Good Weeks and Bad Weeks

Saying I'm having a bad week could just be code speak for "I'm lazy."

When doing anything for a protracted period of time, it’s inevitable that some weeks are going to be good weeks, and some are going to be bad ones.  You could probably manage to do something for a month, or even six months, and manage to stay consistently on top of the ball and be feeling good about your commitment and progress, but eventually you’re going to run into problems.  Motivation can lag, normal life can get in the way, and emergencies can happen, and the longer you’re doing something, the closer the chances approach 100% that any and all of the above will come to pass.

This last week was a bit rough going for me.  I’ve been struggling with a lingering cold, that at some point turned into a sinus infection over the past three weeks, which in addition to royally screwing up my work-to-make-money-to-pay-for-things real life has also put a damper on my other pastimes.  My writing got hit the worst, with me producing quite a bit of work that required heavy edits and rewrites to be usable, along with missing a handful of days entirely, but Spanish practice also took some dents.  I’m expecting to have the occasional day week to week that doesn’t go in a very ideal manner, but those are usually single days surrounded by an otherwise normal week.  Lately it’s been an inverse, with normal days surrounded by a week on the Struggle Bus.

Looking over the numbers, most weeks during this period are pretty normal, so my actual output hasn’t taken too much of a beating, but the experience has been a little less rosy.  What I wake up expecting out of a day is pretty consistent, so I have a good baseline of comparison to refer to.

I typically read in ten to twenty minute snatches throughout the day, in-between other things, with maybe a longer stretch of half an hour to forty minutes here or there.  It could sound less than ideal for some people, but it’s a system that I like, and all those snatches add up to the three-hour expectation I set for myself at the end of the night.  Some days do end up going a little pear-shaped in the typical routine, and I’ve had many a night where I’ve needed to sit down and read for an hour in the late evening to get done, but that isn’t usually a big deal.  I can also fit in my daily writing before dinner most days, leaving me the evening free for less focus-intensive things and a bit of downtime around the last of my reading.

Weekends are usually less rigid in how I spend my time, because I can usually fit my writing in sometime in the morning or early afternoon and can take longer chunks for reading without interfering with other stuff going on.  My schedule’s pretty stuffed, but I am not a workaholic and I’ve managed a pretty solid year and a half of consistency and productivity without feeling like I’m burning the candle at both ends.  One would think, considering being ill and having a lighter load of real life getting in the way of things that I’d be having an easy go of it for getting my writing and Spanish practice done.  Thinking that would be wrong.

My less cluttered days have not proven particularly conducive to getting practice done at a comfortable pace.  The majority of time it seems to have been the opposite, with me needing to spend an hour and a half to two hours reading basically non-stop at the tail end of the night (often past when I usually go to bed) to get my reading done for the day.  Some days I’ve given up as a loss, with the plan of letting expectations go as a battery recharge.  The thought process goes that after the lighter load day, I’d be able to hit the ground running the next day and hit my goal in a more expected fashion.  Yet the reality was I was still having a rough time getting through everything.  Being sick beats you up pretty bad, turns out.

Going through rough patches can be discouraging.  It’s something everyone has to deal with on long form projects like this, whether it’s confronting periods of burnout, balancing things around events outside of your control, or just being sick enough that reading sounds too hard.  And even if everything’s going great, where you’ve got your scheduling down to a science, it can still be one of those weeks where it feels like you’ve backslid.  There are days where you just don’t remember vocabulary as quickly as others, and struggle to get through something that feels like it would have been a breeze the day before.  Often it was a breeze the day before, if you’re repeating something you already practiced.

Being discouraged thanks to a bad stretch can be rough, especially on something as long term as language learning.  When you’re dedicating yourself to a timescale best measured in years, you don’t usually have goals or finish-lines that are so close that it’s easy to power through the rough terrain, and it’s easy to take a break, because it can’t matter in the long-run.  And of course, slackened daily goals can quickly turn into missed daily goals, into missed days, and suddenly you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty over an abandoned project.  It’s something that happens to a lot of language learners.  It’s one of the reasons why so much of the advice given on the subject is centered around having and reaffirming strong motivation in the pursuit, because it’s harder to fall off the wagon alongside so many others if you really don’t want to fall off, despite how hard it is to see the finish-line when you’re plodding through the mud.

