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

featured image from http://plantbaseddietitian.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SMART-Goals.jpg

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.

 

Next Step in Blogging? #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART

haveyouseenthismancropped

Me: I’ve got a blog
Other Person: Ooh! What do you blog about?
Me: Err, y’know, I’unno: stuff I’m interested in. Language, politics, atheism and religion, healthy living, films, err, sport…
Other Person: Err, okay?
Other Person’s eyes glaze over and they look bored and disappointed

I’ve had the above exchange loads of times.* Apparently blogs need one overriding, dominant theme. Yet I’ve always thought of this blog as being like a (admittedly crappy) newspaper or magazine: of course plenty of different topics will be dealt with.

But apparently I’ve misunderstood how blogs are supposed to work. Therefore, I’m guessing this blog needs to focus on one topic. It can bring other random stuff in it, but it’s got to be 90% one thing. After all, my YouTube channel — which I kind of view this blog as the written version thereof — is probably 75% atheism/religion, 25% everything else, and my subscriber base bears that out.

The problem: I’m interested in too many things. I don’t want to limit this blog’s content!

So maybe I need to keep this blog as my kind of “core” or “hub” blog, but spin off various other blogs which solely focus on my topics of choice.

But this approach has a problem, too.

I simply do not have enough time to post, say, four blog entries a week, one for each of my prospective blogs (e.g. the Health and Lifestyle Blog, the Religion & Philosophy blog, the Languages Blog, the Film Review Blog). I’m barely finding time to do one blog entry a week. But that’s the sad and frustrating thing:

I have so much waffle to say and not enough time to say it. Gah!

So one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 has to be to massively increase my time spent blogging. It would help if I could get some residual income from my articles! That would give justification (to my wife!) for me to devote such extravagant amounts of time to the endeavour.

Let’s see if I can crack on with this in the new year.

*I was going to say “cottrels of times”, but apparently “cottrels” is a dialectal word that nobody’s ever heard of. Who woulda thought that an insular and undiscovered dialects existed in West London, eh!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

SMART GOALS: New Year’s Resolutions 2017 part 1 #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART

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GOALS

I have a bunch of stuff I want to do in life. I believe in “To Do” lists as a way of getting things done. I note my daily errands as “A”, “B”, and “C” — in order of declining importance. But what about goals that last more than a day? Like most people, I make New Year’s Resolutions. And like most people, I declare these goals in front of people in the hope that social pressure and the fear of looking a fool will drive me on. Sometimes I even write them down and stick ’em on the fridge. Yet like most people, I find my enthusiasm and direction peters out as the year gradually grinds to a halt, ready to start again with the next set of New Year’s Resolutions.

SMART GOALS

The main issue is that, like most people, my goals tend to be general, not SMART. An example:

In 2017 I will learn Spanish well enough to speak with people.

A noble goal. But very vague. Firstly, I don’t define my success very well. After all, “speak with people” is vague, and can cover anything from basic beginner level A1 up to advanced C2, and anything in between. Indeed, I find that body language, gurning, and smiling tend to do a lot of work when trying to talk to people who speak a different language.

Not only is success therefore hard to gauge, and therefore by definition hard to achieve and feel like you have achieved it — so you never get the satisfaction you are looking for. Worse luck: if you have no clearly defined end goal, you have no clearly defined path of getting there — wherever “there” is. After all, say you are taking a road trip to St. Ives. But you don’t look at a map, or SatNav, or ask anyone, or anything, and you just get into your car and hope the wind will somehow take you there. Guess what? You ain’t getting to St. Ives in time. It’s so obvious, yet often overlooked: (DISCLAIMER: SNIDEY POLITICAL ASIDE COMING) just look at those politicians who took us into Iraq(!) So you need to define your END GOAL, and then WORK BACKWARDS to figure out the steps needed to get you there.

SETTING SMART GOALS

SMART stands for:

  • SPECIFIC
  • MEASURABLE
  • ATTAINABLE
  • REALISTIC
  • TIME-BOUND

So we could break down my earlier vague goal into a SMART one like this:

  • I want to achieve the C1 (“Advanced”/university entry level) level of Spanish (=SPECIFIC) and get the DELE qualification to prove it (=MEASURABLE);
  • the study guides recommend around 200-300 hours to go up a level, and I am currently B1;
  • therefore, I need around 500 hours to get to C1; this is around 16 months if I do one hour a day, around 11-12 months if I do 1.5 hours a day;
  • I can realistically only fit 1.5 hours a day into my schedule (=REALISTIC/RELEVANT);
  • so I’ll give myself 12 months to do it (=TIME-BOUND);
  • and this is ATTAINABLE if I have a fully rounded program of study covering all bases, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, real world use of the language, and use of various media including books, TV, radio, and music. ((I’ll save you the specifics on this point!!))

