on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)

Words by Melody Among, XHTML by G.D. Warner

"My Practice Regimen"

Mark Kislingbury's Numba One Student Shares Her Secrets


Meet Melody Among.

Mark Kislingbury interviews Melody Among

Mark Kislingbury interviews Melody Among

Melody recently became the first graduate of Mark Kislingbury's new school ... after one year and five months!

Melody credits her success to a strict practice regimen ... and she shares that regimen with you in this article. But first, you might want to take a look at these interviews she did with Mark:

Here's Part One ...

... and here's Part Two.

Watching these videos will help bring home the ideas Melody espouses in this article ... so pop some popcorn and make yourself some of my world famous Cheap and Sleazy Peach Iced Tea, and take some notes!

Even if you don't use everything Melody says, it sure can't hurt to adopt some of her methods.

And now, without further ado, heeeere's Melody!


I am very fluid with my practice. My only requirement for practice is that I do it three times a day, and if I do that, the whole day is a good one.

Set yourself up for success by not creating an impossible, complicated, or rigid regimen. This is not to say that I'm easy on myself during my practice. I am very focused and intense during my sessions, but I am fluid about when I get to them or how long I do them for. You should be to. Set a bare minimal practice program, and if you stick to that, say the day is good. The reason why people fail so often at goals is because they're too ambitious with them.

Note: I do not count class time as part of my high speed because they don't read fast enough to be 20 percent over my goal speed. Even if they did, they don't sustain it. High speed is generally the only practice I can control. I do not count intern hours (especially broadcast captioning or CART) as high speed unless I do it for longer than three hours. Three or so hours of interning equals one practice session (since my arms and brain can only take so much). If I intern in court for eight hours, that counts as two high speed sessions for me; I'll still do a little something at night.


Eating something small in the morning

Practicing three times a day

Getting ample sleep every night

Your priorities may not look like mine. Instead of sleep, you may need exercise or healthy food or time with your kids. Find out the three things that are required for you to perform well on tests. Make those your priorities. Of course, a good amount of water and breathing helps, but they don't take very much time so they are not on the list. Please keep in mind that you can only have so many priorities. If you have 10 priorities, you cannot expect fast progress, nor can you expect to feel good about yourself. I only have three priorities, and this is very manageable for me. I'd like to eat healthy, work on my debt, fall in love, and take an exercise class, but I cannot keep up with that many priorities at a time. Know your limits. These will not be your priorities forever, but you have to place them forefront early on if you're going to get to where you want to go.

If going on a trip is going to affect one of my three priorities (which it always does), I won't take it. Guide your life by your priorities. Make all your choices according to your top priorities.

Note (skip this if you don't have kids): Your kids may be your priority, but are they a higher priority than steno? Spending time with them may seem the most instinctive and loving thing to do, but you taking longer in school (putting more financial stress on the family) and being stressed out while hanging with them (because you're not doing what you need to be doing) is not helping them. The longer you take in school, the less money and time you have to spend with them. Many people with children have made it out of CR school, but they made clear their priorities early on to their kids. Their kids were not in control; they were. Set a good example by showing them diligence every day. That's how I learned (from my dad). Don't act on feeling, act on principle. They learn from your actions, and they will suffer the consequences or reap the rewards of your actions as well. Make prudent choices because it's for their future also.


The key to high speed is to make it a habit. Habits take care of themselves. Start small. When I started doing three times a day over a year ago, I did not start by doing 30 minutes a session. That came as I grew to love it. Try 10 minutes each session for the first month or two (or three).

Make your last "must start by" at a time when your energy level is still all right. For me, that's 9:00 and no later. I stick to my "must start by" times at least 90% of the time, but if I go over (say start my second session at 6 pm, for instance), I don't cut myself slack. I will do that practice at 6 pm and get right back on it again at 9 pm. If I start my last session late (say at 10 pm), I will give whatever energy I have (which usually is not that much) and then leave. I make a mental note to avoid doing that again (learning from the mistake), and I will get right back on it bright and early in the morning.

You only have so much energy. Anything that depletes a lot of your energy, whether shopping, going to the beach/theme park, camping, traveling, or ______ (fill in the blank) should be looked upon and marked as threats to progress. When I hang out with friends, I do calm things (brunch lol) so that I am not hanging on by a thread at 7 pm. Make deliberate choices and sacrifices. They are necessary, and they are temporary. You missing out on a social life is not costing you money; missing practice is.