The inverse is that when you have a project that is as long term as this sort of thing, the good weeks can insulate you against the bad ones.  These past couple of weeks have been rough ones for me, but they’re following a lot of good ones, and come with over a year of ingrained habit and success to look back on.  The warning of having good weeks and bad weeks is also optimistic in reverse.  Yeah, you’re going to have bad weeks sometimes, but you’re going to have good ones, too.

I’m also finally coming out of the illness tunnel here.  I’m still not fully recovered, but I’m no longer feeling worn down and beat up all the time, so as the week’s gone on, my routine is tightening up again.  And if struggling is discouraging, having the turnaround and picking up speed again is encouraging.  The important thing is to not get bogged down and wallow in the rough patches.  Like everything, this too shall pass, the rough, the easy, and everything in between.

Let’s take a look at the numbers for the week.

Tuesday 5/21

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/4 of Papá Puerco, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~10 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 5/22

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of ¡Voto a Bríos!, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~15 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 5/23

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of ¡Voto a Bríos!, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 5/24

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of ¡Voto a Bríos!, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 5/25

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of ¡Voto a Bríos!, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 5/26

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/5 of ¡Voto a Bríos!, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 5/27

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/10 of El País del Fin del Mundo, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1 and 1/3 books, 1170 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 2 YouTube episodes, 25 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 19 hours 55 minutes

Despite the main blog’s complaints, and as expected by being on the mend, a pretty good week.  Not a great week, I ended up not doing much listening practice out of not feeling like I had the time for it in the day, but hardly a terrible one.  I mostly stayed on track up until Monday, when I went back to work and came home a bit too wiped out to put in a full day.

I finished Papá Puerco this week, and it really is as great as everyone was telling me it would be, it’s a modern classic work of art that I feel I’ll want to return to again and again over time.  The next in the series, ¡Voto a Bríos! is in the city watch subseries, which is still my favorite cast of characters to follow overall, and I wasn’t at all disappointed with it.  It’s a bit longer than the usual length for these books, and I ended up spreading it out over an extra day based on how long it took me to get through a fifth of it on Wednesday.  El País del Fin del Mundo is a little bit longer still, so I’ve stayed at a fifth of a book per day as the ideal rate for now.  I’ll probably reevaluate how long it takes me to read that much early next week, if I can find time to keep track of it, because I don’t want to slide back into the habit of overestimating my time just because it’s easier to read less per day than my goal, but then pretend I’ve hit that goal anyway.

In addition to feeling squeezed, part of the reason I tapered off a little on the extra listening practice is that the careful listening and repetition hasn’t really felt like it’s doing much.  Sure, by the third listen of a video I can understand it really well, but it doesn’t seem to translate over anything into the next video I look at, and going back to repeat something a couple days later I’m not noticing that it’s particularly easier to understand, I’m just finding myself a little bored by the content because I’ve already seen it before.  I don’t know, I’m still going to experiment with the extra listening here and there, but it’s definitely not seeming like it’s a real “solution” to anything.

In conjunction with barely holding onto the reins of the main work I’m putting in, I haven’t made any progress on working writing into my daily life yet.  I’ve spent time here and there poking around for places, but I’m frankly at a loss for where to even look.  I don’t know what native Spanish speakers even do online, because I can’t seem to find many places.  Then again, I have no idea how I found all the places that I go online and am often at a loss for what the internet is even for.  Being in your thirties is hard.

May is fast approaching its end, which means I’m due for not only the month’s numbers in review, but having 12 whole months’ worth of numbers to look at, so next week’s blog is going to be looking back over the past year of blogging, which should be interesting to see.  Despite my rough patch, I’m going to do my best to finish out year one of this blog with momentum I can carry over into year two.

Anyway, that’ll do for this one.  TTFN.

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