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It has happened to all of us. We really want to put the pedal to the metal (to exert maximum effort) and study. We want to prove to ourselves that we can learn something and improve, but sometimes, it is so difficult to find the time and much less the energy to sit down and study.

Today’s post is dedicated to all of those who just feel too tired to sit down and study a little. Hopefully, these tips will help you organize your time a little better, know when is the best time to study and how to study. You all invest so much time, energy and money into learning, so let’s take advantage of it!

1. Critical or Not Critical?

Before sitting down to study, and if you feel extremely tired and just not inspired, ask yourselves this, “Is it critical I study right now or can it wait?” In other words, if you have a very important interview, presentation or exam, make the effort to sit down and study, even if it is just for 30 minutes. But if this is something that can wait, then wait! You will not learn by forcing yourselves to memorize and do work that is not motivating. Step away, get some rest and try again tomorrow and perhaps try some of the tips below. But do make sure you are not using the excuse of being too tired to not study! We need to be disciplined and consider re-evaluating how we prioritize our time.

2. Change your study time to fit your energy

This topic is key when deciding when to study. Most of us already know if we are morning-people or night-owls. When are you at your best? Early in the morning or late at night? Decide when you learn best and make a gap in your schedule to study then. Whether it is reading for 15 minutes, listening to the news for 5 or doing a few workbook exercises, set aside time in your agenda to stop and study. I suggest setting an alarm or reminder on your phone to help you remember that now it is time to study. If you find that during the week it is too challenging, even though I am a firm believer that we all have 5 minutes to listen to the news, then set aside some time on Sunday to study. It is like going to the gym! You have to force yourself but once you pick up the habit it becomes so much easier. Trust me!

3. Do the easy things first

If you find that you are too tired to sit down and read or finish that homework assignment your teacher left you, then do not force yourself to do it. When we are tired, our cognitive thinking requires much more energy and many times it is futile to force ourselves to focus on something that will only make us more tired. Perhaps consider watching something online like this, or this or this or do some household tasks that need to get done to free up some time to study tomorrow. Any little attempt you make will pay off in the long run.

4. Wake yourself up

As easy as 1, 2, 3 before sitting down try the following:

  • Drink a tall glass of water
  • Have a shower
  • Serve yourself a cup of coffee or warm tea and grab a cookie or two
  • Get some fresh air (I find going out for walks is a real winner and helps me clear my mind and get more creative. Take a look at this 5 minute video that talks just about that: Want to be more creative? )
  • Do 5 minutes of housework
  • Put some loud music on and dance and sing…your family and friends will love you for it and might even join in the fun!

5. Study with lots of breaks

Do not set out to study for hours without taking some breaks. You can try different ratios of time to benefit your study time. For example, try 25 minutes of studying, 5 minutes to get up, stretch or go to the bathroom. Or 30 minutes of studying, 15 minutes to break (again, take a short walk, have a snack or call a friend!) or even 60 minutes of studying then a 30 minute break.

It might not seem like you will get much done but if you are diligent about the time, you will see how staying focused will help you finish your studying tasks. It goes without saying that you need to set your phone aside, very far from you and put it on silence so as to not get distracted.

6. Are you getting enough sleep?

This next question might sound silly but is very important. We all know that getting a good amount of sleep helps us in being better thinkers, have quicker reactions and feel more motivated. SO, make the effort to get yourself into bed and have at least 7 hours of sleep. You will be a happier person. Also, studies have shown that looking at a screen right before going to sleep disturbs your sleeping patterns,so try to set aside your screen time at least 30-60 minutes before going to bed. Try reading instead or simply laying in bed and doing some breathing exercises until you doze off. Believe me, you will doze off!

Another issue to consider is what you are eating before going to bed. Check out this blog post on what foods can help you sleep like a baby!

