attend, you are doing that exact same thing.”

Tell them, “I know you are all smart shoppers.”

This always works for me.

Here are 4 tips for taking attendance:

1. First read over the names until you can say them clearly. Do this before meeting the class. You still might not get them all correctly, but it will increase your chances.

2. Tell the students that if there name is mispronounced to please let you know and that you want to know how to say their name properly.

3. Have them answer clearly in a way you define, ie Yes, here. (More on this in a moment.)

4. When you finish, count heads. This is especially important when you have large classes. This also re-enforces your statement that you are serious about keeping good attendance records.

Here are a few ways to spruce this up a bit.

1. Write a short phrase on the board. For example, “The weather is great today!” Have the students repeat it together a couple of times to make sure they’ve all got it. Then tell them to answer with this phrase when you call their name. You can use key phrases from the day’s lessons, longer, shorter phrases, whatever suits your situation.

2. Take attendance with a quiz! Be sure to count heads though to make sure you collect the proper number of papers and that you didn’t miss anyone or that no one is ‘answering for a friend.’

3. Have each student stand, say their name and a short statement. For example you might use: “My name is Mari, my favorite color is blue.” where students repeat the same phrase changing only the color. You can also use food, movies, singers, or songs.

Just remember to use a different phrase or a different method or you will soon find you are right back in the same old ‘taking attendance rut.’

About the author:
Allen Williams is a professional educator, speaker, and writer. You can find out more of what he is up to by visiting: kNow Thinking Aloud
— or — Personal and Professional Growth