Building habits for learning

Sophie Gill · 29 January, 2020

This week I’ve been making a big effort to learn something every day - often several things. I have a few different learning projects on the go, but I have a different approach for each of them.

I have a tendency to take on too much (that might be what’s happening right now!) but I definitely find that the busier I am, the more productive I am.

So, the question is how do I stay busy and productive, without getting burnt out?

Learning Project 1: 🇮🇹 Bulgarian

Здравей! Моето име е Софи, учам Български 👋
Hello! Мy name is Sophie, I am learning Bulgarian

I have been learning Bulgarian for several months now, my partner is Bulgarian so this is great way to get to know his friends and family a little better.

I found it hard to start learning the language because there aren’t that many resources available, but eventually I found Bulgaro and it’s been a complete game-changer. I’ve gone from not even being able to say ‘hello’, to being able to form complex sentences in a few months. Considering that I’m not a natural language learner, and Bulgarian doesn’t even share an alphabet with English, I think that’s ok going!

My plan for Bulgarian is:

  • Only learn this once I get home from work, before or after dinner.
  • Spend 20-30 minutes practicing what I’ve already learnt.
  • If I have time, spend 10 minutes learning something new
  • Practice speaking Bulgarian with my partner, although I tend to forget I can say things in Bulgarian and default to English!
  • Watch trashy Bulgarian shows youtube - InstaQueen is a particular favourite. I only understand about 5% of what they say, but it’s still helpful for becoming more familiar with native speech.

Learning Project 2: 💻 Computer Science

Having decided to do a degree in computer science, I’ve started making some time to study the subject every day.

Unlike Bulgarian, I find it difficult to study for a fixed amount of time. I’m following three different module programmes at the moment, and they are a mix of watching videos and completing exercises. It can be difficult to judge how long an exercise is going to take.

I’m still in the very early days of my learning project, so a clear habit hasn’t yet emerged. With one exception - I’m finding it pretty enjoyable to complete the coding challenges in the evenings with the TV on in the background!

I don’t watch much TV anyway, so don’t feel that my attention is split too much. If anything, it can help me remember to take breaks every 15-20 minutes, which helps me focus overall.

Learning Project 3: 🇸🇪 Swedish

Another new learning project, but as with Bulgarian a habit has formed pretty quickly.

It’s a long term goal to move to Stockholm - and there’s no harm in getting a bit of language practice in now. It might seem difficult to learn two languages at once, but I’m not getting confused so far and if anything it’s maybe a little easier to learn Swedish after starting Bulgarian!

To try and avoid confusion, my Swedish learning happens at completely different times and places to my Bulgarian learning. This means my habit is:

  • Complete at least two lessons a day on Duolingo, during my commute.
  • I prioritise learning in the morning commute, as I’m more likely to get a seat and feel fresher.
  • If I can, I do a little bit more on my journey home.
  • I plan to start watching Swedish TV shows once I’m able to form and understand more complex sentences.

Learning Project 4: 🎨 iPad Lettering

Ok, this one isn’t going very well. In fact, it’s not going at all!

I’ve switched to my iPad for journalling and reflections, and I want to start bringing some creative flair to my journals.

But, it’s not a priority right now. I’m hoping that once my Computer Science study habit is bedded in, I’ll have some more free time to devote to this practice.

And it should be noted, I’m trying to read more non-fiction books this year, and I listen to informative podcasts whenever I’m on the move. Plus, I’m in a job that frequently requires me to learn new things. I feel ok about letting one learning project slide, for now 🙃

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