SMART Goals

smart-goals

As you can see in my posts (for example: 1, 2, 3, 4), I have mixed success in achieving my goals. Pretty much like everyone else. And over the course of 2016, I came to two insights. Two things that I have actually always known but which I have come to appreciate with a greater clarity and keenness.

  1. You have to START AT THE END. Determine what your ultimate goal really is, and then work backwards from it to work out what steps will get you there.
  2. You have to MAKE YOUR GOAL “SMART”. This means goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

So don’t just say, “I wanna get into shape and be fit”. Rather, figure out exactly what “into shape and fit” means. Be specific and measureable, e.g., run X miles in Y time, get down to a BMI of 22. The goal has to be attainable: so running 100 metres in 10 seconds or less might not happen. It has to be relevant to what you want generally. And it has to be time-bound: so work out how long those goals realistically will take, and work to that timeline, with various short, middle, and long-term deadlines.

Here’s a great bit of an article from Tim Ferriss and Benny Lewis about using SMART Goals to learn a foreign language. Enjoy!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need

#9 – Create SMART goals.

Another failing of most learning approaches is a poorly defined end-goal.

We tend to have New Year’s Resolutions along the lines of “Learn Spanish,” but how do you know when you’ve succeeded? If this is your goal, how can you know when you’ve reached it?

Vague end goals like this are endless pits (e.g. “I’m not ready yet, because I haven’t learned the entire language”).

S.M.A.R.T. goals on the other hand are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

To start developing your SMART goal in a language, I highly recommend you become somewhat familiar with the European Common Framework that defines language levels. This framework provides you with a way of setting specific language goals and measuring your own progress.

In brief, A means beginner, B means intermediate, and C means advanced, and each level is broken up into lower (1) and upper (2) categories. So an upper beginner speaker is A2, and a lower advanced speaker is C1. As well as being Specific, these levels are absolutely Measurable because officially recognized institutions can test you on them and provide diplomas (no course enrollment necessary) in German, French, Spanish, Irish, and each other official European language. While the same scale is not used, you can also get tested in a similar way in Chinese and Japanese.

So what do you aim for? And what do words like “fluency” and “mastery” mean on a practical level?

I’ve talked to many people to try to pinpoint the never-agreed-upon understanding of “fluency,” and I’ve found that it tends to average out around the B2 level (upper intermediate). This effectively means that you have “social equivalency” with your native language, which means that you can live in your target language in social situations in much the same way that you would in your native language, such as casual chats with friends in a bar, asking what people did over the weekend, sharing your aspirations and relating to people.

Since we are being specific, it’s also important to point out that this does not require that you can work professionally in a language (in my case, as an engineer or public speaker, for instance). That would be mastery level (generally C2).

Though I’ve reached the C2 stage myself in French, Spanish and am close to it in other languages, realistically I only really need to be socially equivalent in a language I want to communicate in. I don’t need to work in other languages. It’s essential that you keep your priorities clear to avoid frustration. Most of the time, just target B2.

To make your specific goal Attainable, you can break it down further. For example, I’ve found that the fluency (B2) level can be achieved in a matter of months, as long as you are focused on the spoken aspect.

In phonetic languages (like most European ones), you can actually learn to read along with speaking, so you get this effectively for free. But realistically, we tend to write emails and text messages—not essays—on a day-to-day basis (unless you are a writer by trade, and you may not have those goals with your L2). Focusing on speaking and listening (and maybe reading) makes fluency in a few months much more realistic.

Finally, to make your project Time-bound, I highly recommend a short end-point of a few months.

Keeping it a year or more away is far too distant, and your plans may as well be unbound at that point. Three months has worked great for me, but 6 weeks or 4 months could be your ideal point. Pick a definite point in the not too distant future (summer vacation, your birthday, when a family member will visit), aim to reach your target by this time, and work your ass off to make it happen.

To help you be smarter with your goals, make sure to track your progress and use an app like Lift to track completing daily essential tasks.

You can join the Lift plan for language learning that I wrote for their users here.

 

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Self-Motivation #selfmotivation #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART

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Here’s the private note I wrote myself in January 2016 to keep focused. Spelling and formatting as in the actual note. Never looked at it till now, so kinda defeats the purpose. Anyway, in red ink (‘cos red = emergency and thus unforgettable, so went my thinking) it reads:

If I want to achieve my creative and linguistic goals, I need to dedicate SUFFICIENT time EVERY DAY.

But …..

…… I don’t have the time. Therefore, I need to think how to filter this time throughout the day, e.g., vocab. cards on the train.

So ….. Come up with a daily plan that gives me …..

* 2-3.5 hrs of screenwriting/novels/etc (=BIG creative works) per day

* Vocab cards + listening/speaking of 30′ + Memrise

= 1 hr / day per language

–> Swedish, Spanish, and….. Other langs = only Memrise. But langs I am serious about, do above.

* Blogging = 1 hour

* 21CLF — sth, even a subsection 30′ per day

Think about how to thoroly embed my serious langs into my life in order to speed up my learning

Can’t say I disagree with my own conclusions. But I’ve been very inconsistent.

  1. “Big” creative works, e.g., screenplays and novels. FAIL! Well… definitely haven’t done any work at all on these for several months, and very little in any case in 2016.
  2. Language stuff. SUCCESS! I have been doing, more-or-less fairly consistently, flashcards, reading, speaking, listening, and so on, in both Spanish and Swedish. At least half an hour each language a day; very often, an hour or so.
  3. Blogging. More-or-less SUCCESS! I haven’t been doing an hour every day, but I work on my blog (behind the scenes) almost every single day, and throughout the week, I easily tot up an average of one hour a day.
  4. “21CLF” is one book I am writing. FAIL! I have actually done a lot on this during 2016. However, it has been in fits and starts. Mainly, other stuff periodically take precedence and this book gets sidelined. But I was right: I’ve gotta at least look at this project on a daily basis or it’ll never come off.
  5. Thinking how to embed my languages in my life. MIXED! I’ve done this somewhat, but not extensively. But then I didn’t set myself a SMART goal. That is, no specific, measureable, broken-down targets; therefore, how can I judge my success?

Conclusions?

I need to start setting myself SMART Goals for 2017. That is, goals which has are distinct and definite parts so I can measure my success, and a predetermined timeline to do them by. All of my above goals, despite specified time to be spent, are still a tad vague.

Also, speaking for myself, I find I work very well when I have a series of deadlines stacked up and am forced into planning more. Hence why I tend to do well on courses and in work-based assignments. Hmm, maybe there’s a lesson there for 2017…

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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SMART Goals 2: Finding Time: TDSOTM #SMART #SMARTGoals #PinkFloyd

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As you might know, I’m struggling to fit an ever-busier life into the 24 hours that this selfish Tory government has deemed fit to give us. Things can’t go on as they are: I’m barely keeping up, and I am spread thinner and thinner over more and more toast. I need to develop SMART Goals to sort myself out.

If I don’t pull my finger out? Then the following brilliant song’s words will be my epitaph. I’m talking about Time by Pink Floyd from their classic 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. I keep listening to the song right now to try and spark me into success.

Time

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry, bar the lyrics and video

featured image from http://coolwallpapersforfree.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Pink-Floyd-Dark-Side-of-the-Moon-HD-Wallpaper-1024×576.jpg

text of lyrics courtesy of http://www.pink-floyd-lyrics.com/html/time-dark-lyrics.html