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Planning your daily routine (ebook excerpt!)

26 Apr 2012

This is an excerpt from my upcoming ebook on language learning, called Natural Language Learning (Without a Teacher). I was trying really hard to have the ebook finished before today! It appears that two weeks wasn't quite enough time to finish it.

But the first draft is complete! I'm now focusing on editing, preparing all the worksheets, and making the book more visually appealing. I'm really hoping to have the English version ready for you next week!

For now, please enjoy this excerpt from the practical half of the ebook! (Last week I shared the introduction, which revealed that the ebook is made up of two main sections: one on theory and the other on using that theory in practice.)

Earlier in the theory section, we talked about the importance of time and regularity in language learning. The core idea is that practicing 15 minutes per day (almost 2 hours per week total) is better than practicing for 3 hours, but just once a week.

Regularity is more important than the raw amount of time!

When your brain learns a new skill, it's actually changing on a physical and chemical level. This takes time and energy in a very literal way! Spreading out your language learning gives your brain the chance to adapt.

In this section we'll take a brief moment to discuss planning your daily language learning routine. In the appendix, there is a worksheet to help.

For now, we'll be talking primarily about Parts A and B of the worksheet: Finding time and Activities that could be converted. When we get to the section on Creating your own method, you'll have everything you need to complete Part C of the worksheet.

Read more to see the full section from the ebook!

How to find the time

One of the biggest challenges in life in general, is finding time for all the things we want to do. Obviously things like work, family, and friends come first. Frequently, hobbies such as language learning are much lower on the list and it's difficult to set aside time for them.

But language learning doesn't have to happen in a classroom, in front of your computer, or at a desk! A lot of the activities that make up the methods described in this ebook are inherently mobile. For example, listening to audio, reading a book, talking on Skype, etc.

These can be done during the "in between times" or during other tasks that don't require much thinking. We all have these sorts of times everyday. For example:

  • Commuting to work
  • Washing the dishes
  • Eating lunch or breakfast
  • Buying groceries
  • Waiting at the doctor, DMV, etc
  • Before your next meeting or class starts

Each of the times might be very short, maybe only 5 minutes. But when added up all together, they can represent a pretty big chunk of time - usually at least an hour per day.

Activities that could be converted

There are many activities we already have set aside time for, which can be converted to language learning activities.

As we'll discuss in more detail in a later section, when selecting the appropriate content to learn from, I usually recommend taking an activity you already love doing in your native language and start doing it in the language you are learning. This can also get you more language learning time!

For example, before I started reading Harry Potter in Polish, I already set aside time in my day for reading in English: during lunch at work and every night before bed.

In total, I probably spent 45 minutes per day reading in English. By switching to reading in Polish, I was able to convert this time to language learning time. (But don't convert all your time! More below...)

In a later section, I'll describe the actual daily routine that I used while reading Harry Potter and all of the time that I found for studying Polish.

Please stop reading now, print out the Daily Routine Worksheet and complete Parts A and B!

How to schedule your time

Like we discussed above, it's good to spread your language learning across every day in the week, rather than concentrating it in a single day. In the same way, it's good to spread your language learning over the day in small amounts rather than doing it all in one sitting.

Creating a daily schedule like this is not only good for your brain, but it will help prevent burn out. Sitting down to study a language for an hour can seem daunting. After a while you might start to dread starting. But only a few minutes here and there is much easier.

This brings me to my next point: If you don't already have a daily language learning routine, don't be too ambitious! Many people make the mistake of making their first daily routine really intense; for example, including one or two hours of language learning per day.

Remember: The only way to fail to learn a language is to give up!

Making sure that you don't burn out is extremely important. If you start out with a more modest daily routine and slowly increase it, you will drastically reduce your chances of burning out and giving up.

Remember: Doing anything at all is much better than doing nothing!

If you're only doing 15 minutes of language learning per day at first, that's great! After a couple weeks or months, you can always increase that amount of time, if you like.

As a matter of comparison, I did about two hours of language learning when I was reading Harry Potter. This is the most time I've ever devoted to language learning per day in my life!

And, I can tell you honestly that at times it was difficult to sustain. The main thing that kept me going was the fact that I desperately wanted to find out what happened next in the story.

After you've created your own language learning method later in the ebook, you can return to Part C of the Daily Routine Worksheet and plan how to use your newly found time!

What do you think of this section and the worksheet? How do you find time to learn a language? What does your daily routine look like? Please write a comment below!

Anonymous's picture

Very helpful material, because I need wirite my goals to be enought motived.One again, Thank You David.

Posted by: Piotr Chorążak (not verified) | Sunday, April 29, 2012 - 00:31
Anonymous's picture

[...] out this article for more information about what's in the ebook, as well as these two excerpts: Planning your daily routine and 3 steps to speaking a language [...]