Do something small each day

Happy New Year!

The new year naturally comes with reflection, goals and resolutions to become a more disciplined, better version of you. But now that we’re eleven days into the new year, have you fallen off on some of your goals already?

I have! 

It can be tempting to think of January 1st as the perfect day to overhaul your life. It marks the beginning of a new year, and gives you an easy way to look back and assess how far you’ve come. But what if you mess up? What if life gets busy and you quit for a while? What if your original goals were too ambitious, or your feelings change about it?

That’s totally okay! Have a look at your daily habits, think about what you want, and reconsider. 

Stop thinking about the new and improved “you” and just think about you doing the best you can. Some days are easy; some days are hard. All that matters is that you keep going when and how you can. 

This year, I started January 1st with goals to improve my Russian and Spanish. I used a spreadsheet to map out and track my time spent with each language, and I even wrote a schedule for myself. But when I started back at work full time after our holiday break (I’m also teaching in an elementary classroom), it was a lot more difficult to dedicate the time I’d planned for languages each day. I found that when I came home from work and planned to put on a podcast for listening practice, my brain was just too overwhelmed by the day to listen to more input. I needed quiet, or music, or to just turn it all off for a while! 

As I’m writing this, my family is in quarantine, and all of my children are home from school. I definitely hadn’t planned for that. As the saying goes: life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Omicron has proved to be a real beast here in the US this winter. 

I’m a big fan of goal setting, but I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson since the pandemic started. Life is unpredictable. The only way to fail at something is to stop completely. 

Can you do one small thing each day to continue working towards your goal? Even if it just takes one minute, three minutes or five minutes?

Three minutes might seem like nothing, but three minutes a day adds up to 90 minutes a month. 

I suggest a short writing practice each day. If you prefer to work in the morning, try writing one sentence about what you hope to achieve that day. If you prefer to work in the evening, try writing about the best thing that happened to you that day. Write these in your target language! You don’t need a fancy bullet journal or anything like that; a spiral notebook, or even the Notes section on your smartphone will do. 

Short, reflective writing assignments are a quick, easy and fun way to check in with yourself and your language learning. I do the “best things” exercise in Spanish, and I love to look back on the little things I’d forgotten about that brought me joy that day. 

Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below! 

Happy learning, and Feliz Año Nuevo. 🙂 

Until next time! またね!

Jesse (ジェシー)


Vocabulary for English learners: 

  • Fallen off – quit, stopped doing something
  • Overhaul – to fix, improve greatly 
  • Look back – to reflect, consider the past 
  • Mess up – to make a mistake 
  • Have a look – to observe, to consider, to look at (can be metaphorically)
  • Map out – to plan
  • Put on – (in this context) to play, to start a podcast and listen to it
  • Proved to be a real beast – very difficult, challenging
  • Bullet journal – popular creative journaling technique to track goals, daily activities, etc
  • Check in – to check on, to look at objectively, to assess

Published by Jesse Albatrosov

English teacher + language lover helping foreign language learners master the English language through creative writing exercises and engaging conversation!

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