Progress, not perfection, is the goal. I’m a gold-star junkie, and I love scrolling back on my UP report to see that I exceeded my 10,000-step goal, but I also know that 5,000 steps are better than 1,000. A Secret of Adulthood (cribbed from Voltaire) is “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Monitoring makes it possible to remember everything I’ve accomplished.

Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits—to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life

I almost didn’t write this blog post.

Why? Because I am currently driving with my wife back up to Seattle from LA and only have about 30 minutes available to write. My inner perfectionist almost talked me out of posting anything at all, arguing that it’s better to do nothing than do something less than perfect. Fortunately, I’ve learned to resist the siren call of such irrational perfectionism (well, most of the time). I now believe that done is better than perfect and that the habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself (hat tip to Gretchen Rubin).

In other words, it’s more important that I stick to my weekly goal of publishing at least one blog post on Language Mastery, even if it is a short post like this one.

The exact same lesson applies to language learning. How many times do we put off practicing Japanese because we don’t have enough time to put in a complete study session? How often do we procrastinate because we don’t have our preferred resources on hand or are not in the ideal environment?

Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good in your language learning endeavors. No matter how busy you might be today, use at least a few of your “hidden moments” (tiny scraps of otherwise wasted time) to review a few flashcards. Use whatever language resources you happen to have, may it be reading a foreign language ad on the subway, listening to a podcast, or even rehearsing conversations in your head.

Is it better to study for 2 hours than 2 minutes? Of course. But 2 minutes is far better than zero.


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