When you’re stressed, overworked, or dealing with a personal crisis, finding the energy and motivation to improve a skill can be a near-impossible undertaking. Yes, we all know that hobbies are great for our mental health. But after a busy day at school or the office, most people simply prefer to kick back with a hot beverage, a book, or a movie.
Still, a busy work week doesn’t necessarily have to be an obstacle to learning.
If you’re struggling to find motivation and focus, these strategies can help you achieve your language learning goals even when you’ve got a packed schedule.
Set SMART Goals
How many times have you made a decision about taking up a life-changing habit, only to find yourself failing a week (or month) later?
One of the most common goal-setting mistakes people tend to make is that they overestimate the power of motivation. Sure, anyone would be excited about the idea of becoming fluent in a foreign language. But, if we’re starting from scratch, we’ll need to study and practice for years before we actually see our desired results. And that means that we may become unmotivated when things don’t happen as quickly as we’d want them to.
The best way to avoid this common pitfall is to hack our motivation levels.
One of the biggest drivers of motivation is dopamine. This pleasure hormone gets released every time we satisfy a wish or craving. And, as it happens, crossing an item off our to-do list can also give us that much-needed kick.
So, when we’re setting language learning goals, it’s not a bad idea to break them up into smaller, more attainable steps. SMART goal setting was first developed in the early 1980s, and the philosophy proposes that each goal needs to be:
In today’s hustle-culture, not many people appreciate the importance of taking things slow. But rest is crucial if we want to focus, learn, and get things done.
The first step towards introducing more opportunities for rest is to set clear boundaries.
In addition to a strict work schedule (no email in bed!), it’s also not a bad idea to block weekends and holidays out for rest. Furthermore, introducing micro-breaks into the workday can also help to keep you focused and productive.
According to Transparent Labs, a 10-minute respite every 45 minutes could help your brain and body rest from cognitively or physically demanding tasks. But you might see even better results by trying out the Pomodoro technique. This type of schedule alternates between 25-minute on and 5-minute off blocks of time. Basically, it allows you to trick your brain into short but powerful periods of focus during which you can get more done.
Of course, the Pomodoro technique is not the only scheduling hack for boosting focus and productivity.
You might want to try grouping your tasks by focus level. Or, you could even commit to completing strenuous assignments early on in the day. This will allow you to gradually wind down as your energy levels naturally drop.
Keep Your Body in Top Shape
Now, you may not see much of a connection between a toned six-pack and language learning. But, as it turns out, there are benefits to being in great physical shape for cognitive ability.
Research studies have shown that various types of physical activity promote mental capacity and focus. For one, aerobic exercise, such as running, may boost blood flow to the parts of the brain in charge of thinking and memory. Stretching and yoga lower stress and anxiety levels, allowing you to put more energy into learning. And, spending active time outside also boosts creativity.
Of course, physical well-being isn’t just related to exercise, so don’t forget about the importance of a stable sleep schedule and a balanced diet.
You’ll quickly find that taking good care of your body won’t just make you feel fitter. It will also give you the energy you need to continue learning and growing, even when your schedule becomes busier than usual.
Make Learning a Fun Experience
Sometimes, when planning activities that require high levels of commitment, relying on internal motivation and discipline won’t be enough to get you the desired results.
Are you susceptible to distractions? Can’t find the willpower to study on your own? If these are true, you might find that adding some external motivators to your language learning strategy is a good idea.
Extrinsic motivation can best be described as a reward that you get for a job well done. In a school setting, extrinsic motivators include grades and praise. Obviously, when studying on your own, you won’t get nearly as many of these as you would with a teacher. However, you can add some external motivators to your routine, even if you’re approaching the process all by yourself.
Making the learning experience enjoyable is one of the best ways to push yourself towards working hard.
For example, if your goal is to become fluent in Japanese, you may want to start watching anime. It’s an easy way to combine learning with something fun and relaxing, all the while allowing yourself to pick up new words and become more comfortable with novel grammatical structures.
Alternatively, you may want to pair up with a friend to make studying seem less like a chore. Once you agree on a schedule, you’ll have automatically made it easier to stick to a routine, and you might also benefit from a new perspective.
Moreover, language learning is much more effective when you practice speaking. So, a partner you can have conversations with may not just provide you with companionship. They could also make it easier to practice what you’ve learned. And that’s, surely, going to aid retention.
To Sum It up
For most people, a busy schedule can be a real motivation killer. When you’re too tired to focus on learning, you might find yourself struggling or even giving up.
Fortunately, though, the strategies we’ve talked about here can help you get over the obstacle of being too busy.
When trying to keep your focus and motivation levels high, it’s vital that you pay close attention to your needs. Learning doesn’t have to be difficult. You can benefit just as much from an easier, fun-oriented session as you would from grammar drills.
So, don’t be afraid to put your health first, take things slow, and progress at your own pace. What matters is that you enjoy the process. Unnecessary pressure or stress surely won’t make you learn quicker.
Author: Natasha is a lady of a keyboard and one huge geek. She has a rich history of working in the business, productivity and career growth related fields, so she is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge all around the web.