It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what you do… I’d bet you sometimes feel like you don’t have time to do things that are important to you. Having enough time can be a huge struggle these days, even more so if you’re trying to learn a language. The question of how long it takes to learn a language has always been important to language learners. It’s also one of the main reasons people end up not reaching their goals. We’re here to teach you a few time management skills that will help you be more productive and make the most of the time you have to reach your language goals.
Time Management Skills: Tips Every Independent Language Learner Should Know
Would you love to learn a language, but feel like you just don’t have time? Here are the time management skills our team uses to keep us moving toward our goals.
“If you don’t have time, the truth is, you don’t have priorities.“
Let’s start with this quote from Tim Ferriss, the famous American author and entrepreneur. Incidentally, he also has a knack for learning new things. He sums up the biggest time management hurdle in one sentence. To put it simply, if you say you don’t have time to dedicate to learning languages, it just means that learning languages isn’t a priority for you.
Of course, most people have careers, personal commitments, and the need for leisure time. Time is at a premium for many of us. But in my experience, everybody has at least 20 “lost” minutes in the day. 20 minutes that you could use to improve your language skills. If learning a language is a priority for you, you’ll see that it’s easy enough to find the time.
1. Make time for language learning
Sometimes it’s as simple as using time management skills to “make time” to do the things we care about. What are the best ways to fit a new language into your schedule?
Our time management tips start with tracking how you spend your time. You have the most control over your time when you understand how you spend it. This way, you can see where you can save time. We recommend that you write down everything you do—and how long you spend doing it—for two days. You could also use a time-tracking app like Toggl. You might be surprised to find how much time you spend on unproductive activities (watching TV, endless scrolling through Instagram). This might help you see that you spend a lot of “lost” time on activities you don’t even care much about. And it just might motivate you to use that time for something else, like practicing a language!
2. Schedule your time and stick to your plan
Speaking of time management skills, set an alarm on your phone or schedule a study session in your planner. The act of writing a task in your agenda is one way to make an appointment with yourself. It’s a kind of commitment, and it makes the task more of a priority.
Then you need to decide how and when to learn. When making and taking control of this decision, you’ll no longer feel “trapped” by an obligation. In the words of David Allen, author and creator of the time management system “Getting Things Done”: plans don’t usually stagnate just because of a lack of time. Instead, it’s because goals weren’t clearly defined. You can also check out this article for more tips on creating study plans.
3. Find the sweet spot
Those who have mastered time management skills often insist on the “how” (how to make free time). They’ve come up with all kinds of solutions to this issue. Now it’s up to you to decide when to do it.
The American author Daniel Pink wrote an interesting book about the perfect times to do a variety of things like studying, decision making, etc. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink explains that our cognitive faculties and our state of mind don’t remain constant over the course of a day. Though some people are early birds 🦜 and others are night owls 🦉, our cognitive performance and motivation are generally best in the morning. (The early bird gets the worm, right?)
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This was actually tested by Herman Ebbinghaus, the father of the spaced repetition system, a memorization technique that we believe in very strongly at MosaLingua. Ebbinghaus staged experiments that showed people learn and remember strings of syllables (even nonsense syllables) much better in the morning than at night.
And reading The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, I learned that motivation is like a muscle. It’s much fresher in the morning and becomes weaker throughout the day. I decided to design my morning routine around this fact. Give it a try! First thing in the morning (no matter when that may be for you), open your favorite app or any other tool you use to learn languages. Listen to a podcast, do an activity you enjoy. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it’s important to do it early before you begin the rest of your day.
4. Focus on short sessions instead of long hauls
I’m sure you’ve already heard that humans have short attention spans. Our concentration is also a muscle that can become stronger each time we use it. That’s why it’s important to plan short study sessions instead of long hours of cramming.
In fact, if you intend to work long hours, you’ll probably either give up on your goal or skip sessions because it can be very difficult to concentrate under such circumstances. Instead, it’s better to plan more realistic 10-20 minute sessions. Do 20 minutes seem like too little? Weeks and weeks of 20-minutes activities add up to hours and hours of practice!
5. Take advantage of your “lost” time
It’s not always easy to find the time to learn. But we all have boring daily tasks and chores: dishes, errands, a long commute… Personally, I always try to take advantage of these times to do something that feels productive. Even if your hands are full, your ears and brain might not be. Take folding laundry, for example. You could easily use this time to listen to videos, songs, or podcasts in the language you’re studying. Listening is very important when learning a language, and it will help you speak better. (Psst! Did you know that your MosaLingua app has a hands-free practice mode?) And one thing’s for certain: you spend a lot of time each week doing tasks like this. So, if you use this time to immerse yourself in the language you want to learn, you’ll end up making huge progress.
If you’re used to listening to music while you work out, try listening to songs in your target language. Take advantage of that time to stay in shape and learn new things.
Video: Luca’s Advice for Developing Good Time Management Skills
You can find all these tips in our new video. It’s in English, but you can turn on subtitles by clicking on the Settings button (⚙️) at the bottom right. This video is available below or on our YouTube page.
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To go a little deeper, we recommend a few related articles:
- Need to learn a language ASAP? ➡️ Find out how to learn a language in 3 months
- Struggle to make the time to practice? ➡️ Get our tips on finding time to learn English