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It’s a new year, a new beginning

portrait of the author
Kay Moody

By Kay Moody

It’s a new year, and you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to practice more, buckle down, and make progress in machine shorthand. You’ve probably also set a goal to be at a certain speed level by the end of the next term in school. Every successful person will tell you that the secret to success is setting goals and working toward meeting those goals in an organized and timely manner. Here are seven tips to help you succeed:

  1. Set goals by identifying and eliminating your weaknesses and developing strengths.

When reading back shorthand notes, identify what you need to accomplish in order to write the selection at the speed dictated. Reading back and evaluating shorthand notes is an essential element in goal setting. Instead of saying, “It’s too fast,” identify exactly what you need to do to write at your goal speed. For example, if briefs and/or phrases cause you to hesitate or drop, set a goal to review them every day.

  1. Make goals that are small and attainable.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t attain their goals is that they set large goals that take months to accomplish. Instead, make small, attainable goals. Divide large, long-term goals into small, specific tasks that you can accomplish on a daily basis. For example, if you want to increase your shorthand speed by 40 wpm during the semester, break that down into two criteria:

  • To write 40 wpm faster in 16 weeks, you need to improve by 2.5 wpm each week. Set short-term weekly goals.
  • What principle of skill/speed development do you have to master to improve 2.5 wpm in one week? Identify what keeps you from writing faster, and develop study plans and drills to achieve this goal.

Gaining speed and passing tests are not goals; they are the result of working on and sticking to your short-term daily and weekly goals.

  1. State goals that are positive.

Instead of saying, “I’m not going to drop,” say, “I’m going to push myself and get every word. I’m going to get a stroke for everything that is dictated.”

  1. Remind yourself of a goal every time you write on your machine.

Before you begin writing, mentally establish the goal or purpose of each session, e.g., “I’m going to stay with the dictation and get an outline for every word.” When a brief, phrase, or difficult words causes you to hesitate, look up the correct outlines, drill on them, and retake the selection. Repeat the process until you can write the take without hesitating.

  1. Identify goals that are specific and can be measured.

When you read back a selection and have 40 drops, set the specific goal of fewer than 35 drops. Practice the same section until you reach that goal. In your next practice session, practice until you are down to 25 drops, then 15 drops, and finally no drops. Apply the same principle to cleaning up your notes, getting all your briefs, writing numbers, etc.

  1. Establish realistic expectation as to when you can reach your short term goals.

For example, “This week, I’m going to review and drill on 25 briefs every day.” By the end of the week, you will have reviewed, reinforced, and mastered 150 briefs.

  1. Reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

When you attain a goal, take a break, call a friend, or watch your favorite TV show as a reward. When you attain a major accomplishment (passing a desired speed level, for example), give yourself a BIG reward, something that you’ve wanted to do for a while but have been too busy practicing in order to reach your goals.

To summarize the elements of goal setting: Develop goals that eliminate weaknesses, that develop strengths, and that are small and attainable. Set a goal every time you sit at your machine, whether it is in class or a short practice session. All goals should be positive, measurable, specific, and realistic; and reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, is an instructor at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. She can be reached at