What activities do you wish you did more?
And how often do you actually do those activities?
Once a week?
Once a month?
Once a year?
Chances are, there are a lot of things that you wish you did more of. If not for an end result, then only to improve your skills. Our lives get busy and we become convinced we have no time, no room in our day to practice the things that we really want to do.
But I am here to tell you, there is always room to try.
Think: what were you doing before you read this? Maybe you were on this site, reading about the mechanics of speech. Or perhaps you were on a social media site, poring over the version of your friends’ lives that they share with the world. There is value in both those activities, but how much closer will they bring you to finishing that book you’re reading, or to working your way through that list of irregular verbs?
Often, we don’t even try to practice the things we want because of the thought that we won’t have enough time to do it completely. But here’s the thing: not everything we do has to be complete or finished.
In language, there are two types of actions. The first is the sort of action that has a set endpoint. When this action is produced – either by speaking or writing – it means that something has been completed. For example, “I ate the sandwich” doesn’t mean that I still have half the sandwich left. It means I ate the whole sandwich.
The second type of action is the more common of the two. It does not have a set endpoint, it simply communicates that the action was performed for some period of time, without necessarily finishing anything. “We swim in the lake” is an example of this. If you have ever enjoyed swimming in a lake, then you know that there is no end. You can always come back and swim more.
But once you’ve eaten that sandwich, you’ll never get it back.
The reason why I took the time to describe the two types of actions is because the things we practice fall into the second category. They are activities we can repeat, or do partially. In fact, just about any activity can be broken down into smaller components that can be practiced individually. This is one of the features of focused practice.
So the next time you’re staring at a screen, thinking about how much you would like to do something more, go ahead and do it. Do a part of it. Do five minutes of it. You don’t have to complete a finished painting to become a better painter, but practice of related skills, over time, can add up to something so much bigger.