What is the best way and how long does it take?
These seem to be two of the most frequently asked questions these days in almost all walks of life and they illustrate the sense of pressure and urgency that we feel in almost everything that we do. One might expect the concept of ‘the best way’ to be related to a desire for achieving the highest level of success but the second, follow-up question shows this to be a false supposition. The reality is a desire for ‘fast results’ in preference to ‘the best results.’ Of course, the answer, which nobody wants to hear, no matter how correct, is usually ‘the best way is the slow way, over a long period of time.’

We often have to get more information in order to find a good solution to a situation so we have to respond to a question with another question. I have such questions on a frequent basis. For example, when asked ‘How long does it take to learn to have a conversation in English?’ I find it impossible to give a good answer so I have to ask ‘What do you want to talk about?’I don’t think it would necessarily take a long time to learn a few basic phrases to talk about today’s weather but an in-depth conversation about the causes and solutions of, climate change might take a little longer.

When it comes to ‘the best way’ to learn then most experts seem to agree that daily study and practice is hard to beat in order to achieve long term and significant improvements. However, when you have a specific, short-term goal such as a meeting, presentation or job interview, then there is a lot to be said for some fairly last-minute, intensive cramming in order to hit a short term target.