20-30 minutes on Magnum Steno Club; MUST START BY:  12 noon

This is generally the shortest practice of the day since I'm not a morning person and I'm usually rushing out the door.

If I wake up late, I will NOT skip my first practice; I'd rather skip the first hour of school (unless I have a test in that first hour).

Of course, ideally you want to have school hours on top of high speed; that's why it's good to purchase an alarm clock and live by it lol. Still, getting enough sleep is imperative for my progress, more important than even school. That is my priority, and I live by it to the fullest extent. No matter how rushed I am, I will not skip my first practice or a small breakfast in the morning. Note: My school allows me to practice to my own dictation with my headphones on instead of listening to class. Sometimes I will show up on time and immediately go to my first session. If your school frowns upon this, you will have to make a choice: Either get to bed earlier or skip the first hour of school. Don't give up your high speed session so easily. The first session is the most important one and will set the pace for the rest of the day. View this as your ultimate priority.


30 minutes, generally on Magnum Steno Club or with the NCRA downloads; MUST START BY:  4:00 in the afternoon.

I will do this session before I leave school 90% of the time. I do not want to have to get home and start practicing right away.

I do this segment either on lunch break, right before I pack up to leave, or right before I have a test. If I have a test, I will ALWAYS do this segment before the test. High speed matters. Even if you're not necessarily faster for doing the high speed, you pass more tests this way and that encourages you to work harder. Gives you momentum. Also, these 30 minutes before the test are usually the most intense of them all for me because a test is right there waiting. That incentive is great. I definitely recommend doing these 30 minutes before your test if your school allows it.


40-60 minutes on Magnum Steno Club, with NCRA downloads, controlled takes with Speedbuilders and MyRealTimeCoach; MUST START BY:  9:00 at night

It is important to buy a lot of dictation for this specific session. You want to keep it interesting and varied. You're tired. It's been a long day. This session has to be fun and upbeat. I mix this hour with Magnum Steno endurance takes, NCRA downloads 11-minute takes, Speedbuilders takes for control, and Myrealtimecoach to test myself (at my goal speed or a little above it). I practice all kinds of ways in this segment. It is important to note that I do the first half of this session the way I do the first two sessions: I do my MSC speed building and some NCRA takes, and only after I've gotten through that "bare minimal" section do I start dropping the speed down to test myself or to practice realtime or to go for endurance. I don't start with the realtime and testing myself because that is not the most important part or the part I need the most energy for. I will sometimes close off the night with briefs if I did not already practice them for 15 minutes in the afternoon.


I know that Mark says 20-30 percent, but let me clarify that. If you just entered the 140 class and haven't passed a single test in it, practice around 20 percent over the speed the majority of the time (maybe sometimes at 25 percent). When you've passed the first test, you can spend equal amounts at 20 percent and 25 percent faster. When you pass the second test, spend time only in the 25 percent and 30 percent range. A lot of students struggle with high speed because they push themselves too hard too fast. You can't keep up with 30 percent of your goal speed if you're nowhere near your goal speed. Keeping it within range helps for control, rhythm, and accuracy as well as speed.


Glen here ...!

For the math phobes out there, you would multiply that 140 by .2 (for the twenty percent value; .3 for the thirty percent value), then add what you get to 140 ... so using that idea, you should come up with a target practice speed of 168 wpm for the twenty percent value ... and I'll leave you to figure out the speed for the thirty percent value.


There are nights that I can only get 20 minutes in because I'm so tired (time of the month for women, for instance) or I waited too long. That's all right though because those nights are not the majority. If I'm on vacation touring somewhere, I will still put in my bare minimal 10 or 15 minutes each session. Consistency wins out, not the amount of hours you put in per segment or day.

Briefs are not a priority for me because I spent the first four months heavily on them. You will probably need to put more focus on them than I do. Just cut back the last hour to 30 minutes of high speed and do the last half 30 minutes of briefs.

I have always written and transcribed as many QAs as I can. This is because that is my weakest point. Transcribe every test in your weakest leg. I have worked on QA briefs more than any other kind. Focus on your weaknesses, not your strengths. That's the best advice I have.