My tendency is to want to understand everything all at once, which usually means trying to extract the grammar I don’t know from new content and then trying to understand the whole concept before moving on.
This can be lethal, especially if you do it too much at the outset (although I now think it’s unhelpful at any stage you’re at). It stalls your language-learning engine.
It makes the whole process too heavy and burdensome because you’re constantly reading articles on grammar points which are impossible for you to grasp yet and totally beyond your current reach. This is discouraging and frustrating and now you’re trapped in a negative feedback loop.
Conscious of this tendency I’ve been trying to avoid it with German. Knowing when to look up a grammar point is its own skill (just like picking the right phrases, or learning when is best to review your cards), but here is a helpful analogy for what I’ve found Best Practice™.
When there’s a load of dishes you have to do, and it’s late at night, and you’re tired and there are several Big Pots—you know the scene—the tactic that works is to start with the easiest thing and work your way into it, always picking the next easiest thing until hey presto! the Biggest Pot’s the only thing left and you’ve done all the others so why not just do it too?
Granted this is the opposite of the ‘swallow the frog‘ school of productivity thought, but with language learning and dishes we’re starting from the premise that swallowing the frog (doing the hardest thing first) is the very thing you can’t do right now.
I think it probably has something to do with using easy tasks to work your way into flow state, but that’s enough theory for one post. Language-learning flow state does sound pretty sick though!
But as with dishes so with language grammar. Study and learn the declensions or conjugations or conjunctions or neat rule that interests you the most that day! Just learn the charts you found and think are dope and move on.
Let your taste be your guide and don’t get yourself in a grammar emo-zone. It sounds like cheating, it feels like cheating! but little by little you’ll start to fill in all the grammar you need.
After all, you’ve got months for compound effects to take effect—years if you want—not days or even weeks. Time is your ally with this way of doing things and you might even get to feel all language-learning zen master (on a good day).
Let the frog chill in the sink until we can eat him in 3 months time (gross metaphor crossover but alas!) ?