In the last year or so, the internet has been flooded with blogs about productivity, smart thinking, smart learning, optimising your routines, increasing your effectiveness, developing good habits and so on, and so on.
This seems to be a trend that’s here to stay – it can be applied to the way we work, the way we eat, the way we organise our daily lives, and, of course, the way we study foreign languages.
Put procrastination in the closet because you won’t need it for a while (or, ideally, ever again!).
Being productive is good but…
I like to think of myself as a productive person and a productive language learner.
I like to set myself clear goals with everything I do.
I like to challenge myself and push myself to work smarter (which doesn’t always mean harder).
I like to tick things off my to do list and evaluate the impact of what I’ve done.
Whether it’s learning languages, eating healthily, exercising or just keeping my ‘life admin’ under control, the countless blogs on smart and optimised living help me improve in the different areas of my life.
If you’re really trying to get to somewhere – whether it’s fluency in the language you’re learning or just a good conversational level that will help you communicate when you’re on holiday – the advice on productivity that’s out there can be really helpful.
It can help you find faults in your habits and routines, identify the things that you do that have little impact and help you focus on what really matters. It can be a life changer – believe me.
I did say ‘but’ in the title of this section, though, and there’s a good reason for that. Read on to find out what I mean.
You need to remember you’re human
The advice on productivity, effectiveness and super-smart living is sometimes written or communicated in a way that suggests that there’s absolutely no space for being ‘average’.
Everything is maximised, optimised, streamlined, and so on, to the extent that it becomes the new norm.
Anything that’s not structured, optimised or systematic becomes ‘average’, and a lot of productivity gurus imply that that’s not enough.
Staying in bed until 10am is not right because productive people get up early. The earlier, the better, in fact. Aim for 4am to be a super-human.
Having cake (and I’m not talking about the gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free variety) is not right because it will kill you or you’ll get fat.
Skipping a revision session or not doing any language learning for a month is not right because it will move you away from your goal and make you lazy.
You’re human, though. And you’re not perfect. And that’s ok.
It took me a while to realise that
And, boy, that was a liberating experience. I can still achieve my language goals even if I don’t religiously stick to my schedule all the time.
I can still achieve my fitness goals even if I have a period of exercise-free weeks because I just don’t feel like it.
I can still be proud of what I can say in the languages I’m learning even if I’m not fluent yet (in fact, I’m proud of my Japanese even though I’m only at the start of my journey).
I can mispronounce something and not feel embarrassed. Because I’m human and I’m learning, and that’s what life is about.
I can speak with a foreign accent and wear it like a badge. Because I’m human and I’m not perfect, and that’s ok.
The pressure is on…
Can you feel it? I can. And that’s why I’m telling you, dear language learner, screw perfection, be human and enjoy life. You’re great anyway!