With all the talk these days about finding a happy work/life balance, I began thinking about you, court reporting students, and how you must be struggling to find a study/life balance and how you might best achieve some semblance of harmony in your pursuit of becoming working reporters one day.
I fear that the many challenges you are facing are truly daunting, and I empathize. In an ideal world, you would be unencumbered with pressing obligations so you can practice as often as you like without distraction. The real world is another story. With only so many hours in a day, the tug from all sides can be overwhelming. So how can you make time on your machine yet have time for other things in your life?
The key is great time management skills. If you possess this trait, you are ahead of the game. If you do not, you should take deliberate steps to foster it. Lack of time management skills will hinder your progress on your machine and the deleterious effects will plague you throughout your career. Successful reporters have learned the value of managing their time well. They prioritize their work, avoid procrastination, and meet their deadlines. This is a constant.
No matter how hectic your schedule, you must carve out at least two hours of quality practice time each day. If you have children, if you work, or if you are caring for an elderly loved one, for example, it will certainly be challenging. Finishing school in a timely manner, however, rests on a commitment to a regular practice regimen. Your steady progress depends on it.
It doesn’t matter when you practice during the day as long as you find the time. Ideally, you should practice when you feel at your best. If you feel most alert in the morning, put in your two hours of uninterrupted practice before you take on your other responsibilities; or if you have a block of time available every day, devote that time to practice and nothing else. Make it a habit, a nonnegotiable part of your day. Don’t let excuses sabotage your goal. Organize your schedule so that your practice time is prioritized.
Designate a quiet place free of distraction where you can practice, an environment you can more or less control. When you sit in your chair in that space, you can get right down to business, bear down and sweat out whatever the goal is for that particular session: reviewing briefs, tackling tricky fingering phrases, or mastering a two-minute take.
Once your practice time is met, then you can concentrate on the other things in your life that need your attention, and you can do so with a clear conscience. You won’t have the stress of your practice “requirement” hanging over your head. You can put it on the back burner for the time being, knowing that you’ve put maximum effort into your full two-hour session.
If you learn to balance your study/life balance, you will reap the benefits as a reporter in finding your work/life balance. There will always be obstacles and hurdles in life, and sometimes they will make it difficult to do your job; but if you have a healthy dose of self-discipline in conjunction with a strong work ethic, you will prevail. This is why it is so important to master your theory, push for speed, read back, and correct your mistakes. The untold hours you spend honing your writing skills now as a student, and later in the working world, will mean less time editing and more time for other obligations and maybe even some fun. Imagine that!
If you keep your eye on the prize — graduation, certification, and a full-time job — it will keep you motivated to stick to a daily practice regimen; and if you can practice more than two hours a day, your goal may be within reach sooner. Be one hundred percent “present” during your practice sessions, and you will see better results.