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Batching (Batch-based scheduling) with Goldlist Method explained in full.


One reader with the pleasant name of Marlon wrote in one comment recently the following great question, and thus coaxed me to impart some advanced goldlisting knowledge which I was keeping back for the book:


I am eager to start the Goldlist method. However, I need further clarification about scheduling. I read your post responding to Abdul some years back but I am still not sure how I can avoid distillations and new headlist overlapping. I do understand I could simply insert a batch of words and not use the step system, but it is not my desire to take that route.

I would prefer to use the step Goldlist method. I think I am most confused by time allotment. I decided to use the 20mins/25words/10min break format. When distilling to the first set (from 25 to 17), I believe you suggest use the same format, that is to use 20mins/25words/10mins. What about D2? Do I still need to use 20 mins to go from D1–>D2 (and D2—>D3)? In other words, do I perform as many distillations as possible after D1 is completed in the 20 min allotment? For example, Would it be prudent to distill maybe 2 sets from 17–>12 in one 20 min block?

I am looking forward to your response.

I will write the answer to this as a main article, partly because it’s a better way to get more readers to read it, and it is a good and useful topic for those who are using the Goldlist, and partly because I can use tables better in a new article than in a response.

I think it’s an excellent question, which shows that you’ve understood most of what I need you to understand in order to work successfully with the method.

I have in the past left people to fill in the blanks for this one themselves, as there are a number of ways in which you could fill in the blanks and they would all be good as long as the basic tenets are agreed to, and also I was leaving something back for the book, but just to give you an example of what works for me, imagine that you decide to do a project in which you have a good idea how many lines will be in the headlist in total, and lets say it’s going to be 3000 lines of headlist.

I would split that task into Batches, and each batch I give letters of the Alphabet, so Batch A, Batch B, etc.

Now because we want to avoid running into within two weeks of ourselves, as well as not have too long periods of not getting to review the same material (more than a quarter of a year is not necessarily harmful, but means you have little momentum, in practice, which can be demotivating) we need to plan it so that the first batch is the biggest batch, and then they get gradually smaller.

So the last batch will be 100 words, the second from last will be 200 words, etc.

Now follow me through this logic:

Batch Cumulative Number (backwards)

100 – 100
200 – 300
300 – 600
400 – 1,000
500 – 1,500
600 – 2,100
700 – 2,800
800 – 3,600

(BTW – You can do the above triangular number calculations with a short cut, (n*n+1)/2 where n is the number of batches. If you want 8 batches, then 8*9 is 72 and half of that is 36. 36 hundreds is 3,600.)

We see from this that to do 3,000 words it’s good to start with 700 plus the difference between 2,800 and 3,000, ie 900, then 600, 500, etc. You can do the same with other project targets and come up with other similar batch plans, but here for 3,000 lines in the headlist, I’d say the batch plan would look like this:

Batch A: 1-900
Batch B: 901 – 1,500
Batch C: 1,501 – 2,000
Batch D: 2,001 – 2,400
Batch E: 2,401 – 2,701
Batch F: 2,702 – 2,900
Batch G: 2,900 – 3,000.

You then approach the project by doing things in this order…

Let’s say that you are spending 3 hours per week on this linguistic project, which means you have the intention of doing it over a ten-month period, which with slippage might be an annual period. The above table also assumes you are taking it to the end of the silver book. You might take it to gold book distillations namely D8 through to D11 after finishing the whole project to silver, which is the way I do it, or do the gold the same way in which case you will adapt the above programme accordingly. D12 is something that also exists – but not in the goldlist books. In D12 you take your final list of hardest words, distilled one final time for good measure and where you put them is on an order form for merchandise at something like Cafepress and then you have these few words on T-shirts, mugs and things. That is how you honour the words and phrases that eluded your memory in the Goldlist system. They are, after all, your personal gold and they have an interesting relationship already with your unconscious mind. If you are giving this 3 hours a week, then you are able to fit well within the 3 weeks at the critical initial stage.

The hardest “run” (which is what I call working through all the existant and open batches in order) is quite early on. When doing task 11 you would be looking at words you saw 7 weeks ago if working at 3 hours a week. To keep momentum at this part of the project a person might want to put in additional hours.

The total number of runs in the whole project is 14 runs including the two runs at the start and the finish which have only one task, the two middle ones which have twelve tasks each (although they aren’t the runs with the greatest amount of work, which come earlier because we are using declining batch numbers – the exact way this pans out depends on how you plan your batches).

The problem of course comes when you get to the later tasks – in fact even from task 39 you can’t keep spending 3 hours a week on this project without catching up with yourself. This is where slippage will start to come in. The final run only wants ten minutes of work to be done in the course of two weeks. But we are talking about only the last 10% of the work. The last 10% of the work is in 6 of the 14 runs. There are two ways around this, one is to increase the size of the final runs so that instead of going 300, 200, 100 for runs E, F and G we have 300, 200 and 300 respectively. Or make 300 the lowest run you do when you do the triangulation plan. You get the general idea and you can play with it. It is not an exact science – in any event there could be weeks when you need to be on holiday, or don’t feel well, or weeks when you can’t resist working more than the plan and unexpectedly come up to the two week barrier even though you weren’t expecting to.

Another way of dealing with the lag at the end for the last 10% of the project is to simply start your next project. Having a few languages on the go in Goldlist at once, all at different levels means that you always have something you could be doing to keep working and yet forestall breaking that fortnight memorial curfew.

It goes to show that a linguistic project of 3000 words and batched out like that is good for someone who has 3 hours a week to spend on this. If someone is planning to spend 6 hours a week, then the thing to do is to plan a 6000 line project and go through all the above steps, from the triangular number calculation forward. Again this gives a very manageable batching plan for that time budget.

Please note as an aside that runs can also be given a name or a number. A run starts with the oldest batch which you are still distilling and ends with the last thing being added to the headlist or the last things which had been added to the headlist if there is no fresh headlisting at the end of the given run. The function of number of runs to number of batches will be R=B+L-1, where R is the number of runs, B is the number of batches and L is the number of levels you are using, including the headlist. With writing-book based Goldlisting, the value for L will usually be 8, 12 or 4 if you only want to take a certain list to bronze level. Runs are an important concept to have in mind when working with batches as the two really go hand in hand, and the run length is what you have to manage so that it doesn’t go under 2 weeks or over something like three months which really tends to give a sense of drag. It is useful to have three months that as an outside goal post – or you can make it two months but three gives a bit more flexibility – but it’s not critical to the process as the minimum two-week one is.

Answering your other question, namely how to do 20 minutes in non Headlist scenarios, what you would do is pro-rate the time, so that you are still working to 20 minute blocks. Often you will find that you can do two pages of D1, 3 pages of D3, 4 pages of D4 in one sitting. If it is not feeling comfortable and interesting, or takes you much over 20 minutes without a break, then stop for a break and continue later. There is nothing the matter with stopping the day’s work half-way down a page of distillation as long as you have left a mark to point out where you are the next time. Otherwise you might just start the next page and forget to distil half of the last page you were looking at.

I hope that has answered your doubts and made the system more useable and pleasurable for you, as well as been useful for other users who will no doubt be as grateful as I am for a good question.

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