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How Do You Declutter Your Language Learning Focus?

How Do YOU Focus on Your Language Learning?

How do you focus on learning Thai?..

During the past week my Internet connection has been getting weaker, to the point that I could no longer code. And I had a big, fat, overdue post to finish this weekend, the February edition of ‘Who’s Talking About Learning Thai’. Ouch.

But it’s not just the posts that are overdue. Projects are piling up and my Thai lessons are disgracefully lagging behind. I’ve always been bad organising study time and life keeps digging me a bigger hole.

Now here’s the thing. My computer holds all my stuff. Loads and loads of stuff. Photos, books, dictionaries, software… I’m sure you have stuff too so you might know what I mean.

Bottom line: On my computer I have a mountain of work needing to get done… and my Thai lessons. And both are fighting for equal attention.

My Buddy Scott came up with a solution – buy the nifty new iPad and transfer my Thai lessons over. Bingo. Problem solved. And well, ok. That was boldfaced lie. He didn’t come up with the idea but he did get me thinking about an excuse to buy even more digital kit. But… the iPad is already in the US but it won’t arrive in Thailand until goodness knows when – October? – and I need a solution now.

And I believe I found just the one…

Do you have a Mac? Well, if you go up to System Preferences >> System >> Accounts >> and click that little plus on the bottom left you can create what is basically a new start in life. And that’s exactly what I did. It wasn’t totally smooth sailing because getting used to switching between two accounts slowed me down. But this morning while my Internet was chocking and then going cold stone dead, I was busy creating a home away from home in my very own home.

Just check it out… below is what my regular desktop looks like (and please don’t say to clean the mess up because I NEED all that stuff at my fingertips).

How Do YOU Focus on Your Language Learning?

And here’s what my new learning Thai desktop looks like (I’ll change the background photo later).

How Do YOU Focus on Your Language Learning?

There is no twitter, no Facebook, no emails, no blogs to read, and no folders full of jobs to complete. By clicking the Finder I can see the folders on my work machine but I can’t edit anything. In the shared folder are my Thai lessons, all ready to go.

Going from left to right on the bottom bar: The Finder, Chrome (for downloading software updates and naught else), Word and Excel (Thai lessons and vocabulary lists), Audacity (listening to sections of Thai audio), iTunes (Baroque music and Thai audio and podcasts only), Anki (for the odd vocab list), BYKI (growing bulk of my Thai lessons), L-Lingo (review), TypeTrainer4Mac (for needed typing practice). And the rest on the bar are functional necessities.

To switch between accounts I just log out of one and into the other. And while it’s a simple switch, it’s a big enough pain to make me think twice about getting distracted, away from studying.

So from now on there will be no more answering emails, writing posts, reading blogs, and doing projects first thing in the morning, only to resurface when most of the day is gone. From now on it’s Thai lessons first, and the rest of my life later.

I don’t have a clue how PC’s work or if they have something similar to this. Do they? And one more question – do you have any tips for keeping your computer life uncluttered? Enough to get to Thai studies? I’d love to hear them if you do.

Edit: If you know of someone coming from the US… I’m still game for an iPad ;-)

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

14 Comments

  1. Cat, I tried to declutter once and made a new user for my laptop. It was all pretty and clean and no clutter. I couldn’t screw off but I also couldn’t check my websites or anything else. It’s a great idea but the whole point of having a computer is so everything is at my fingertips.

    I definitely need to separate my Thai learning from my internet life though. Let me know how your experiment goes and if well I might try it again myself.

  2. Talen, I sure will. I turned off email alerts ages ago but during lessons I get this, ‘only for a minute’, type of chatter going off in my head. Only for a minute can eat up the best part of the day.

  3. Cat, I have had that “only for a minute” moment last a whole weekend :P

    TV is another big time killer…I don’t really watch it but it’s there as background filler. Now I don’t even turn it on anymore.

  4. Talen, ah hah! I do that too and I’m more than ready to get my life back from the Internet. I’m not dissing everything about the Internet because I’ve learned a lot over the years. More than I did in higher education, that’s for sure. The Internet is a fabulous tool.

    I’m not big on watching TV. Unless I’m doing a stint watching Thai TV, it’s off in the daytime and comes on after 6 for the BBC news and goes off around 10.30 before bed. But note that I’m not in control of the channel changer. So what’s on, is on (and I have earphones for those sporty moments).

    Well, I want to report that this morning went well. The storm coming in woke me before 5am. Not wanting to get out of bed I pulled my iPhone under the sheets and read emails. It’s sort of cheating but sort of not. I just skimmed and deleted – no replies, no surfing. During breakfast I read Paul’s latest post (also via iPhone). But there is no getting lost on a phone – the screen is too small and I hate typing on it (as you know).

