This is how you hack your to do list during a language trip
11-04-2019 by Linda
You are on a language trip and you want something. First of all, you want to learn Spanish, English, French or Italian of course. That above all. But you also want to taste the local food as often as possible. You want to visiting museums. Follow a cooking course? Stroll through the city. Have drinks with your classmates. Buy souvenirs. Go on a bike trip. Read a book? You could almost get stressed out of all the things you want. But getting stressed is not okay, because you want to be relaxed. When doing a language course abroad: how do you ensure that you spend enough time learning the language, but also have time for all the other (thousand) things you want to do? With these 4 steps you hack that nagging to-do-list and you make sure you get the best out of your language course abroad.
1 Hack that endless to-do-list
Are you the kind of person who knows how to stripe everything off a to do list? In that case: chapeau. Often do lists have the tendency to become bigger and bigger without ever being completed. And that can be frustrating and works counterproductive. So here is the following hack which ensures your to do list leads to productivity: make a new list every day and put not more than 5 things on it. So: Every day. No more than five things. Less is always possible. Easy, right?
This simple productivity method comes from productivity guru and successful businessman Ivy Lee that came up with this method in the 1920s. He swore by this daily new list with only a limited number of tasks. How can such a simple way be so effective? Well, because it's that simple. There is enough distraction in one day, so a simple method and good focus (see point 2) are all you need to work productive. As Richard Branson once said: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It's hard to make something simple. "
Okay, so: a daily and short to do list. Schedule in a fixed moment to make this list. After your language class, or at the end of the day in the evening for example. Or at the start of a new day in the morning. By making the list at a fixed moment you ensure that it becomes a habit and does not sneak in at a given moment. Still something that has to be done of the list the end of the day? First ask yourself if it was really that important, if so, then it will be at the top of tomorrow's list, if not, just skip it (for the time being).
Prioritize the things on your list from important to unimportant, think about the time they will take and the moment you are planning to complete them. If you already visualize how and when you are going to do something you considerably increase the chance that you will actually do it. Science proves this and there is a whole theory behind it, the theory of planned behavior. So focus well on the specific content of the tasks when you make your list. Write the tasks as specifically as possible. So don't write down: 'practice Spanish', but rather write down: 'Listen to the Spanish Duolingo podcast Episode 1' or read Chapter 1 of children book El Secreto de la Arboleda'.
While completing your tasks, force yourself to focus on one thing only. Before you start, consciously think about what you are going to do and maybe even say it out loud to yourself, say (or think) for example: "I am going to read a Spanish children's book for 40 minutes now". Set an alarm if necessary. This helps you to force yourself to focus on one activity only and you are less likely to be tempted to respond to the distracting factors that come your way. Put your phone away for that time frame. Do you hear that you receive a whatsapp or email? Then, thanks to the specific time limit that you imposed on yourself, you will sooner think: I look at my phone when these forty minutes are up.
3 Also plan the fun things
When you are on a language trip you probably have several "to do lists" in mind. One list with your homework and practical things that contribute to your language study and one with everything you still want to do and see in the city. Put the fun things on your to do list as well. So make things like: ‘-Visit to the Guggenheim museum’ a task, or 'Have lunch at tapas bar Casa Gonzaléz'.
In addition to a study, a language trip must be a complete culture immersion and lots of fun. This is why fun activities simply belong on your daily to do list during your language course. Besides that, when you put fun things on your list you also make sure your list remains realistic and balanced. If you schedule in that you are going to spend around three hours on a fun, cultural activity in the afternoon, you automatically schedule the study moments at a different time and you do not have a stressed "I actually have to do this and this" - feeling when strolling through the museum.
4 Don't be too hard on yourself
Set realistic goals. Don't expect to be fluent in conversation with the locals after your language course of four weeks. Before you depart home for your language course, think about what you actually want to be able to do at the end of your course period, and consider what things you want to see and taste. Is all you want really feasible in the period that you go? Rather set a goal like: 'I want to speak Spanish fluently within two years and start by doing this during this course' in stead of 'I want to have language level B2 at the end of my course'.
Living abroad for a while and practically live like the locals there is very instructive in itself. If you set your goals to high during your language course, there is a chance that you will be disappointed. That is not only demotivating, but also it would be a shame, since a language trip should be one of the nicest experiences there are. If at the end of the day (or at the end of your course) you have a positive feeling about what you did that day, you are much more inclined to go for it again with positive energy the next day - and thereby you will probably be a lot happier.
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