Personal development is something we talk about a lot here – primarily because the one thing I know for certain that everyone has and has control over is themselves. No matter what other variables there may be, I know for certain (at least until someone develops serious A.I. anyway) that anyone reading this has a self that they can improve.
To this end we tend to focus on more ‘high level’ or specific aspects of personal development. I wanted to reverse that a bit and look at the bigger picture structure most successful personal development follow. I know as a self-defense instructor how important it is to go back and refine the basics, so I’d like to go back and refine the basics of personal development.
Being about three quarters of the way through the first month of our semi-unofficial Swedish challenge, I’ve noticed one of the biggest obstacles atarting out was that I had almost entirely lost my study habit. With so many other things going on I’d frequently forget to do my vocab study until way late in the day. Then I’d either have to grudgingly accept that I was going to be behind and have to do extra to catch up, or force myself to grind it out before bed when neither my heart nor head were really into it.
As a result I fell a bit behind and have had to play a lot of catch up. (I’ll post a full analysis of how well I did at the end of the month challenge period.) It got me thinking a bit about how hard it could be for people who had no past experience building that habit. After all, I’ve done this all before and have a solid handle on how to bring that daily Memrise habit back. If you struggle to build habits or have never done it before I’m sure it’d be even more difficult.
So here’s how to build a habit that will stick, and how to use it to aid your language learning.
In a way, this is equal parts both a personal challenge and also an experiment. We’ve wanted to learn Swedish for a while now, mostly because of my ancestry (I’m told ‘Wik’ comes from the same Swedish root as the ‘vik’ in ‘viking’, and one of our family historians insists that there’s some evidence ancestors way back of ours were vikings).
It’s no fun if you can’t make it a challenge though, so I’ve been considering ways to ramp things up a bit. To add that challenge element I decided to see how far we can get in the language in 3 months with what I would consider a minimal amount of study. What I mean by that is, we’ll only be studying for a few hours each night on the side of our other projects – not spending 8 hours a day cramming.
For the longest time, I found myself stuck in a bit of a quandary.
On one hand I really needed a schedule to keep me on track. Call it ADHD, general flightiness, whimsy capriciousness, whatever – if I didn’t have a schedule keeping me on track I would derail and do a thousand different things that weren’t actually the things I needed to do that day.
On the other hand when I created a rigid schedule for myself, like the kind that Caroline uses so well to keep herself on track, I chafed under its oppressive rule. It was nice to have something to keep me doing what I needed to be doing right then, but instinctive defiance of authority is a severe character flaw in me and it drove me mad.
So how do you compromise having enough structure to keep me on track but still allowing enough freedom to stop my instinctive rebelliousness from manifesting? Block scheduling.
In general, people tend to fall into one of two categories in their approach to accomplishing a task. Either they’re result driven, or they’re process driven.
In my experience, of these two the process driven people tend to have more long term success when it comes to achieving the more difficult tasks. It seems to take far less willpower, or mental fortitude if you want to call it that, to tackle more difficult goals for those who are strongly process driven compared to those who are strongly result driven.
So how can we use that observation to help us set better goals, even if we naturally tend toward a result focus?
Caroline and I are both severe to-do list addicts (Caroline perhaps even a little more than me).
This can be both a blessing, and a curse. On one hand it makes it very easy to organize our tasks and have a good plan going forward for what we need to be working on. It gives a nice shape to conquering our goals, like a step-by-step quest list in a video game, and takes a lot of the uncertainty and nebulousness away from what we’re working on.
On the other hand, it provides an easy platform upon which to load so many tasks that we inevitably break under the pressure of all of it. After all we’re both very ambitious people – giving us a blank sheet to list everything we want to do is like setting us lose in an Indian buffet, we’re going to load our plates up like we haven’t eaten in weeks. As a result our to-do lists crush us and we wind up being even less productive than if we hadn’t bothered with them at all.
So what’s the trick to making effective to-do lists that help you get things done, but don’t grind you into the ground? Compartmentalization.
We love writing for Road to Epic. We love seeing all your comments, and getting your e-mails, and knowing that we’re actually helping people to make their lives better. It is basically our dream job.
The thing is it takes a lot to support it. We put a lot of time and effort into the researching and writing of our articles. Add to that the cost of maintaining the servers, upgrades as the site grows, and all the other expenses that come along with running a website and things start to add up.
The last thing we want to do is put advertisements on the site in order to help defray the costs of keeping things running. We hate ads. I’m pretty sure nearly everyone hates ads. So instead, we’ve decided we would turn to the people who already love the site the most for support – our fans. You.
We’ve done that by joining Patreon.
If you’ve done obstacle course races you might have heard of GoRucks before, but if not then allow me to summarize it for you: it’s the most rewarding, tiring, mentally tough fitness-y “event” you’ll ever do.
It’s torture, but it’s so much fun. You may find yourself with your face nose-deep in a stranger’s rear-end, but by the end of the day you’ll be friends and comrades. You’ll be dirty, ache all over, and have sores on your feet, but a huge grin on your face. It’s hard but will teach you more about yourself in one day than you’ll learn in a year.
One of the biggest obstacles in moving from the beginner or low intermediate levels of a language into more advanced stages is the problem of constantly translating in your head. This is a problem that effects everyone and is a common place for people to either give up, or just accept that it’s the way things are when you learn to speak a second language. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m a big believer in routine. I think that a lot of what contributes to determining whether a person succeeds or fails in their endeavors is whether or not they have a routine in place – a system – that acts as a benefit or detriment to their progress.
So I was excited to find this visualization of the daily routines of 25 famously creative individuals by Podio and the one below from Infograph We Trust. Let’s take a look and see what learn from them.