We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
I have taken a very simple concept to coin the term: "Daily Minimums" or Weekly Minimums to make an attempt to sum up this idea as simply as possible.
What are daily / weekly minimums? Ok, very simply, a daily minimum is doing the bare minimum for it to be meaningful, but making it a habit, ideally everyday, with one "cheat day" to relax and detach. This has been one of my top keys to success in language learning, staying fit, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I use a daily minimal mindset to help myself remain disciplined in fitness, diet, and language learning, even when I don't feel like it, but it could easily be applied to other areas of your life as well.
It's a simple concept, but one in which most people don't appreciate it's potential in bettering their lives. Remaining consistent, doing small amounts of work, towards a big goal, each day adds up exponentially over even a short amount of time.
Let's put this concept into a language learning context using just 15 dedicated minutes per day (6 days per week) as an example.
15 minutes per day.
15 x 6 = 90 - 3 hours per week
3 hours per week.
3 x 4 = 12 hours per month
12 hours per month for 6 months.
12 x 6 = 72 hours per 6 months
12 hours per month for one year
12 x 12 = 144 hours of language study per year.
You can now see here how the time adds up overtime. A measly 15 minutes per day, 6 days per week, after a year really adds up. After 144 hours of consistent language study (done the right way with a solid Fluency Plan) one would easily go from beginner to intermediate in their fluency.
What I love about setting minimums is that it's so effective in combating what I like to call "lazy ass syndrome". I come down with lazy ass syndrome at least once per week. However, for example, I almost never take more than a week off without working out 3 times each week, I eat clean 5 days per week, and I put in work on my monthly language fluency plan 6 days per week almost without fail. However, I often put in small amounts of work in individual days. I realize that just showing up is half the battle. Little chunks of work add up to something special overtime if done consistently.
With the daily minimum mindset you understand that consistency over the long haul is more important and will take you much further than overloading your workload for 3 weeks, burning out, quitting and thus going back to your old way of doing things or doing nothing at all, not moving towards your goals, even doing the bare minimum.
For me, personally, just to give you an example, these are my current weekly minimums:
Despite these relatively low standards, for what I MUST do each week, I find myself often times doing more, funny enough. I tack on an additional 2-3 online language conversation classes, I take one off day to go play basketball or jog on the beach, and oftentimes I just eat well every day for a week, seven days in a row.
In conclusion, having a daily / weekly minimum mindset is, in my opinion, a great habit forming strategy for language learners, people wanting to build a fitness routine, or really any other habit that you want to form and incorporate into your life
If you have other suggestions about best practices for habit formation, I'd love to see them in the comments below!
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Levi Flint is a language teacher, learner, and traveler frustrated with how languages have been viewed and taught in North America. He hopes to change things with a bit of clarity, perspective, and common sense.