Updated: Jun 9
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For the majority of people around the world, plans for the month of April involve staying indoors and making the most of time at home. While there are many individuals who thrive on having extra downtime, there is also a category of people who struggle to stay motivated when there is a lack of routine or structure to their day. There are also people out there who are having difficulty managing a positive work-life balance, complaining that they are busier with work now more than they were before, despite being forced to log-on remotely. Hours feel longer, and the days all seem to blend in to one another. So, how can one be expected to stay on track with their studies and find the motivation to commit to improving their communication skills?
Before I share my advice, I'd like to preface it by saying that it is perfectly okay to give yourself a break and not pressure yourself into doing something if it does not feel right, considering the conditions we are all being forced to deal with. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of extra downtime, despite being stuck at home, because they have family to care for and additional responsibilities that they need to look after. Or, you might be overwhelmed with the current state of the world and have a sense of hopelessness, or a loss of control. Emotions are running high and there doesn't feel like much you can do about it from your couch.
If you identify with any one of these scenarios - you are not alone. By suggesting these tips, I am simply providing some encouragement to utilize your time (if you have any) towards something positive, something that brings you joy and helps you connect with others around the world. I also hope that it provides you with a bit of a distraction, which I know we can all use from time to time. If you are seeking that kind of encouragement, then keep reading.
10 Tips to Stay Motivated When You're Stuck at Home
1. Keep it FUN
No one likes to practice or study when the content is boring. Turn your learning into a game by downloading apps (ELSA Speak is one of my favorites), completing a crossword puzzle, memorizing short speeches or lines from your favorite TV shows, movies or public speakers, learning the lyrics to your favorite song in English and singing along, learning the new 'Word of the Day" from Dictionary.com, or even follow my instagram for listening challenges, quizzes, and more!
2. Find an accountability partner
Whether it be a friend, a colleague, or your mom - find someone in your life who you can partner up with to hold each other accountable for your studies. Share video clips, ELSA scores, vocabulary words, and reminders. There is no better way to stay on track than to feel the pressure of reporting your progress and checking in with someone else.
3. Switch things up
If your original goal was to practice learning 10 new vocabulary words a day, but you just don't have the mental bandwidth to memorize flashcards, then use an alternative method that brings you more joy. You can learn new vocabulary and expressions by watching Disney classics, new Netflix shows, listening to music (with lyrics of course), reading fiction novels, and even sifting through comments on the internet. You don't have to torture yourself with textbooks and power points. If you're trying to improve your pronunciation and speaking skills, instead of reading news articles out-loud or preparing for the same meeting over and over, you can practice summarizing something you've recently watched or read, or describe how your day went. All it takes is an open mind, and every little bit counts.
4. Set realistic goals
Despite having every intention of wanting to come out of quarantine a true master of a new language, hobby, or skill, it is more than likely that you will come out of it closer to the person you were before it all started. There is nothing wrong with that! So, instead of setting yourself up for disappointment and failure, keep your goals realistic and easy to manage. Instead of committing to 1 hour of speaking practice each day, aim for 1-minute voice notes. Instead of trying to tackle 5 books over the next few weeks, aim for 5-10 pages per day. If you are able to get more done, GREAT. If not, then at least you can spare yourself the judgment.
5. Share your daily study habits with a friend (or social media)
The act of putting your day-to-day activities out there for the world to see can give you a sense of pride and further accountability. You might find a friend, or even a stranger, who has the same goals in mind. Others may share in your struggles and send you words of encouragement to help keep you going.
6. Surround yourself with words of encouragement
Sometimes you have to be your own best friend, and that involves providing yourself with visual affirmations to reinforce your belief that you possess everything it takes to be the person you want to be. Write down quotes or key words that spark your brain and heart into action. Stick a post-it note on your laptop that says "YOU GOT THIS" or "SPEAK / LISTEN / READ/ WRITE" as a daily reminder to not lose sight of your goals. These notes can be placed on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, the back of your iPhone, on your bedside table, and so on.
7. Don't make your bed your office
When I was in college, I loved nothing more than to spend all night laying on my bed instead of sitting on my stiff, uncomfortable desk chair. Even though my comfort level was optimal, my motivation to get any work done was not. It can be difficult to disassociate your bed from anything other than "cozy, sleepy time" and therefore can lead you down a path of seeking distractions, indulging in guilty pleasures (binge-watching YouTube tutorials, eating one more snack, endlessly scrolling TikTok; you get the point). You might not have any other option than to study or work from your bedroom, but at least try to change your set-up between tasks. If you are going to be doing anything work or study related, try to switch up your lighting, change your background music, seat positioning, and if you can, your environment. Sit in the living room or your kitchen table if possible. You can even set up a stool in your closet and record voice notes to rehearse for an upcoming presentation or practice pronunciation. A change in atmosphere will do wonders for your brain and your mood.
8. Keep track of your wins, not your losses
Most people make a laundry list of items they want to accomplish for the day. But what happens if you find yourself without that many boxes to check-off? It can leave you feeling low and defeated, and we certainly don't want that right now. What you could try instead, is to write down every task you have accomplished throughout the day. You can reflect back on them at night to see everything you actually made time for, and brainstorm what you'd like to tackle tomorrow. Instead of recreating the same to-do list each day that doesn't seem to get smaller, write down the positive tasks you nailed and you will find yourself feeling motivated to complete even more with each 'win'.
9. Enlist the help of a professional
If you are currently at a point along your learning journey where you are in need of more direct, accurate feedback, strategies and 1:1 support, your best bet might be to work with someone who coaches people for a living. (I just so happen to be one of them. Reach out if you would like to work together.) Working with the right coach will allow you access to additional materials, resources, activities, guided practice, accountability, and overall support and motivation. For anyone seeking to make professional or academic gains, overcome personal challenges, or simply become more proficient in American English and the American accent, then this might be a good opportunity to invest in help.
10. Try again tomorrow
When all else fails, there's always tomorrow. Some days are better than others. Some days are easier to get out of bed and look for the positives. Other days can be clouded with doubt, fear, loneliness, boredom, and a lack of will. We all experience them. Sometimes it's better to just let the time pass, and try again the next day. Just know that this too shall pass.
Wishing you health & safety during these unprecedented times.
Until next time,
American Speech Coach