Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Prioritize to Optimize Learning

priority (noun) /praɪˈɔrət̮i/
prioritize (verb) /prīˈôrəˌtīz/

  1. [countable] something that is more important than other things and should be dealt with first
    Our two main priorities this week are customer outreach and accounts payable.
  2. priority (over something) [uncountable] indicates the most important among various things that have to be done or among a group of people
    Completing this project takes priority over other tasks.

Source: Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries (Example sentences are my own.)

Words that collocate with priority

first/high/low/top + priority
Customer satisfaction is our top priority.

list of/lose sight of + priorities
It’s important not to lose sight of your priorities.

get/have/take (over)
This task takes priority over all others.

give + priority (to)
Priority is given to those who submitted the application before the deadline.

If you don’t make it a priority, you’ll never do it.

Synonyms: precedence, preference, prime concern, most pressing

What do you prioritize?

What are your priorities? Perhaps family jumps to mind. Perhaps improving the quality of your life and the lives of those you love. If you make something a priority, you give your time and attention to it.

“To change your life, you need to change your priorities.”
~ Mark Twain

If learning English is one of your priorities, welcome to the discussion.

It’s natural for priorities to change over time. You may want to improve your listening skills, brush up on your vocabulary, or speak more fluently. Depending on your personal priorities and interests, the activities you choose to reach your goals will vary.

Phrasal verb alert!
brush up (on): improve a previously learned skill through study or practice

Tip: Match your tasks to your priorities.

When it comes to getting things done in life, it’s important to evaluate your priorities.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
– Russian proverb

What are your priorities when it comes to English? Are you giving it the time and attention it takes to improve?

Priorities and Motivation

Any discussion about priorities prompts a discussion of motivation. If we lack proper motivation, we’re unlikely to prioritize something.

One way to get your priorities straight is to identify your motivation. Once you are clear about your motivation, you can build in ways to motivate yourself even more.

Idiom alert!
get something straight: to have a clear understanding of something

Why do you want to learn English? What’s in it for you? How can you make it enjoyable? Yes, enjoyable! Language learning doesn’t need to be boring and isolating.

3 Tips to Enjoy Learning English

Idiom alert!
What’s in it for (someone): What does one stand to gain from something? What advantage is there?

Take some time to think about your motivation for learning English. Does it come from within or is it something you’re doing for external reasons? Your attitude plays a big part in the learning process. Intrinsic motivation comes with a more positive attitude than extrinsic motivation.

Prioritize Meaningful Action

Whether you are internally driven to learn English or are compelled by outer circumstances to learn English, there are ways you can find more success by getting your priorities straight.

Idiom alert!
If you’re driven to do something you have ambition and are determined to do it.

What motivates you? Do you want to be able to have meaningful conversations in English? Maybe you’re eager to watch movies without the need for subtitles? Or perhaps you’re trying to pass a test and meet external societal expectations?

The Internet is full of resources to suit any and all interests. Once you have a clear goal, make a plan of action. What will you do to get closer to your goal?

Resources for Learning English Online.

If you want to enjoy English, connect it to your interests. Learn vocabulary in contexts that are meaningful to you. Connect with people who share your interests and speak your target language. By connecting with others, you’ll find yourself enjoying the process of learning, which helps fuel motivation.

Once you get a grasp on your priorities, a clear path to success can follow.

Idiom alert!
get a grasp: attain a clear understanding

Let’s be honest, humans are naturally pretty lazy. We like comfort and convenience. Given the choice between scrolling through social media or spending 30 minutes (or less!) on something that will get us closer to a goal, too often we choose social media. I am guilty of this, but with the start of another new year, I have identified my priorities and planned for success by determining the actions I will take each day.

What are some things you can do each day to reach your goals?

Priorities and Time

If you don’t make something a priority, you’re unlikely to get it done. Until you make something a priority, you’ll keep making excuses, procrastinate, and never have enough time for it.