There are many other things we can do to guarantee a full night’s rest

7. Are you too busy?

In our fast paced world today, we tend to put much more than we can handle on our plate so perhaps now is a good time to re-consider if everything we are doing is worth the energy and time it is consuming. We all want to learn something new, spend time with friends and family, do sports, work and the list goes on and on and on but perhaps we do not have to spread ourselves thin. Sit down and look at your agenda. Is there anything that you can set aside for another day? With all these activities, we eventually reach a point of burn out and risk not doing anything at all. So evaluate yourselves, set your priorities straight and start tackling those things that have more urgency. You will feel less exhausted, more productive and accomplished.

Life is short so let’s focus on those things that make us feel fulfilled and that help us grow!

And just in case this has inspired you to take on the challenge to study, here are some ideas to help you get started:

BBC 6 Minute English

General Knowledge Quizzes

Great Ted Talks videos for language learners

Local news in English and this and this and this!

Photo Source and inspiration for this post from here



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Well, here we are again…A new year. New chances. New possibilities. I do not know about you but I tend to get inspired at the beginning of the year and allow myself space to think of new objectives, challenge myself physically and or mentally and allow myself to take a risk or two, even if they are minor.

If you think about it, all of our new year resolutions are symbolic since we could begin at any point in the year, but I like to think that changing that last number on the 201_ makes all the difference! So join me in this challenge on changing a few things in our day to day and making this world or at least ourselves a little better.

Since well-being seems to be the current trending topic, I thought  I would focus this new year’s resolutions on a few personal and simple changes such as:

1. Reading more…at least one new book a month

2. Exercise…whether it is walking more, running or swimming but forcing myself outdoors more often and not just to run after a bus!

3. Make some art…that includes writing, painting or producing something with my hands and hopefully imagination.

4. Watch a performance…I need to get out more and see live performances (theater, music, dance) anything that involves people and noise

5. Talk more with friends and send less text messages…

and most importantly, start doing more fun activities with all of you. SO get ready! I will be hosting a series of activities to get you outside the classroom and using English with others.

Really looking forward to this year being a good one and sharing it all with you!

Happy 2019 and here’s to new beginnings

PHOTO SOURCE EElizabeth Playy



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Photo Source: Ryan Johnson for NPR

Last week we spoke about “Thin Slices of Joy” and living in the present. Have you tried it, yet?

And so in honor of Valentine’s day tomorrow and living in the present, I thought we would talk about a recent interview I heard on detoxing from Smartphones. I know, eye roll, and how trendy, right? Wrong. David Greenfield, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut found that hearing a notification from our phone is identical to the study Ivan Pavlov did over a century ago. Greenfield compares us to those dogs and warns us that high usage of our telephones can cause serious disorders and addiction. 

According to Greenfield, the average user checks their phone 50 to 300 times a day and compares it to gamblers on slot machines. In another study, Dr. Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, considers this problem a “spectrum disorder” that can go from mild to extreme forms. She doesn’t think we should stop using our phones completely, that would be too much of an extreme, but does advise us to consider controlling our use of the phone and being more present.

Dr. Lembke suggests we spend less time on our phones to help increase our creativity, enjoyable time with family and friends and efficient time at work.

But before you decide to take on the challenge of detoxing from your phone, as this week’s exercise, I invite you to listen to this fascinating report:

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/12/584389201/smartphone-detox-how-to-power-down-in-a-wired-world

When you are done listening, I challenge you to turn off your phone for the next 24 hours and enjoy Valentine’s day without any interruptions or notifications and instead, soak in the pleasures of such a romantic day!

And in case you are curious, a little video on the history of Valentine’s day!



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Artist: Brigitte Cazenave

On this rainy cold day, when warmer weather seems distant and bouts of the flu are sprouting everywhere, I thought we could talk about something comforting as we patiently wait for longer sunnier days.

With Spring on the horizon, I wanted to talk about an interesting blog post I read recently in regards to slowing things down and taking in our surroundings. Basically, to live in the present and enjoy the now…Not an easy task when we are running around from place to place, is it? But maybe, 2018 is a great year to try and re-focus and take pleasure in the small things in life. You might have heard of mindfulness and meditation. If you haven’t here are a few links to get you informed:

https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-how-to-do-it/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/?

