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“To-dos are pipe dreams. Scheduling is a game plan.” – Larry Kim
A to-do list is an effective way to keep track of the things you need to, well, do. It’s a lesson in organization, but not in productivity. How many times have you pushed that thing—go to the recycling center, fix the leaky faucet, get a tire rotation—back to the bottom of your to-do list? Don’t let your language studies become that thing.
Scheduling forces you to be realistic. How much studying can you actually do? Blocking off work, meetings, appointments, and even leisure time is the best way to see how much time you have to devote to studying a language.
Schedule also forces you to be accountable. How busy are you, really? It’s hard to blow off studying when you’ve specifically scheduled time for it.
Scheduling forces you to focus. Multi-tasking and distractions kill productivity. Scheduling all of the things you want to do in a day allows you to spread them out and dedicate yourself fully to each.
Pro scheduling tip: don’t just block off a few hours each week for language studies. Schedule everything: gym classes, naps, that big date on Friday, etc. A time management study from the Journal of Happiness Studies found that scheduling your “free time” can improve quality of life.
Managing your free time can improve the quality of time spent, but also reveals a lot about the quantity of time you have so you can plan accordingly. Are you studying in short intervals (our recommendation) or for several hours at once? Don’t Netflix a Spanish movie if you only have 20 minutes in your schedule. Don’t burn through flashcards if you have 2 hours to work with.
If your schedule is fairly rigid, fit in some immersion time whenever you can. But if you’ve got some flexibility, when should you schedule study time?
According to author Srinivas Rao, “the first hour of the day is one of the most critical. It sets the tone for what the rest of your day will be like. If you spend the first hour of your day distracted by pings, buzzes, notifications and dopamine, the rest of your day will be pretty much the same. On the other hand, if you spend the first hour of the day working on what you deemed your essential priorities that momentum will carry over.”
Scheduling in study time—reading a target language newspaper, completing a lesson in Transparent Language Online—early in your day ensures you’ll get to it. More importantly, it sets the tone for a productive day, so you’ll get to all the other things on your schedule as well.
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