“I know what I need to do to succeed… but I just can’t do it”

Do you ever feel like you’re not making progress with your learning? Like you know where you should be going, but you just can’t start moving in that direction?

This is because of your habits. Habits can be hard to break, and hard to form, but that doesn’t mean you are hopeless. You just need to get started, and then build up a healthy momentum to keep yourself going.

So how can I take control of my learning?

Start by setting clear goals for yourself, of course. But don’t just set your goals and think that everything will work out perfectly. Check up on your goals regularly to see how you are doing.

Let’s say that you set a goal for getting a 7.0 on IELTS within three months. You then set a study program for yourself and plan a weekly study schedule. Sounds like a sure path to success, doesn’t it?

But then, your boss decides that you aren’t working hard enough, and he thinks it’s a good idea to give you a ton of new jobs. You’re now working 12 hours a day and don’t have any time to study.

Or do you?

You see, no matter how hard you are working during the day, there are always a few extra minutes to study. To be successful in learning, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up.

You’ve got to jump in the deep end.

Too many people say that they will start studying only when they have more free time. Then life only gets busier, and they only have less time. Their goals start to seem further and further away…

You just need to begin now, and then everything will get easier. Form good habits, and it will be as easy as brushing your teeth in the morning.

Stop thinking about it and just start doing it.

But there’s never enough time…

Your study program doesn’t have to be anything magnificent. Even 15 minutes a day is better than nothing. The key to success is recognizing when you have a free moment to learn:

  • Taking the shuttle bus to work? Listen to a podcast.
  • Waiting to pick up your daughter from school? Study vocabulary.
  • Looking at Instagram? Open Memrise.
  • Got a few extra minutes at work? Read an article.
  • Hear a word that you like on your favourite TV series? Note it down and make a vocabulary list later.

The opportunities are endless. You just have to see them and take advantage of them.

Adjusting your expectations

When things get too heavy, just call me helium, the lightest known gas to man
—Jimi Hendrix

Sometimes our workloads become very heavy and then our jobs dominate our lives. When this happens, other goals, like studying English, become less important in our lives.

Imagine that you just set a study plan for 10 hours per week with the goal of achieving a 7.0 in IELTS within 3 months. Then, your boss gives you 150 new projects and demands that you work 36 hours a day (well… nearly), so you don’t have time to study anymore.

Don’t just cut your study goals out of your life. Instead, set your goal back a few more months and study fewer hours per week. You could get a 7.0 in 6 months and study 5 hours a week.

It’s much better to study less (even just 15 minutes a day, if that’s all you can afford) than not to study at all.

Talk to your boss about your goals. If you can frame these goals in a way that makes it look like your success will benefit your company, he might even pay for your lessons!

How will I know if it’s working?

Finally, it is critical to check in on yourself every week or two so you can see where you stand.

Look at the goals you set yourself earlier. Ask yourself: “Do these goals still matter to me? Is there anything that I should change?” It’s important to ask yourself this regularly so you can see the big picture.

When you can see the big picture, you can see if you are moving in the right direction.

When you can see if you are moving in the right direction, you can be more flexible.

Sometimes life changes, and we have to change as well. Be flexible and adapt yourself. You never know what opportunities might come.

Did you learn something? Help your friends to learn too!

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