In essence, mindfulness is being aware of yourself and your surroundings. Of soaking up or absorbing our sensations and learning how to view experiences through an easier or at least calmer perspective. This is not anything new or revolutionary. Artists and philosophers have been doing it for centuries, but in this fast paced world in which loneliness is now officially an epidemic and with a Minister of Loneliness in the UK, maybe we need to step back and take pleasure in the smaller things in life.

So, what are thin slices of joy? According to Chade-Meng Tanthey are small little pleasures throughout the day that make us feel, better, happier and it doesn’t take much to do it.

Usually these events are unremarkable: a bite of food, the sensation of stepping from a hot room to an air-conditioned room, the moment of connection in receiving a text from an old friend. Although they last two or three seconds, the moments add up, and the more you notice joy, the more you will experience joy, Tan argues. “Thin slices of joy occur in life everywhere… and once you start noticing it, something happens, you find it’s always there. Joy becomes something you can count on.” 

Remember the French movie Amelie? When she sticks her hand in a bag of dried beans and gets pleasure out of it? Those are thin slices of joy…Can you feel it too Scene from Amélie. - Imgur

 

So, which are your thin slices of joy? Do you celebrate them daily?

And since we are talking about the present, I thought we would do some practice exercises on the use of the present simple & present continuous. Good Luck!

Present Simple and Continuous: https://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar/simpre-prepro



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The holidays are right around the corner and before we take off, we wanted to share our plans for this festive time of the year in hopes that you will share with us.

Serve yourself some hot chocolate, turn on the Christmas Carols and relax as you read what we are doing for Christmas:

This will be a very special year for my little family as we welcome my brother, who’s currently living in Rota Spain, and my mother and her husband who will be traveling from Denver CO. All of whom have never spent the holidays in Catalunia and have no idea just how delicious gallet soup is! Merging our American traditions with my Catalan family’s traditions is going to be the highlight of my year. Excited for this memorable time and wish you all the Happiest of holidays!
Xo
Alicia Kersting

I usually spend Christmas in England and always have a special Christmas-style day together with my grown-up son and daughter.  For the last two years my son and I have gone to see the new Star Wars movie we’ll be doing it again this year.  Every other Christmas I go to London and spend the three days of Christmas as a volunteer working in support of homeless people with a fantastic secular charity called ‘Crisis at Christmas’, which has been running for 50 years. I work in a Rough Sleepers Shelter  which for 10 days provides not only safe warm accommodation, hot meals, fresh clothes and equipment, entertainment and access to computers as well as every kind of professional who give their services:  such as dentists, doctors, physiotherapists, podiatrists, manicurists, hairdressers, tailors and sewing specialist who will mend and rejuvenate clothes, many different kinds of addictions counsellors as well as social, financial, employment and housing specialists. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the many Crisis centres provided in London, Birmingham, Coventry and Edinburgh.  26,000 single people face homelessness on any given night in England due to a lack of affordable and accessible housing. Last Christmas, 9961 volunteers racked up 270,000 hours of volunteering in London. An incredible 8658 mince pies were enjoyed and 70,555 cups of coffee were drunk by 3911 guests.

Here is a video about last year’s Crisis at Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiHTv3yitNM

Happy Christmas, Tim Currant

My first Christmas in Barcelona!
As my family is in Poland I always try to make it there for Christmas. Well, almost always. Once I spent Christmas in Dublin and cried out big tears of homesickness as a massive house party that I ended up at, with crowds of drunk people, was somehow alien to my idea of ´family time´. Years later, I had a cheeseburger for Christmas Eve dinner in a bamboo restaurant in Sri Lanka. There was no drama, just joy, maybe because I somehow altered the idea of what ´family time´means.
This year I am spending Christmas for the first time here, in Barcelona and in La Comarca with my boyfriend’s family. I look forward to doing cagar el Tió, wandering around Christmas markets and decorating a palm tree with Christmas lights.
After I have collected all my pressies from el Tió, eaten piles of turrón and drunk multiple glasses of cava I am flying to Poland for belated Christmas and New Year´s Eve. I am going to travel to my grandparents´place – a tiny village of 9 houses, near the Belarusian border, where my mum comes from. There, surrounded by snow-capped forest I am hoping to find more pressies from Santa and stuff my face with pierogi and pierniki.
I guess, I am really grateful for all the Christmases so far and wish you all heartfelt ´family time´ – in all its unique versions.