Therefore, you can see that I have done my homework, as it were, and know exactly what will get me where and how long it’ll take. I will even break this goal down into step one: move from level B1 to B2, and step two: move from B2 to C1. I’ll give myself six months for each. So I therefore have a mid-to-long-term goal (12 months: get to C1 in Spanish and do a DELE qualification) and two mid-term goals (move up one level, then move up another level). I can, do, and have given myself short term goals, too, such as X number of words a day and Y each month.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 2017

In my next post, I will share some of my main goals for 2017. I’ll make a SMART plan for them. You can use the further examples in my plan to help you get a grip of SMART planning. And you can also see how I get on!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.inspiremefit.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Smart-Goals-500×500.jpg

Project Polyglot Parry V: September 2016 Update @irishpolyglot #newyearsresolution @resolutions @duolingo #duoling

 

I’m learning two main languages, Spanish and Swedish. I’ve been using Duolingo to learn them of late (in fact, I’m more-or-less relying on Duolingo at the moment, which isn’t good; you should use more than one resource to give you good variation). I’ve been doing around 30 minutes a day for each language, which is the bare minimum you should do.

If you know how Duolingo works, I’ve just managed to fully regild my completed Spanish tree. Which is great news. Next steps:

  1. Keep the tree gold.
  2. Work on and complete the “reverse tree”; that is, the English for Spanish speakers course (which is a learnsome challenge). Then keep that gold.
  3. Start the online virtual Spanish classroom from the Cervantes Institute, probably at B1 level.
  4. Go and sit a B1 level DELE.

This will make me firmly intermediate in level. I should have started step 3 by Summer 2017, and maybe completed step 4 by the following summer. When Finish step 4, I’ll work out the best way to keep that level and build on it. The ultimate goal is to be C2, of course.

I was stuck on Swedish for a long time. I kept mucking up infinitives and this sapped my energy. But I’ve been powering on lately. Moving onto new topics has got me pretty excited. In particular, I have loved getting to grips with the kommer att future form and the håller på present continuous. There’s a lesson for you: don’t get bogged down on troublesome topics, as it will kill it for you. Just keep moving.

I hope to have finished the tree by 30th November. So my middle-term plan is thus:

  1. Finish and keep the Swedish for English speakers tree golden.
  2. There is no English for Swedish speakers course, so I need to start a distance / online / self-learning course at B1 level (I am, more-or-less A2 right now).

2016 actually marks ten years of learning Swedish(!) I’m pretty sure I should be fluent right now. Cambridge recommends 1000-1200 hours to be fluent (C2); so, studying an hour a day, I should have been at C2 level by 2010. But more on that next time!

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

New Year’s Resolutions 2016: Half Year Update

LIFE PLANS & RESOLUTIONS

Six months of 2016 have gone. So it is time to review my goals for 2016. How much have I achieved? How much am I likely to achieve? Where am I going right? Where am I going awry? And where did I have my goals and priorities messed up? NOTE: This post is probably more for me than you guys!

GOALS FOR 2016

  1. Do something, at least half an hour, from each [CATEGORY] on this list, every day. MORE-OR-LESS
  2. [LANG] 30′ minimum every day each for Swedish and Spanish using Memrise and Duolingo. MORE-OR-LESS
  3. [LANG] Work towards B1 level in Spanish and aim to sign up for a course in the last quarter of 2016. MORE-OR-LESS
  4. [LANG] Do an A2 Swedex. MORE-OR-LESS
  5. [LANG] Complete Duff’s The Elements of New Testament Greek, and then Taylor GCSE 1, again. One chapter a fortnight. Upon completion, look into doing GCSEs in Ancient Greek again. NOT HAPPENING: other things are taking priority (see below).
  6. [ART] Continue updating The Doggerelizer weekly, Wrixlings monthly, start updating YouTube twice monthly. BLOGS YES, Y/T NOT HAPPENING
  7. [ART] Do one cartoon per six weeks; begin to upload them and/or other artwork online. NOT HAPPENING
  8. [ART] Get the first draft of Part II of a book I’m writing, code name 21CLF, finished in a “polished draft”. MORE-OR-LESS: I have switched to a new even shorter rewrite which I will release first, hopefully very soon, with the full Part II released by year’s end.
  9. [ART] Get the first draft of Part III of “21CLF” finished. NOT HAPPENING
  10. [ART] Get one feature length script up to 2nd/3rd draft stage. NOT HAPPENING: currently focusing on getting the even shorter rewrite and Part II of “21CLF” out; will refocus on screenplays when this happens.
  11. [ART] Send off the pilot of one of my sitcom series ideas to a producer. NOT HAPPENING: see point 10.
  12. [ART] Over the course of a year, do an average of one 30′ sitcom script per six weeks — total redrafts of scripts are counted towards this goal. NOT HAPPENING: see point 10.
  13. [LIFE] My weight has ballooned again: cut myself down to a healthy BMI & weight (around 13st; a pound loss a week for 52 weeks) and stay there through healthy changes of diet and exercise regime, specifically, a minimum of three days going to the gym, daily use of the work gym for 30′ intense sessions, and less snacks. NOT HAPPENING: see point 10.
  14. [LIFE] Pass my driving theory test and begin lessons. MORE-OR-LESS: I have been reading DVLA materials and studying for the theory.
  15. [LIFE] Get out and stay out of my overdraft. ACHIEVING.
  16. [WORK] Sit and pass the International Phonetics Association exam. NOT HAPPENING: They only run it twice a year, and then they often cancel. Last year there was no exam, for example. Therefore, I joined the International Phonetics Association and have applied for an MA (see point 17 below).
  17. [WORK] Research and apply to do an MA/MPhil in an area of Linguistics. MORE-OR-LESS: I have applied; I need to see if I have been accepted. And if I am, I need to actually do it!
  18. [WORK] Begin a DELTA to improve my ESOL career. NOT HAPPENING: I have indeed looked into this. However, I have put it on the backburner in order to focus on an MA which, at this present moment, seems more immediately fruitful.
  19. [WORK] Do the first two editing courses, set up as an official business, network and set up online media relating to the business. ACHIEVING: on course 1, hopefully successfully, with course 2 to come soon.
  20. [WORK] Get a better paid job. NOT HAPPENING: I am in the process of bettering myself and improving prospects through training.
  21. [GEN] Go to Thailand with the Missus. [during Thai dry season] NOT HAPPENING: seems unlikely, to be honest.
  22. [GEN] Finish reading the Koran. NOT HAPPENING.

