According to this report, it takes 34 hours of Duolingo to learn the equivalent of one semester of college. This makes the Duolingo Approach a highly effective method, and I’ve managed to pass three semesters of French with it. This is not to discount the utility of the classes I’ve taken – they are helpful in giving more context to the learning – but most of the learning took place in the app.

Duolingo is fast becoming more than just an program for learning languages, it’s becoming a method of doing something. People are looking for a Duolingo approach for all sorts of things (e.g. is there a Duolingo for programming languages). In fact, Duolingo is a great place to begin an initiative in forming good habits because it does gamification so well, and introduces you to the idea that you can climb the metaphorical mountain in under 20 minutes a day.

If you can learn a language well enough to get by, you can learn a hell lot of other things this way too. This of course applies not only to learning, but to many other things too. Getting fit, writing a novel, meditating. The Duolingo Approach is a good guide for how you can get to where you want to go. Don’t stop at breaking down your big goals into smaller goals. Break them down into daily habits.

As an experiment, I’ve decided to apply this method to writing my novel. I started it last year, and wrote half of it in a week sitting on my couch. Unfortunately, I don’t usually have the luxury of uninterrupted time where I can do nothing but write, that was a very special instance. Since, I have been waiting for the next such period to materialize, which hasn’t happened yet. I needed another approach.

I tried putting “work on novel” into my daily to-do list daily (I use Teux Deux, it’s the best to-do list ever). This didn’t work, because there was never the time to write. That’s when I realized I had to make the time. So now I get up at between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. to do something for myself before I get ready for work. I think trying to write my novel in this time is still a bit too soon and scary, but getting up early and writing anything, literally anything, isn’t too hard. In fact, it’s quite fun.

All this is still very new for me and I’m not the best person to ask to for this methods efficacy. However, Fast Company has a great article by someone who has been doing it for longer than I have, and is pleased with the results. Give it a read.