Working out what you need to know
It’s fairly safe to say that you will rarely, if ever, have to use English in situations where you have no previous experience; and even on those odd occasions where you have no direct experience, chances are you will at the very least have an idea of what’s involved. So, in a nutshell, use your everyday life as a guide when drawing up your personal study plan.
As you go about your daily routine using Chinese, consider whether or not you can do the same things in English. For example, when you go to the post office to mail a letter, ask yourself if this is something you can already do in English. If the answer is yes, then great, job done! If, however, the answer is no, then you must decide whether or not you might have to do this in English. If the answer to this question is no (maybe because you always use e-mail) then just forget about it. If the answer is yes, do something about it and learn the appropriate English.
Even if you decide you don’t need to do something in English, what you do in Chinese can suggest other areas to work on in English. So, for example, maybe you regularly pay your telephone bill at a convenience store. If you are going to live overseas for a long time, this is something you may indeed have to do; but if you are just going on holiday or on a business trip, you may want to buy a pre-paid SIM card for your phone. So, could you do that in English?
This method is also a good way of measuring the progress you are making in English. Think about what you have done today, or maybe even during the past week. How much of what you did could you have done equally as well in English? Imagine the day, and the satisfaction, when you can answer “everything”.