Happy Holidays! Anna Bebzuka

This Christmas will be spent teaching our 1 year old about Santa Claus, Caga Tio and the magical Kings. Although Blai doesn’t quite get it yet, he certainly has made it clear that he loves all the twinkling lights and points to the Christmas tree in the late afternoon so I can turn on the lights. It is my favorite moment of the day. Like every year, on Christmas Eve we will have a seafood feast with just Oriol and I, this year Blai and our dog Tano will also join and at midnight, we will walk down to the sea to drink a bottle of Cava and see if we spot St Nick flying over us. We have yet to see him, but you never know…Then we will celebrate Christmas day with Oriol’s paternal side of the family, bringing young and old together and singing carols and reciting poetry in exchange for a few coins. My favorite! On Boxing day or St Esteban, we will have lunch with Oriol’s maternal side of the family and make time to play with our new gifts. After New Years, we will go down to the Delta de Ebre to welcome in 2018 in a very magical place with lovely light and fauna. (Heidi)

This season is my absolute favorite and I consider myself very lucky to have all of you form part of our every day life. Thank you for your hard work, collaboration and motivation.

May 2018 bring all of you peace, joy and health and lots of fun learning English!

Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2018!

 Photo Source



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As we get closer to tying up loose ends and considering New Year Resolutions, I thought we could work on a fun professional quiz this week to see if you are working in the sector that is right for you. And when we say, “right for you”, we mean, what makes you happy.

According to this The Guardian article, John Lees quoted, Work isn’t the only thing that influences happiness, but it’s where you spend a big chunk of your waking life. Can it really make you happy? Many factors come into play – the role, the way you’re managed, the organisational culture, how much you like your colleagues – but work that matches your motivation and your interests is far more likely to keep you absorbed and reasonably contented.”

So, perhaps it is time to take a moment to answer these 10 simple questions, learn some new vocabulary and find out if you need to mind map your career…Have fun! https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/quiz-what-job-best-fits-your-life/

Photo Source Jerome Masi



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This week we are going to focus on the topic of success. How to be successful at anything and Ralph Emerson’s poem on success. Before we dive into the subject, what does success mean to you? Do you consider yourself a successful person? Each culture has its own interpretation of what success means and how it identifies a person and quite honestly, I can never get enough of the topic.

Oliver Emberton has a fascinating explanation on how to be successful and it is as simple as limiting yourself to 3 objectives or aims. He claims that we tend to want to focus on too many things at the same time and that distracts us from our original goal. His article, “If you want to follow your dreams, you have to say no to all alternatives” is a colorful insight on how to stay focused and eventually reach our destination. Imagine your aims are bumblebees or in his words, “Our brains behave like a beach ball filled with bees. Hundreds of conflicting impulses, pushing us in different directions.” And so that means you move nowhere, unless you learn how to control those bees and allow just one to lead.Beachball-11

Read more here:  http://oliveremberton.com/2014/if-you-want-to-follow-your-dreams-you-have-to-say-no-to-all-the-alternatives/

And once your done reading the article, perhaps consider the fact that you are already successful. Take a look at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem on success. And if you do not know who Ralph Waldo Emerson is, perhaps today is a good day to find out…https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/ralph-waldo-emerson

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

PHOTO SOURCE: UNKNOWN



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It has been well over 6 months since I have been able to share interesting posts with you and I am happy to announce we are back and extremely happy to be here once again. Since last Winter, much has changed and as I welcomed our baby boy to the world, I also welcomed new thoughts on how we work, learn and grow. I am conscious or aware that the seeds I plant now will be so essential for the future of our little one and the example I set as a working adult will be for him to follow as he grows. Therefore, as Spring came and went and we begin to quickly invite Summer I have given thought to who we are when we work, when we learn, age and evolve. I know,  a bit deep for coming back suddenly, but hey, why not?

