Language learning: how timesheets supercharged my progress

Chris Eubanks
4 min readAug 27, 2023
My daily study hours graphed cumulatively. Average 4.5 hours per day across all languages. I share my own Google Sheets template at the end of this article.

Fading interest is natural

In the summer 2018, inspired by my recent trip to Russia, I set out to learn the Russian language as quickly as possible. I completed all 7 levels of Memrise within a couple of months and then jumped up to Russian TV shows soon afterwards. I was studying 3–6 hours per day. Because I was highly motivated, I found no real obstacles or any real difficulties with the language. Higher daily effort has exponential returns, and I was breaking through plateaus so quickly, the language was magically coming to me.

Since I didn’t have a time tracking system back then, I allowed my effort to fade off unchecked. My effort slowly tapered off from 3–6 hours a day to 1 hour per day. Then from 1 hour per day to 15 minutes per day. The whole time, I believed I was diligently working towards Russian.

The weird thing about quitting is usually I am never conscious of it. When I haven’t done any work for 2 — weeks, my ego will still tell me I am working towards the endeavor. “I’m just got busy, I’ll get back to it,” I would tell myself. Your ego is a powerful force that will rationalize any averse present circumstances to paint yourself in a positive light.

I didn’t pick up Russian seriously again until 5 years later in May of 2023. This is what generally happens in life when you have no accountability systems in place.

I introduced timesheets “accidentally” for a different challenge

On April 16th, 2023, I set out to do a 90-day Mandarin Chinese challenge starting from zero. I was always interested in Mandarin, but I never had the self-worth to study it independently. I always believed that you needed to enroll in a course, hire a teacher, or live in China to acquire the language. But once I discovered that video and audiobook immersion worked for me with Finnish, I knew I could learn any language.

My goal was to document my 90-day journey, showing my process starting from video immersion up to my first Italki lessons. I would use Google Sheets to record the number of hours per day, so people would have realistic expectations about how much effort really goes into a language. Since I was still learning Finnish…

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Chris Eubanks

Language learner. Rapidly learning the Finnish language. Follow me for specific knowledge that can't be found anywhere else on the Internet.