Becoming Fluent in Finnish – Dealing with Procrastination / Studying Wisely

If there was an award for procrastination I would be some kind of world champion I am sure of it.

I know this and if I let myself get distracted I will spiral out of control on an eating / cleaning binge, suddenly spark up an interest in double clutch gear changes or watch super slow motion videos of people being slapped in the face, or sometimes, I even find myself writing a blog post when I should be studying. (I actually started writing this a month ago, then procrastinated about my procrastination). You get the idea.

This was starting to happen more regularly, and at times I really wasn’t looking forward to doing my language studies. So I thought it would be useful to look at my routine and try a new approach.

Studious Challenges versus Physical Ones

It is worth mentioning that with studying I have always been a bit like this. The same way I always used to struggle to start that essay at school, or spend time working on my dissertation. I would continuously put off the work and could only work in small chunks, maybe 30 minutes to an hour before my mind started racing and I lost focus.

The bulk of my previous challenges have been physical, Running John O’ Groats to Land’s End, Running the Pennine WaySwimming the Thames and making 52 Spoons.

I set my mind to long term goal I have good focus – such as six months of training to get me ready for the swim, then I will stick to the training plan almost religiously. All I need to do in these circumstances is either: go to the lake / the gym / the pool / put on my running shoes / start carving and the rest would follow. Because the activity was physical, once you are doing it it’s pretty damn hard to procrastinate from.

That is harder to do when you are studying. When your brain is completely elsewhere and all you can thing about is eating as much as physically capable, or cleaning your room from top to bottom or doing the highly important task of sorting out those pokemon cards you just found in an old drawer – it can be hard to keep focus.

So how have I been studying?

  1. I do the ‘hardcraft’ of the studying in the morning, before work – when my attention is at its best. I get up 1.5 hours before work and review my cards in my Anki deck.
  2. I would try and speak Finnish in the mornings, lunches and evenings with the others guides and kitchen staff.
  3. After work I would add sentences and words to my Anki deck. This is the bit I find hardest, and although not that difficult to do, you do at least need to be focused. This would be the part of my studying that I would procrastinate from, and put off.
  4. I would sometimes watch series in Finnish, or English with Finnish subtitles.

This is where I realised my first problem. I should be adding the sentences and words to my Anki deck in the morning before work – getting the more demanding task from the day done and dusted. All I needed to do was swap point 1 and 3.

Realistically I can only do between 1 to 1.5 hours of intensive studying a day. Probably more like 1. I guess when you work full time you need to focus your energy on what you can achieve in a day, whilst still being able to enjoy yourself. After all why would you want to do something if it was stressing you out?

The studying I used to do in the morning – reviewing my Anki deck – is then done throughout the day or in the evening. It is so easy to review your Anki deck, you can do it on your phone or computer, and you are basically just looking at images and recalling them – it’s easy and fun. I can often complete this task throughout the day whilst waiting for guests on my snowmobile – (The way the trips works here, I lead the dog sled trips on a snow mobile, driving ahead, and waiting for guests at junctions or points of interest, giving me little pockets of 5 to 10 minutes of time before they arrive). Where you’ll find me stretching my hamstrings (incredible tight) or going through my Anki deck, or sometimes, if you’re lucky, both at once.

So. My New Study Plan

  • Get the harder studying tasks – adding sentences to my Anki deck and words – done and dusted before work. (1hr to 1.5hrs).
  • Try and do the Anki flashcard reviews throughout the day if possible – whilst waiting for guests.
  • Speak in Finnish MORE as much as I can throughout the day (usually in the morning, lunches and evenings).
  • Do more fun tasks in the evening, such as listening to simple news/music/tv shows and writing down the lyrics and translating.

Sometimes I felt like I was trying to do too much, not being able to keep focus and then beating myself up about it if I did not complete all of my study tasks. I am doing this challenge as a bit of fun and to try and learn a language. Sure, there are pitfalls along the way just like in a physical challenge, but rather than letting them beat you down, take a step back, maybe try and new approach, and most of all try to enjoy it.

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