This post is dedicated to making us think about the pleasures of being necessary and ourselves at the same time, making those weekends stretch longer and longer and being productive…

One of my all time favorite writers, Toni Morrison, recently wrote on defining the person you are and the work you do. Two separate entities which we sometimes forget. Especially in today’s age when our work weighs so much on us as well as on our identity and we can inevitably lose the definition of who we really are and as a result, that fine line of leaving work behind when we are done with work becomes blurry (not focused). After speaking with her father as a child about work and being unhappy, her father responded the following:

1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.

2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.

3. Your real life is with us, your family.

4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.

Morrison ends the article with the following: “I have worked for all sorts of people since then, geniuses and morons, quick-witted and dull, bighearted and narrow. I’ve had many kinds of jobs, but since that conversation with my father I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home.”

If you want to read the full articlehttp://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/05/the-work-you-do-the-person-you-are

What do you think? Do you feel defined, confined or reassured by your work?

On a sweeter note, did you know you can make your weekend feel longer?? Yep, 48 hours can stretch just a little further…here is how (think new): http://nymag.com/scienceofus/article/how-to-make-the-weekend-last-longer.html

And finally, how to keep your sanity if you work alone…this is for all you freelancers or anyone who feels trapped in front of their computer on a daily basis! http://jkglei.com/freelance-sanity/

What are your thoughts? What do you do to make your working life happier?

Photo Source



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In our last post, we spoke about moving motivators and what puts us into action. This week I wanted to push the topic a little further and have you ask yourselves who you really are…What kind of worker are you? What kind of learner? Are you introverted or extroverted? Ambitious or relaxed about getting to your final objective? Or maybe you have never given it much thought…

Well, lucky for you, I found a fabulous personality test known as the Myers-Briggs test you can take in less than 15 minutes and find what kind of personality you have. Maybe you agree with the results, maybe not, either way that will make for an interesting discussion…So stop what you are doing and take this test now! https://www.16personalities.com/ 

If you are having problems understanding the questions, have your teacher help you out.

Not familiar with Myers-Briggs? Watch this 5 minute video on the history of Myers-Briggs and why 2.5 million people take this test annually.

It really is useful in becoming more aware of yourself and reaching a better you!

Photo Source



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Let’s talk about eloquence on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in October. Sentence structure and sharing our ideas clearly is so important in any language, but we know how tricky it can be to get those words into the right order when studying a new language. There really is no exception to the rule when speaking about word order in English, so the good news is that once you learn the rule, you will not make mistakes!

In Jason Kottke’s article, inspired by Mark Forsyth’s book The Elements of Eloquence Jason states,…adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”

While the Cambridge dictionary gives us a slightly different order: Opinion, Size, Quality, Shape, Age, Colour, Origin, Material, Type and Purpose, Noun. 

In other words, for a native speaker, this order is intuitive and learned. We know exactly how to construct the sentence, but we wouldn’t know how to tell you what order those words should be in. It’s the typical comment, “that’s just the way it is…” but in all truth, there is an actual order to it.

So, why don’t we try? Put the following words into the correct order:

1. table, a, square, wooden, big:

2. the,cup, tiny, plastic, blue, expensive

3. black, small, box, Turkish, old, a

Want more practice? Check out these links: 

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/adjectives/order-adjectives

http://perso.wanadoo.es/autoenglish/gr.adwo.p.htm

http://www.learnenglishfeelgood.com/esl_adjectiveorder4.html

And an exercise on word order in general: https://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar/word-order/exercises?02

Finally, a lovely poem on word order by Alexandra Teague:

That summer, she had a student who was obsessed 
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South 
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when 

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order 
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering 

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard, 
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread 
from the oven. City is essential to streets as homemade 

is essential to bread . He copied this down, but 
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost  before 
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English 
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part 

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible. Evaluation before size. Age before color. 
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding 

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal. 
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years 
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.

From Mortal Geography by Alexandra Teague. Copyright © 2010 by Alexandra Teague. Used by permission of Persea Books.

Photo Source

Post Insipired by: http://cupofjo.com/2016/09/grammar-rule/



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