A week ago, I started seeing the same hashtag pop up on my Twitter timeline over and over: #40h7dLC. The premise was simple. You have 7 days to study your target language for 5-6 hours each day. As someone who's been hounded by the Duolingo owl for a couple of days, I was guilty enough to give it a shot.
In all seriousness, I was looking to study Spanish more consistently. I decided to throw in some English practice there, too. So I took a deep breath, laid out my Notion schedule, and started the following day.
I admit that I was worried early on. I'm a sophomore university student who also juggled online jobs here and there. Still, I was confident I could fit in 5-6 hours of studying every day. It wouldn't be so bad. Right?
As of writing, I think I still have 10 or so hours to complete the challenge. So while I ultimately failed to fill up my 40 hours, I still recommend doing it. There's only one reason:
It taught me consistency.
Halfway into #40h7dLC, I knew I couldn't complete it. By that time, though, it had been a reflex to reach for my phone. I'd turn the Pomodoro timer on to squeeze in a few Spanish lessons.
So, even if I wasn't spending five hours on my desk conjugating Spanish verbs, I was spending some of my leisure time completing assignments.
The pressure of the challenge had slipped. All I knew was that I wanted to learn as much as I could for the week and progress in my target language.
So while five hours is impossible for many of us - with work, school, or just plain life getting in the way - setting aside some time for language learning can help you out a lot. This is why my first tip is...
1. Adjust the Challenge According to Your Schedule
Yes, getting 40 hours in a week is a feat. If you think you can pull it off, go for it! But if you're like me who can't commit to that kind of time frame, you can adjust either a.) the number of hours or b.) the number of days.
You can keep 40 hours and do it for 10 days. You can go for 20 hours a week if you feel like it.
Learning Tip: What you have to remember is to keep the learning time substantial. Your retention might worsen if you force yourself to do 40 hours on top of demanding school work and house chores!
2. Don't Do A Session in One Sitting
Unless you want the burnout to come for you faster than you can translate an entire paragraph. If you are going to commit to long sessions, make sure you have frequent breaks.
Study Better: If you prefer shorter session times, I recommend doing your work 90 minutes each time with a rest in between. Those 90 minutes are the sweet spot for your flow of concentration.
If you're like me, who still struggles with focus, a Pomodoro timer can help. I use Pomofocus on my laptop to time my work sessions at 20 to 30 minutes. I take 5-minute breaks thrice, then take an extended 15-minute break.
I still get surprised at how much I can do in 20-minute bursts, and maybe you would, too.
3. A Community Can Help
This is the one thing I neglected to do, and with my track record, I could've been more successful with the challenge if I had peers around. I loved studying in libraries pre-pandemic, and I love hanging out in different Discord study channels now.
There's magic in seeing other people's rants, struggles, and wins. It's nice to play music and look up to see your friends reading and writing with you. It makes you feel less lonely and encourages you to keep working towards your goal.
So, go and see if you can find people to do #40h7dLC with! Crawl the hashtags on Twitter and Tumblr. Leave people notes of encouragement and update them with your progress, too.
4. Diversify Your Schedule
Five hours is a lot of time. Even if you scale it down to three or four hours a day, that's still a lot of space in the day you've got to fill. You'll tire out quickly if you focus on just reading or writing for five hours - yep, even with breaks.
Break it down into chunks. You could assign an hour for reading, an hour and a half for textbook exercises, and another for writing. The other hour can be for listening or reviewing vocabulary. It helps integrate your language skills all at once, too.
Study Better: You can learn language better at home. Need something to shake up your routine? Try some of my methods here.
5. Have Everything Ready Before You Start the Challenge
Okay, we're all master procrastinators, but try not to plan everything out the night before! As much as fast Internet and multiple gadgets speed up the learning process, downloading that PDF or finding your place in an audiobook can take up some precious minutes.
You want to have everything ready to go when you start your learning session. It's easy to get distracted once you open up that search bar for some online dictionary you forgot to load up.
Tools: I had two Spanish textbooks, an audiobook, Duolingo, SpanishDict, and Lockcard ready. I also had Notion open for note-taking and for the exercises' answers. Got the same target languages as me? Try downloading the said apps!
My last piece of advice is something I've mentioned before: take a rest if you need to do so. Seriously. I know that we all push ourselves a little too hard to achieve everything at once as much as we love to learn. I don't mean just frequent breaks - take a day off from the challenge if you need it. Jump back in when you can!
I'll probably try #40h7dLC again and see if I can pull off 40 hours. I'm putting in a mock Spanish test this time around.
One thing's for sure, though: I'm clearing my schedule first.