Once you make something a priority, suddenly, you have enough time for it. I speak from experience. For thirty-two weeks out of each year, the students enrolled in my university courses are my top priority. During this time, I struggle to publish blog posts or work on my other writing projects consistently because I’m too busy. Or am I? In fact, if I made my writing a priority, I believe I would find the time.

“If it’s a priority you’ll find a way. If it isn’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
~ Jim Rohn

I’ve decided that enough is enough. It’s time to prioritize. And that is exactly what this first post of 2021 is all about. This year, my priority is consistency.

Weird phrase alert!
enough is enough: no more will be tolerated; this must stop
*Enough is also used in the same way.
Pronunciation: / ɪˈnʌf /

Prioritize Consistency

Consistency is related to regularity. If someone is consistent, they are predictable and can be relied on to behave in the same way over time. We can trust them to do what they say they are going to do.

The opposite of consistent is inconsistent. This would be synonymous with irregularity. In 2020, I published a mere four new posts on this website. I also did some updates to older posts and other website maintenance, but if my goal was to publish a new post each week, I was highly inconsistent. Of course, publishing weekly posts wasn’t my goal. I didn’t prioritize it.  

I have struggled with consistency for years. I have lots of excuses for why I don’t consistently spend time on my many writing projects, including the fact that there are just so many of them that it is difficult to know where to begin.

It’s time to stop making excuses and start taking action.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
~ Stephen Covey

This year, I plan to publish at least 3x the number of posts I published last year. My goal is 12 to 24 posts. I’ll begin the new year with one per week. Expect something new from me each Tuesday over the next 6 weeks!

What are you going to prioritize in 2021? What actions are you going to take as a result?

Create Goals and Rewards

Much like writing, learning a language can feel like an overwhelming and never-ending task. And much like writing, making your goals a priority, creating a plan of action and sticking to your plan is going to get you results.

When it comes to focusing on our priorities, consistency is the key to progress. While we know this, it can be easier said than done. Too often we want instant results. We want a quick payoff. When we don’t see immediate progress, we often give up. However, in order to reap the rewards, we have to put in the effort.

payoff: profit, reward
reap: receive

We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions that quickly fall by the wayside. We start off with big ambitions, but unless we truly make our goals a priority by creating a regular routine and sticking to it, we return to our default setting – too busy, too tired, too much screen time.

fall by the wayside: be ignored, forgotten, or set aside

Having clear priorities and getting enjoyment out of the process is a good recipe for consistency. It’s important to find ways to reward yourself so that you don’t give up before you reach the finish line. Otherwise, it’s going to feel like the finish line keeps moving further and further away.

Get creative. Perhaps after studying English for 20 minutes, you get to indulge in your favorite snack, play your favorite game, or watch your favorite show. Soon, you’ll look forward to study time because it will become linked to a fun reward!

Make Space for Priorities

No matter what your priority is, if you want it badly enough, you’ll make space for it in your life. New habits take time to develop. Start small. In my next post, I’ll continue this conversation. We’ll delve more deeply into habits and how to optimize your environment to create new habits.

With a clear understanding of your goals, you can create a plan that will lead to success.

“When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.”
~ Stephen Covey

Prioritize for Success

  1. Clarify your priorities and identify your motivation. What is it you really want to do?
  2. Set a clear and achievable goal.
  3. Choose your activities and create a regular routine.
  4. Set deadlines and be consistent!

SMART Goals for English Language Learners

Here’s a personal example of prioritizing for success based on my own priority of publishing more consistently:

  1. My priority is regularly adding content to my website.
  2. I will publish at least 12 blog posts in 2021.
  3. I will write and work on blog posts for 1-2 hours 5 days per week.
  4. I will publish new blog posts by 6 A.M. GMT every Tuesday for the next 6 weeks.

That’s my plan. What’s yours? Need help? You can email me at if you have any questions or want guidance about where to start or how to make a plan.

“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”
~ Laura Vanderkam

Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations (<–Amazon affiliate link)

Never stop learning.
~ Trey