All in all, things aren’t going 100% perfectly, but they are hardly off the rails as they arguably were this time last year. I’ll try to update again at the three-quarters mark.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

Project Polyglot Parry IV: Reborn! / New Year’s Resolutions 2016 @irishpolyglot #newyearsresolution @resolutions

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New Year’s Resolution 2016: An Update

Project Polyglot Parry: my personal quest to turn myself into a multilingual maestro. But I haven’t really applied myself to the task well of late. So one of my major new year’s resolutions for 2016 is to get back on track with my language learning. Part one of which is to start regularly doing Duolingo in Spanish and Swedish again. Well, I have now started.

One of the best ways of sticking to personal goals is to tell everyone. This way, social stigma forces you to see it through. Consider yourselves told.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions 2016 #newyearsresolution @resolutions

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Being creatively fulfilled, healthy, learning languages, and sorting my career out is what I want most (along with maintaining and/or strengthening healthy relationships with the people I care about). 2015 Began with plenty of hope, but kind of fizzled out. And so unlike this time last year, I feel rather down about my chances of achieving my Resolutions for 2016. But I’ve got to give it a go. So without further ado, I present BRYAN PARRY’S 2016 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS.

GOALS FOR 2016

  1. Do something, at least half an hour, from each [CATEGORY] on this list, every day.
  2. [LANG] 30′ minimum every day each for Swedish and Spanish using Memrise and Duolingo.
  3. [LANG] Work towards B1 level in Spanish and aim to sign up for a course in the last quarter of 2016.
  4. [LANG] Do an A2 Swedex.
  5. [LANG] Complete Duff’s The Elements of New Testament Greek, and then Taylor GCSE 1, again. One chapter a fortnight. Upon completion, look into doing GCSEs in Ancient Greek again.
  6. [ART] Continue updating The Doggerelizer weekly, Wrixlings monthly, start updating YouTube twice monthly.
  7. [ART] Do one cartoon per six weeks; begin to upload them and/or other artwork online.
  8. [ART] Get the first draft of Part II of a book I’m writing, code name 21CLF, finished in a “polished draft”.
  9. [ART] Get the first draft of Part III of “21CLF” finished.
  10. [ART] Get one feature length script up to 2nd/3rd draft stage.
  11. [ART] Send off the pilot of one of my sitcom series ideas to a producer.
  12. [ART] Over the course of a year, do an average of one 30′ sitcom script per six weeks — total redrafts of scripts are counted towards this goal.
  13. [LIFE] My weight has ballooned again: cut myself down to a healthy BMI & weight (around 13st; a pound loss a week for 52 weeks) and stay there through healthy changes of diet and exercise regime, specifically, a minimum of three days going to the gym, daily use of the work gym for 30′ intense sessions, and less snacks.
  14. [LIFE] Pass my driving theory test and begin lessons.
  15. [LIFE] Get out and stay out of my overdraft.
  16. [WORK] Sit and pass the International Phonetics Association exam.
  17. [WORK] Research and apply to do an MA/MPhil in an area of Linguistics.
  18. [WORK] Begin a DELTA to improve my ESOL career.
  19. [WORK] Do the first two editing courses, set up as an official business, network and set up online media relating to the business.
  20. [WORK] Get a better paid job.
  21. [GEN] Go to Thailand with the Missus. [during Thai dry season]
  22. [GEN] Finish reading the Koran.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry