How to study: form positive habits that will help you reach your goals
If you've already read my article "Envision your goal, plan your strategy, and go for it!", you now know one thing about how to study:form a positive habit. Write down, on a daily basis, that which you've done on that day, and make it a point to look at this list every day, in order to make
sure you continue doing what you've set out to do, as well as to track your progress.
But there will be times when you're tempted on occasion to not learn your daily words. You'll hear yourself thinking up all kinds of excuses: "I'm so tired now, I couldn't learn anything anyway"; "I can do it later, maybe before going to bed"; "I really have better things to do right now", or whatever else you can come up with.
We often have the tendency to make up reasons to not do what we know we should do; this is "only human", you might say. I know in my case, when it's really cold outside, and maybe even raining as well, I do not generally feel like going out to run, and if I stop to think about it for a minute, I'll no doubt be able to devise at least 10 good reasons why I should stay indoors and do something else. The solution to this problem? Well, it lies within the previous sentence: "if I stop to think about it for a minute"!
Do you want to make sure that you do what you planned to do each day? Then when the time comes, don't stop to think about it. Or, as
Nike puts it quite aptly, just do it!
The value of this slogan cannot be overestimated. You have decided you want to do something - for example, learn 3 new words a day. You know you can do this in a short time, almost effortlessly, once you start. If you plan to learn those words at a certain time of day, then when that time comes, get out your word list, select three new ones, and learn them. No thinking about it first. No asking yourself whether it wouldn't be better to do it later. No procrastination of any sort. JUST DO IT!
Of course, you may well hear a little voice within yourself thinking up excuses. Let it talk, but while it does, begin to take action, get out your word list, and start to
learn. Don't pay any attention to what the little voice is saying. Treat it like as you would someone who habitually nags at you: don't try to think up counter-arguments, just take action. And when you do, the little voice will disappear, for it'll know that your will has won the game!
When you first start learning the foreign language of your choice methodically on a daily basis, you will often be in danger of listening to that dissenting voice within, and may be tempted to take its arguments seriously. In this phase, as I've already said, simply act before you have time to decide not to. After a couple of months or so, you'll discover that once your habit has been formed, that little voice may well continue chatting away, but the effect it has on you is different: you'll find that the more it tries to dissuade you, the firmer your will becomes, and the more decided you are to get your task accomplished. When you notice this happening, you can be sure that you have turned your learning routine into a positive habit, and it becomes less and less likely that you will give it up - this is a crucial step in learning how to study consistently, and effectively.
At some point while reading the last couple of pages, you may have thought that all this talk about determination, willpower, and so on is somewhat exaggerated. How much willpower does it take to learn three words a day? That's a cinch! No need to worry about forming habits, acquiring discipline... Ah, but here, I would disagree. You have made a decision to learn something every day, and even if it's just three words, doing it every day will occasionally be quite difficult indeed.
Decide when you want to start. Today, if possible, tomorrow, at the latest. Then...
- When you start, tell yourself you will do it every day.
- When the time comes to learn, don't think about whether you should or shouldn't, simply begin to act: do it!
- Once you've learned your words, add the day's date (and the words you've learned) to your list in the notebook. Then do anything else you may have planned for that day.
Follow these steps on a daily basis, and before you know it, learning something every day will have become a positive habit. Nothing can now stop you from mastering your favorite foreign language
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