Just a few minutes ago I pressed ‘send’ on an email which is part of our Italian school‘s annnual ‘Save 20%’ promotion.
What that involves, basically, is publishing an article on the school website, then copying the text into an .html document, formatting it correctly, saving the file, accessing one of our two mailing systems (redundancy), preparing a ‘campaign’, uploading the .html file, checking that it shows correctly, sending a test email to myself, checking it again, scheduling the ‘campaign’ and, finally, checking that it’s been sent.
Then it’s over to my wife, who answers people’s questions and deals with Italian course bookings.
If you’re curious, the article in question is here, but I mention this because?
Not for the obvious reason of self-promotion, actually.
It occurred to me, while I was finishing all that, while pondering what to write about here, that what had once been a stressful set of linked tasks which took up half a day, I can now rush through in less than an hour.
With energy left over for the full day of teaching to follow!
Today’s .html document I named 22122022.html (guess why) and saved in the folder on my desktop: working documents/madrelingua srl/marketing/html/madit/2021/december.
I didn’t have to think, not even for a moment, about what to name the file, or where to save it. If you look closely, the reason for that is obvious.
All mailings are named using the date, all of them are saved in a folder named for the month, in a folder named for the year, in a folder named for the specific business, in a folder named for the type of job, in a folder named for the legal entity I’m doing the job for, in a folder named ‘working documents’, which sits on my computer next to a folder named ‘personal’.
working documents/madrelingua srl/marketing/html/madit/ contains folders from 2013 to 2021, each one containing up to twelve other folders.
Imagine how many mailings.
This is systems thinking in action.
Do stuff in a systematic way, the same way as you did it before, and soon you find that it can be done quickly and almost automatically.
Thinking about the many types of work I do, I see systems everwhere.
Notice, for example, the beginning and end of this article? I have a ‘saved draft’ article which begins with Buondì (see above) and ends with the links to our various websites (see below.)
Each time I write an article like this, I start by copying that draft into a ‘new post’ on the website, so saving myself a minute or two and some mental energy.
And I write an article like this each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, year round, come rain or shine, even from the Ospedale Maggiore’s Stroke Unit, if necessary.
That’s another system, don’t you see? On any given Wednesday morning, I don’t need to scratch my head and wonder where to begin. I just do what I always do on Wednesday mornings.
Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to thinking in systems.
For instance, it’s a good thing if jobs get done quickly and without much mental energy, but a bad thing that I’ve been using the same, very poor, graphic design for my mailings since I first copied the code off someone back in 2013.
Some things (deciding what to write about here, for example) cannot easily be done in systems, though there are systemic elements, and even creative work, when done for enough time, can get pretty automatic.
Anyway, language learning? That’s what you’re here for, right?
The things that are working for me right now are:
1. Listening to the radio news higlights (in Swedish) every day – that’s approximately 20 minutes – while doing chores or exercising.
2. A weekly 30-minute conversation with a Swedish native speaker.
And the things that are currently not working so well:
3. Reading the subscriptions to Le Monde and El País that I’ve paid for (even though it physically hurts me to waste my own money…)
4. Weekly 30-minute conversation lessons in Turkish, French and Spanish (in the order I started doing them, several years back) fell by the wayside during 2021. I’ve got good excuses, but am, in any case, disappointed in myself.
5. Listening in French, Spanish and Turkish, which I still do, but sporadically….
And the lesson is?
Systems which involve regular, repeated tasks – things that don’t require too much mental energy, jobs which can be done at moments when the time is not required for something more interesting or important – are easy to sustain in the medium- to long-term.
And assuming that we choose our activities, and design our systematic approach to them, wisely, the result should be a signficant long-term payback from the initial effort of setting up the system and getting into the habit of using it.
Learning a language is not one thing, but many, depending on your reasons for learning and the objectives you define for yourself.
There’s a lot of hard work involved, and masses of time is required, much longer than you’d expect!
At the start, you have no systems, which is why everything seems hard and uncertain.
As time progresses, you figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Hopefully you make intelligent choices about materials, and about the organisation of your time (that’s not a given…)
So language-learning results. Along with ‘systems knowledge’, which once acquired can be applied to all manner of goals.
A lot of people never learnt how to learn, in my opinion. And that includes a lot of so-called teachers/educators, who don’t think learning is their job.
My magnum opus on the topic is here, if you wish to ‘approfondire’: How to learn Italian (or any language).
A venerdì, allora.
P.S. Time to unsubscribe??
On Monday, our January Sale begins.
You’ll be able to use a coupon code to save 20% on online lessons with a native speaker teacher, and/or ebooks for language learners.
For two weeks I will be systematically trying to sell you something, because we have writers to invest in, and teachers who need gruel to spoon into the mouths of their starvelings.
Fair warning, then!
Should you prefer not to hear about the offer, every emailed article, including this one, has an Unsubscribe link at the bottom.
Scroll right down and use it – I won’t be offended.
Or, less dramatically, just stop reading until January 10th 2022, when things will be back to the usual three emails a week, about whatever topic comes to mind.