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5 Ways to Learn Jargon, And Fast

5 Ways to Learn Jargon, And Fast

Dictionary

    Early on in my writing career, I took on a couple of articles covering project management. To put it mildly, I didn’t know a Gantt chart from a PERT chart. Worse, I didn’t even know where to start. I had already learned, though, that vocabulary is the fastest way to become an expert on any subject — even if you don’t really know that much about a topic, at least you can talk the talk. I knew that in order to write these articles, I needed to learn the jargon that every project manager uses without even thinking.

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    So I fired up my web browser, and headed to Wikipedia…

    1. Wikipedia

    That’s right. My first stop is Wikipedia. I’ll be the first to admit that Wikipedia is never guaranteed to be the gospel truth, but I’ve found that for any learning project, whether I’m doing research for a school paper or trying to find the right words to talk about a particular topic, Wikipedia is guaranteed to be a good starting point. It’s because good Wikipedia articles link to fairly expert sources, the kind that are both a good source for an introductory-level encyclopedia article and for a crash course in the subject.

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    So, I’ll go to Wikipedia and skim the article on whatever my subject is. I’ll open up links and try to get an idea of related terms and important names. The names of people and companies can be as important to a conversation on a given topic as the actual vocabulary. It’s doubtful, after all, that anyone would have a conversation on productivity and entirely ignore David Allen and GTD.

    2. Taking Notes

    While I take notes primarily in conjunction with what I read online, you can take notes from any source you find useful. The actual act of transcribing information, preferably interpreting it into your one style of writing is incredibly helpful. When possible, I like to actually write things down by hand, but in this cut and paste world, even actually typing out words and definitions can help. The acts of writing and interpreting make it easier to remember and use a word later on that just copying it into your notes will. If you’ve got a little time, actually writing out a few paragraphs using your new words can really cement their meanings in your mind.

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    If you’re working on a written project, you may even come out ahead on your notes. You may be able to write them in such a way that you can use them in part or in whole for that research project or article or speech you’re preparing for. If that’s the case, consider trying to take your notes with that end in mind: structure your notes to match whatever product you’re in the process of creating.

    3. Experts

    Once I’ve got a general idea of a topic, I’ll go looking for an expert who can spend even a few minutes talking to me. I prefer someone in person but the internet has an expert on everything. Hearing how your expert uses terminology is a good way to learn, but using that terminology yourself and asking your expert to correct you can be even better.

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    At the very least, you’re guaranteed to learn proper pronunciation. I was one of those kids who read a lot of books in high school, including physics. I knew an awful lot about Richard Feynman, but it wasn’t until I actually head someone talking about him that I realized “fen-i-man” is not the correct pronunciation of his last name. That can be the biggest problem that comes from doing all your learning from books or Wikipedia: you may not know just how to say your newly-learned vocabulary.

    4. Roots

    If you’re struggling with jargon, a good way to get a handle on it is to look up a word’s roots. This can be as simple as typing your word into Dictionary.com and seeing what pops out. Plug in the word ‘dictionary,’ for instance, and it will tell you that the rood is ‘diction’ which means ‘word’ in Latin. The word ‘diction’ in English also describes carefully chosen words, helping us to make a connection between ‘dictionary’ and its root. This technique is surprisingly effective with scientific terms — some scientists just seem to enjoy making new terminology out of old Latin and Greek terms.

    5.Usage

    The moment you stop using your newly learned jargon, it starts slipping away. If you want to maintain your knowledge, you have to keep using it, if not building on it. Talk about the topic. Write about it. Blog about it if you have no other opportunity to use it in your day to day life. It’s the same problem you’ll have if you learn a foreign language. Even your bike riding skills can get rusty if you don’t use them regularly. They can even become outdated if you don’t notice changes in the area. I make a point of keeping my project management vocabulary up to date.

    Just this morning, I had the opportunity to write an article on the topic. If I hadn’t read the occasional project management article or chatted about the topic with an expert or two, I would have had to relearn all of that vocabulary. It wouldn’t have taken quite the effort of the first time around, but it would have made writing that article a much longer process.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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