After writing that the two times I was recently complimented for being organized were for two totally different things, I realized I was wrong: they both involved organizing information. While not as pressing as day-to-day routines that keep a household running, organizing information makes efficient use of resources, such as when you consult with an expert.
The particular expert doesn’t matter. It could be a consultation with a physician, attorney, accountant, or designer. It could be in preparation for a parent-teacher conference, a business meeting, or a visiting a professor during office-hours. It’s rare to go to any such meetings without any questions. What’s important is that those questions are written down and prioritized so that if you can’t get to them all, or at least the most important ones. This seems self-evident, but I spent a lot of years wasting experts’ time figuring they’d run the show. I was wrong. When you call for an appointment, you run the show with your questions.
By way of explanation of the illustration above, I recently found myself in dire need of a linguist. After years of intermittent self-study in Turkish, and a fun-but-casual community-center class, I had a huge store of questions. A few weeks ago, I finally looked up a local research university, found a professor, and emailed him, begging him for any leads on possible Turkish tutors who were grounded in linguistics. When he replied that he could help me, I practically swooned for my good luck. I got out my grammar book and looked for all the places I’d scrawled a big, frustrated question mark in the margin. There were many, so I started a table, noting the page in case we had to refer to it our session. While I tried to be succinct, I was careful to fully write out the question. It’s important to prioritize the questions so that the ones causing the most problems get answered first. Group similar questions together so that the responses can build off one another and thus save time. In terms of formatting, I find it helpful to leave plenty of room under each question to note the response. For the sake of legibility, type the list and print an extra copy of your questions for your expert, so that he or she can follow along.
I know it’s unlikely you will ever care about location words in Turkish; there’s a reason why I didn’t title this post, “Making the Most of a Consultation with a Linguist.” But the steps above work well for any kind of expert consultation, and hopefully provide a simple and effective template to get your own expert-directed questions answered.