I'm writing this post right now because I just pulled 50 mins of quality study out of a hat.
And I'm chuffed!
I'd been travelling all day, and I was knackered. It would have been so easy to just turn over and fall asleep, but I didn't!
I turned it around, and here's how you can do it too..
By the way, if you're thinking about learning a new language, but don't know where to start or which course to choose, take my course finder quiz to find the perfect language course for you!
This trick I've been using to study foreign languages recently is so simple it's embarrassing.
But it's so incredibly effective that it has literally doubled my study time in the last few weeks.
It's so effective because it completely dismantles and obliterates my one serious, overriding weakness.
No, it's not chilli-infused dark chocolate.
It is procrastination…
Procrastination…that old chestnut! Do you struggle with it too?
I am, at heart, a massive procrastinator. Procrastination doesn't mean doing nothing. In fact, procrastinators are often great at doing stuff – just not those things that they really should be doing.
And in our technology-focused, social-media obsessed world, procrastination is easier than ever. By the way, if you're struggling with that, I've written about how to break Facebook addiction so you can achieve your language learning goals rather than scrolling through the newsfeed or going down the messenger rabbit hole.
One of my secret weapons in learning Cantonese is spaced-repetition flashcards. My daily dose of flashcards is the one thing that I really should be doing everyday.
I'd love to know why I struggle so much with my daily study routines, but I really don't know.
Perhaps part of it is me needing some novelty in everything I do (a really debilitating personality trait!). Perhaps it's just “being human”.
Anyway, what's the trick?
It's so simple it's almost embarrassing to say it. I just tell myself:
My mind is fickle enough that, by telling itself this, it can take action immediately and start studying.
5 minutes is achievable in virtually any circumstance.
And yet what happens?
Without exception, those 5 minutes turn into 20 or 30. Or in this case, almost an hour. Once I start, I just do a bit more. Then a bit more. Then some more.
It shouldn't work, but it does.
It's quite simple when you break it down:
Once we get started and the 5-minute timer goes off, that same rational mind that told you that you have 5 minutes free tells you that “you may as well do another 5 minutes whilst you're at it!”
“Just five minutes” sounds much less scary than “1 hour of study”. And this is the key – doing just 5 minutes makes the task achievable. I mean, who can't do five minutes of language learning?
Once you've got the ball rolling with 5 minutes, you get over the fear of getting started. And the fear of failing to complete the daunting 1-hour marathon session you promised yourself.
And if five minutes sounds like too much, you can start with 1 minute. Or even the smallest task that would build your momentum, like opening the flashcard app on your phone.
Once the app is open, you may as well go through a flashcard or two. And that sets the ball rolling for you to go on and do much more.
In fact, this urge to complete the next step in a task to get closure has a name: the Ovsiankina Effect
As with everything in the learning game, this is going to work for some people and not for others. If you're the strong-willed type, you'll have no need for such simple trickery!
But if, like me, you sometimes find it impossible to get started, even though you know better, you may just find that this simple trick reenergises your language learning journey!
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