All right, confession time:
I’m not feeling too confident about hitting a B2/C1 level in German reading by mid December, and I’m anxious about being able to pass the test and reach my goal.
I’ve made a ton of progress in the last six weeks. My overall German comprehension is much, much better than it was before. Yet the better I get, the more I realize I don’t know, and that makes me uneasy.
But I’m not giving up yet. I’m going to mix up my routine for the next three weeks to see if the change gives me a boost.
Why 21 Days?
If you’ve read my book, you know that I’ve talked about a “21-Day Language Blast” before.
And now I’m bringing up the whole 21-day thing again.
But why 21 days? What’s special about three weeks?
Admittedly, the number isn’t set in stone. I first got the idea from old self-help advice that said it takes 21 days of doing something before it becomes a habit. Yet as this article from Forbes points out, that advice is more myth than reality.
The real reason I like 21 days is that it’s a long enough time frame to see improvement and a short enough time frame not to be overwhelming.
I wish it was more scientific than that. I think that maybe three weeks lines up with the body’s response to stress: alarm, resistance, recovery. This is how athletes get stronger and faster (and is why many popular running programs are broken up into three-week cycles).
But truthfully? I don’t know for sure how much that idea extends to language learning.
What I do know is that in my own studying, if I’m consistent for three weeks, I notice a considerable improvement in my abilities. So my goal is simply to get three weeks of consistent studying under my belt, improve, pat myself on the back, and repeat. At the end of three weeks, it’s also a good time to change up my routine to focus on different areas and give my brain a different stimulus.
My Next 21 Days
I’m going to do these three things every day:
- Read or listen to 7500 words. My volume has dipped a little bit, so I want to bump things back up closer to my peak of 10,000 words a day.
- Review vocabulary words and old materials. In the last six weeks, I’ve added 1400 new vocabulary words to my Readlang word list. I learned a lot of those words backwards and forwards, but obviously not all of them. I’ll spend the next three weeks reviewing those words, as well as re-reading and re-listening to texts I’ve already studied.
- Complete a grammar drill. I’ve been slacking off a little with grammar, so I’ll make this a bigger priority.
So the big difference is, I spent the last six weeks prioritizing new vocab, while I’ll spend the next three weeks not learning any new vocab but instead trying to make what I’ve learned really sink in. The added volume should help drive overall acquisition too.
When I’m finished with this cycle, I’ll have about a month left before the test, so I can decide what I need to work on then.
Designing Your Own 21-Day Routine
This is pretty straightforward stuff, but I do want to pass along some tips for your own routines:
- Make your main goal adherence. I imagine you’ll have some performance goals in mind–learning x number of vocab words, completing x number of lessons, going up a level, and so on. Don’t make those performance goals your main objective. Instead, your primary goal is to stick to the routine for the full 21 days. If you design even a marginally good routine and keep at it for 21 days, you will improve, and the improvement will be noticeable.
- Keep your routine relatively simple. As you can see in the three bullet points above, I give myself three things to accomplish every day. At the end of the day, I assess how well I did: Did I do the things I said I would? If so, then I’m on track. If not, then I get on track tomorrow. I’m able to do this because I keep the routine simple and easy to keep track of.
- Take some risks. The nice thing about 21 days is that it’s a short enough time frame that you won’t cause yourself any irreparable damage if you mess up. The risk I’m taking in this cycle is that I’m stopping with the learning of new vocabulary, even though I need new vocabulary. I’m switching to a more acquisition-based routine, and if you’ve read my book, then you’ll understand that I’ve been filling the glass, and now I’m trying to build a bigger glass. Will it work? I think so, but if it doesn’t, I’ll readjust in three weeks.
Hopefully this will give my studying a jolt and put me in a good position to pass the test.
Leave your own 21-day routines in the comments, and feel free to leave any questions for me or the other readers.