The moment you learn about some new thing and you want to learn how to do that new thing, you are excited and ready to hit the ground running. That’s called motivation and that’s very healthy, but if you don’t use that motivation to create viable and consistent habits, you will run out of steam. That’s called burnout and that’s not at all healthy.

The good news is, there are ways to avoid that burnout and improve motivation.

Today’s Tip:
Step one: Create one micro-goal
Step two: Do that single micro-goal every day for one month and you will have created a new, positive habit.
Step three: After a month, re-evaluate and expand your goal

Micro-goals are goals that aren’t scary; they are laughably simply. People fail at New Year’s resolutions because they set unreasonable goals.

Resolution: I will exercise an hour a day.

You start off January 2nd fine. You exercised for sixty minutes and you are happy. The next day, the phone rang and you only did forty minutes. No problem–you’ll make it up the next day. Except the next day you had to take the dog to the vet and your sister needed help moving. The following day you feel a burden–the deficit weighs on you and you are about to give up. Pretty soon, you do.

Why? Exercising for an hour is not an easy habit to form from scratch.

However, building up to that point from a reasonable–no, stupidly simple goal is very possible.

I will exercise for 5 minutes a day:
  • one minute abs
  • one minute push ups
  • one minute jogging in place
  • one minute dumbbell lifting
  • and one minute stretching
Think about going from couch potato to an hour of aerobics a day. Yikes! Now think about committing to just five minutes a day. Do you feel the weight of the first heavy obligation go away?
I have used this micro-goal strategy to create several positive habits in my life (writing, exercising, reading…). As long as I am sincere when I make the goal, I find three things always happen:
  1. I stick with it long enough to create the habit (because it is stupidly easy to do)
  2. I almost always do more than the micro-goal (because I was sincere when I made the goal)
  3. If I am busy one day and don’t do a lot more–I can at least do the micro-goal and still feel like I accomplished my goal (because I really did)
This micro-goal strategy works for anything. Writing a book, doing taxes, writing blogs consistently, keeping up with a social media strategy, drawing a manga series, finishing a dry but impactful book, etc.

Here is my suggestion. Try this five-minute micro-goal strategy for learning Japanese:

  • Spend 1 minute writing a new kanji over and over again while saying the reading and meaning aloud
  • Spend 1 minute with your flashcards
  • Spend 1 minute reviewing your past work in your textbook
  • Spend 2 minutes going through new material in your textbook.
Hopefully, you’ll do more. But you know what, life happens and if you at least do that micro-goal, you have accomplished your goal for the day.
A little bit every day is far better than binge studying once a week. Binge studying will not create life-long habits.