Become a consistent and successful student
Hi there :), Angel here. How are your new year’s resolutions doing ? Mine are doing great, and I hope yours are too. Unfortunately, according to my information, 63% of people who took good resolutions have dropped them already. Why is that? Why am I one of the “lucky few” who get to succeed at learning languages and to keep their good resolutions alive for long enough to have a big impact on their life?
Pin this for later
Actually, it has nothing to do with luck. The answer lies in consistency.
When I ask the new students who take my free course what their biggest challenge is, many of them answer “sticking to it” or “consistency”.
Indeed, it’s not enough to have motivation (I recently wrote this article on how to stay motivated while learning French).You also have to stick to it when you are busy, stressed out, tired, sick, or when life gets in the way in any of its ever unexpected ways. This goes for learning French, but also for reaching any other goal that you might have for yourself.
So what’s the key to being consistent with your French study?
1) Make a realistic plan
If you are busy, all you need to make good progress is ten minutes a day. This is enough time to review your vocabulary. You should also plan a longer session once a week for learning new things (on the weekend for example). You can surely take ten minutes during your commute or lunch break. Find those ten minutes and commit to actually studying your vocabulary during that time everyday. Write it down, tell your best friend, or write about it on social media. Just make sure you remember to put in those ten minutes everyday.
Found thirty minutes? Awesome. It’s great if you can stick to it. If it turns out that it’s too much after a while, don’t quit your study altogether. Remember that just ten minutes is enough.
Don’t say that you’re going to spend two hours everyday learning French although you never did it before. It would be like hitting the gym four times a week, starting January 1st. You know you’re going to do it for two weeks at best.
I practice yoga for ten minutes every morning, and I generally go for a walk everyday. The duration of the walk varies depending on how busy I am. And that’s it. I’m fit. No need to hit the gym four times a week.
Side note: To find free time in your busy schedule, and create habits to support your French study, take my free 4-weeks course.
2) Baby steps? No, compound effect!
Whenever I explain the previous point to a new student, the words “baby steps” tend to show up in the conversation. Now, if you like the idea of baby steps, I don’t want to make you change your mind. However I’m not so fond of this idea. See, I’m not a baby and I don’t take baby steps. The goals is not to start small and then do more and more everyday. The goals is to do just the amount of effort which is necessary to achieve good results without having to give up too much of your time and energy. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Last year, I discovered the concept of compound effect. If you have a project or a task which you have kept pushing back because “it will take forever” (learning French can be one of those), stop pushing it back. Instead, commit to spending a little bit of time a day on this project until it’s completed. You will be amazed at how fast it actually gets done. Most tasks don’t require you to work on them for long periods of time at once. I did it for learning vocabulary, getting rid of email backlog, decluttering and even cleaning my home. The last one is never over but I can tell you, 30 minutes cleaning everyday made my flat cleaner than it had ever been (note: I don’t have children, I guess you’d need to clean longer if you do). Thirty minutes is too much? Go for ten or fifteen minutes instead.
In the case of learning vocabulary, your daily ten minutes have an added bonus: if you do it every day, your brain hasn’t had time to forget yet and you will learn much more than you would if you’d have a 2,5 hours session per week instead, for the same time investment. Use an app based on spaced repetition system such as Anki or Quizlet for maximum effect.
3) Have a flexible plan
Your plan should be realistic and require little effort for you to stick to it. It should also be flexible. You had committed to twenty minutes French during your lunch break but your colleagues want to have lunch with you. Don’t just drop your study session. Reschedule it to later in the same day.
My secret weapon is to always plan the things I really want to do, such as a study session, in the morning. This way, if something comes in, I have a significant chance of being able to find time later the same day to reschedule my study session.
Truth be told, I also tend to change my plans a lot. Whenever something doesn’t work, I change my plan. The key is to only change your plan if you have found a better one. If you don’t have a better idea, stick to your current plan, don’t drop it.
4) Track and evaluate.
Of course, in order to change a plan which doesn’t work, you need to first realize that your plan doesn’t work, and figure out what you’d like to try instead.
A good way to do that, is to take time regularly to reflect on your plan and decide what you want to do next.
I like to do that in weekly and monthly intervals. At the beginning of each month, I determine my goals for the coming months, as you can see in the #clearthelist articles. I do it for languages but also for every other area of my life and business. Then I break the goals in weekly chunk and pick some for the first week of the month. At the end of the week I go back and see what has worked and what has not worked. I also decide on new tasks for the coming week.
If you struggle with consistency, I suggest this: I have created free monthly and weekly planners for you. Download them below and give it a try.
In the bottom right corner on the weekly planner, you can see a little grid. It’s a habit tracker.
I started using a habit tracker as part of my 2017 resolutions and it is an absolute game changer. I made a list of the things I’d like to accomplish everyday, and when I did them, I tick the corresponding box. As childish as it sounds I really enjoy ticking my boxes. It gives me a strong sense of pride to look back at my tracker and see all the days when I did my yoga routine or ate fruit, and it keeps me going. It also helps me remember a few things which I could easily forget otherwise. My wife has a similar ones and it works for her too. Give it a try!
5) Keep your motivation high
Now, sometimes the best way to stay consistent is to do something for your motivation. If you feel completely unmotivated, even the best consistency system can only take you so far.
You need to remember why you are learning French and also enjoy your study.
The reason why I eat fruit daily is not so I can tick my box in my tracker. I eat them because they are healthy and tasty. The tracker is only here to help.
Motivation and consistency support each other. If you can find motivating French learning resources, and get yourself to study them everyday, then you will learn French in record time.
If you find yourself with low French learning motivation, read this article.