As a freelance musician and recording artist, I find that I spend a lot of time at home in between gigs and sessions. To an outsider, it may seem like a musician’s only job is to perform, but there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes and a lot of it is done at home.
While this is a great thing – I get to work on my own projects, do things at my own pace, and for the most part I get to be my own boss – I still have to make sure that I’m actually using my time at home wisely to do those things within a reasonable timeline.
When working from home, it can be easy to get distracted by any other task – cleaning, the Internet “blackhole,” cooking, organizing, gardening, my little one, you name it – especially when I’m not feeling particularly motivated.
Without a deadline or someone checking in to make sure I’m getting stuff done, my productivity sometimes lags. And the same is true for language learning – especially when I know the next step is something I’m not particularly looking forward to.
But it isn’t just with my music work that’s at risk if I lose focus at home. My language studies also suffer.
So how do I keep focus and keep working as a self-starter?
Before we get into my strategies for staying focused on my language studies, I’d like to invite you to sign up for my course Busy Language Learner: A 7-Day Productivity Challenge. You can sign up here.
Here are a few of the tactics that I use:
1. Eliminate distractions.
If things like Facebook, Buzzfeed, YouTube, or Twitter are too tempting while you’re trying to work from your computer, consider disconnecting the Internet or installing an app that blocks the websites you’re distracted by so that you can’t access them for a specific blocks of time.
I make it a point not to log in to any social media until later in the day (unless I need to share something work related) just so I’m not tempted to scroll through for an unnecessary amount of time.
2. Work behind a closed door.
If you have a spouse, siblings, kids, or parents that often distract you while you’re trying to work, consider studying in a room where the door can be closed. When others are allowed to come talk to you, keep the door open, but when the door is closed, you’re in “work mode” and are not to be disturbed.
Sit down with them in advance to let them know of your intentions so that they can support them. Trying to implement a new technique like this without discussing it first can be hard for both them (and you) to adjust to.
3. Track yourself.
Have you ever had the feeling that the day just slipped by and you’re not sure where the time went? I know it’s happened to me. Sometimes it’s because I get into a “flow” with my work, but others it’s because I got off task and lost track of time.
You can use an app like RescueTime to see how much you’re actually working and how much you’re getting distracted by other things. Even if you think you’re a diligent learner, you may be surprised at how much time you’re spending doing tasks that aren’t study-related.
4. Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity strategy that involves time-blocking. You set a timer for 20 to 25 minutes, then do nothing but work for that time. You can then take a five minute break to do whatever you like – eat, check Facebook or Tumblr, read emails, etc. Once that five minutes is up, you then need to start another 20 to 25 minute work period.
5. Assign certain time slots to certain tasks.
If you create the habit of studying at the same time everyday, your body and mind start to transition into that mode more easily when the time comes. If you set up certain routines before you start a task, you’ll find that focusing and switching over to your studies are much easier.
6. Find the right motivation.
When you’re working on your own and making the effort to complete a variety of tasks (some of which you may not enjoy), it’s important to also make the time to do the things you enjoy as well.
Maybe studying grammar is taxing, but doing language exchanges isn’t. Find time for both. Balance out your schedule with a mix of activities you enjoy and activities that challenge you. This can help keep you from feeling too stressed out.
Just be careful – it’s easy for fun/serious study to get unbalanced. You may have a ton of intensive study sessions you don’t enjoy but need to get through, so you drive through them. Going at it this way could easily lead to burnout. On the other hand, it’s easy to get distracted with the things that you enjoy while avoiding those you don’t particularly want to do. It’s all about balance.
7. Focus on the greater goal.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when we’re working on specific and often frustrating language lessons. Yes, it can be discouraging to send language exchange invitations out to potential partners only to get nothing back but rejections (if you even get a response). The key to push yourself to continue doing it is to remember exactly why you’re doing it.
8. Reward yourself.
When you have a particularly productive study session, reward yourself. It can be a nice dinner, a night out, or even a treat (buy yourself a new language app, book or movie). Whatever works for you. When you get to a certain stage with your language learning, you lose sight of any immediate or obvious progression so you often wonder “why am I even doing this?”
Keep yourself on track with a small reward for getting one step closer to your ultimate, “big picture” language learning goal.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to sign up for my course, Busy Language Learner: A 7-Day Productivity Challenge.
What about you?
What do you do to stay motivated and keep you language studies going smoothly?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!