    Shortly after 5am I was sitting down to my Thai lessons. I studied until almost 6.30 straight. There were moments when I thought about doing something else but pulled myself back for the very same reasons I put this in play – it’s too much of a pain to switch between accounts for one little thing (in this case it was a needed password).

    If this is all it takes to get a focus (one morning of rearranging files), then I’m chuffed.

  5. Hi Catherine, it sounds like such a good idea. The computer screen is the worst boss I’ve ever had – I really mean that. I feel bad when I don’t get things done, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day to manage half of it. I’ve reached the point where I just have to give up on a lot of the work I’d like to do – and that is not the way I want it.

  6. Paul, have you seen the special screens for writers? It blacks everything out except your typing area. I saw them years ago and they were butt ugly then but I don’t know if they’ve improved their design since. A black screen with white text didn’t appeal to me (like going back in time).

    I’m looking forward to my studies tomorrow and the lack of frustration might be the reason. Before, I’d get irritated from trying to handle too much. During lessons I’d remember something needing to be done usually “right now before I forget”, leave my lessons with the thought of getting back to them, and it’d never happen.

    I realise that some can handle email alerts and IM, but I’m not one of them (both are turned off).

  7. Catherine, since you’ve already said for us not to comment on how cluttered your desktop was…I won’t ;) I don’t have a Mac, but do have that lovely clean looking task bar, you’ve installed. I downloaded mine from Stardock, it’s called Object dock and I love it!!!!! http://www.stardock.com/products/objectdock/

    I create shortcuts to web pages, files and folders that I access regularly, including my Thai studies software etc. It saves a lot of time!

    Now I just need something similar to use in real life.

  8. Snap, I’m now laughing because I felt guilty after writing that so yesterday I actually did some organising. Not all of the folders and files are gone from my desktop, but a chunk.

    I’m a bit nervous because of the ‘out of sight out of mind’ aspects of it all. I once followed a tip about tidying up my gmail account (as project manager for several different sites, I get an enormous amount of emails per day). It said to put everything away in folder, with the most important in an urgent folder at the top. Well, guess what. Most everything is still sitting in that urgent account but the emails out in the open eventually do get answered.

    Today was another successful study day. I woke up with a headache so cut the lessons short (50 min) but it’s went well. No distractions. And it’s such a simple fix.

    I have all sorts of books on getting organised – do you know the ones I mean, where you spend a part of your day doing the organising and the rest overwhelmed by lists? – but simple is better for me.

    Btw – the taskbar I have on my computer comes with the Mac OS. I can make it do all sorts of things, bob and bounce even, but it won’t do my chores for me.

  9. Catherine I quite like the background photo, it’s clean and fresh looking, just like your new computer life.

    I’ve got so much rubbish on my computer I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of a big clean up. I think one day soon I’ll just Vera Lynn it and buy a new one.

    Like you I hate typing anything into my mobile. I sometimes read blog posts on it which is difficult enough but commenting is a definite no no.

    I hope you and Mac have a happy new life together. I think me and mine are heading for divorce.

  10. A great post Catherine. Timely too. I’ve just started teaching summer intensives so I’ve nooooooo time for Thai. I swear I feel like I make progress then slide down back to ground zero.

    Your desktop made me think of mine. I still have your reading pdfs just staring at me and ever since I switched to Linux I still haven’t moved or opened my anki decks or manee folders. Agggggggggggggg.

    Help me na ka!!!!

  11. Martyn, sometimes it’s a blessing when a HD crashes because it takes away the guilt of not turfing things out (obviously, have the important bits backed up).

    I kind of think that the new super phones are for emergency typing or when you are really bored and want someone else to know it (I might have to eat my words on that last statement ;-)

    Lani, I was getting to a major frustration level and needed to blow off something. My too busy life? It keeps pushing my Thai out of the way. And now that I’m finally sleeping (since Italy – Yeah!) I have no real excuse for not studying regularly.

    Last year K Narisa and I switched from lessons to a Thai project I was passionate about – my lack of sleep made it impossible for me to retain anything, and so the project made more sense. I would still be around Thai, just not 100% focused on input.

    She’s been waiting all this time for my brain to come back online and now that it has, I had to come up with something quick to rearrange how I’d been doing things.

    I just wish everything else on my ‘gotta do’ list was as easy to rearrange as switching accounts.

    But really, we can only do so much in life. And personally, I couldn’t imagine teaching on intensive course AND learning Thai, so you have my fullest sympathies sweetie. It’ll be there when the summer course is over. Waiting, waggling its finger at you to come on over…

  12. I have a Mac, too, and this is really great idea, Catherine! I love the idea of compartmentalizing this kind of thing. Of course…I’ll never get around to it, but I like the idea! :)

  13. “Of course…I’ll never get around to it, but I like the idea!”

    So funny :-D

    It does work – but only as long as I don’t have something going on first thing in the morning. If I don’t do it in the morning my day screams by and that’s that.

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