Things Always Planned Are Never Completed

I’ve got so many projects of so many different kinds that I’m working on, that I will probably never get half of them finished. As an example, I have several languages which I have made up. I’ll give you a second to get over the shock of that… yes, I invent languages. Ready to move on? Good. Tolkien spent his whole life working on the languages Quenya and Sindarin, more-or-less non-stop, and he still, by his own admission, never got anywhere close to “finishing” these two projects. Yeah, well, I’ve got more than two made up languages, and I’ve got a whole bunch of other projects besides.

Therefore, I have recently resolved to try to release my projects in dribs and drabs so that, at the very least, some little things end up being circulated, out there, in the big wide world. I mean, it’s not just that some projects are lengthy; life is short, and you never know when “some blind hand shall brush [your] wing”, as Blake put it.

So you may soon start to see snippets of things which hint at larger works released.

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

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SMART Goals

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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

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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

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

featured image from http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/rhl_JDtTp-E/maxresdefault.jpg

5 Year Plan: Update #newyearsresolution @resolutions

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I decided in 2013 to set a five year plan for myself during this cross-roads period of my life (ages 28-33). Well, 2016 is the forelast year, so I thought I would look over my goals to see what I have achieved and where I haven’t quite lived up to my own hopes. Click on the picture above for an enlarged version. With one year to go, there’s everything to play for.

Sometimes goals change. That’s good and fine. But we can’t lie to ourselves and say that our failed goals were things that were no longer relevant.

I’ll talk about both personal and professional goals (often, they are mixed: learning Spanish, for example, involves both), what went right or wrong, and how should I take things forward now. Who knows, maybe you’ll get something out of this exercise in self-analysis, too. (key stuff I’ve highlighted with red text colour).

1. Have achieved C1 level (lower advanced) of Spanish and be going for the C1 DELE certificate.

Fail

I started out as A2~B1, and four years later I am… B1. Albeit, more solidly. Was my initial goal realistic? Yes, it was. Around three hours a day, every day, for around six months would have got me to C1. Around an hour a day would have got me there by around two years ago. So why have I failed?

Partly, I have been inconsistent. There are been large chunks of the last four years where I haven’t studied Spanish at all. Likewise, I have reassessed my goals. My thinking has shifted to this: when me and my wife finally decide to go and live in Spain (she is Spanish), if indeed we ever do, then and only then will I dedicate myself to hardcore studying.

2. To have achieved the levels and qualifications in Swedish B2 and Ancient Greek A-Level

Fail

I wanted to also get to B2 or above in Swedish, with the qualification to prove it. And have carried on with my ancient Greek and have an A-level in it to my name. Both have fallen by the wayside. Mainly because they aren’t essential to my life, they have been squeezed out. But I still desperately want these things and plod away, sporadically, at trying to achieve these goals. Yet: if I cannot commit 100%, that includes regularly, to these goals, perhaps I should ditch them totally, no matter how much I want them…

3. Have finished a few particular screenwriting projects I had in mind and have sent scripts off to companies.

Fail

The worst of all my goals. I am exactly where I was four years ago. Although I am at least regularly blogging, so I’m getting some writing practice. However, I set up this blog mainly so I could warm up each day before getting on with the “real” writing: my books and screenplays. The blog was meant to be the starter before the main course!

My failure to move forward on the writing front is gutting. I had a plan, though: write this one particular short book, then rework one particular screenplay, then turn back to this other specific book, and then get back to this other screenplay. So two specific books and two specific screenplays. Not unrealistic at all given that none of these projects would have been from scratch. All I have done is a bit of work on book one, and virtually nothing on any of the other projects.

The main reason for the failure isn’t that I lack the desire. And it isn’t that this goal is not very important to me. Rather, the goal requires serious dedication day-in, day-out over a period of months and months. Yet real life keeps getting in the way.

4. Have a car

?Fail?Success?

I originally thought that I would learn to drive in the second half of 2015 and have a car by 2015. I actually started learning to drive this year, 2016, and am about to do my theory test. So, I missed my deadline, but I am in the process of doing it now. Delayed almost success? Let’s call this a one-quarter success; when I pass my tests and get a full licence, that’ll be half success; and the car ownership part would be the full deal.

5. Get married

Success!

Some success at last! Despite various hardships that we were subjected to, happening at the worst time, we managed to put on the wedding of our dreams in 2013. And still married after three years. Wahey! We simply said, “We do not care what the world throws at us! We’re doing this and that’s that, no matter what sacrifices need to be made!

See here and here for some wedding vids!

6. Save up and buy a house

Success!

Me and my wife cracked it and bought the house last year. It’s going well. We saved, saved, saved, and then, guess what? We saved a bit more. We rented cheap, shared flats. We didn’t spend as much on takeaways and Gucci Hyratchis

7. Finish writing a particular book

Fail

This is a case where I completely underestimated the enormity of the project. So I switched to another more manageable book project to work on first. But sadly, I have not quite sorted that one either. Mainly, I have had to keep sidelining the project due to other more pressing day-to-day priorities.

8. Do an MA in English Linguistics at UCL: 2014-2016

N/A

This one was always dependent solely on finding the right time to finance this. I started the MA a few months ago. It’s going very well. But there is still a long road ahead. Will I succeed to the level I want? Only time will tell. I’ll chalk this up as a half-success right now. I’m due to finish in 2018.

9. Build a career in politics

?Fail

I wanted to build a career in politics. Not because I like that seedy world, but because I have strong beliefs and think that getting elected is the best way to get my views implemented. I ran for local council and, whilst I didn’t get elected, I did quite well. The plan was to then have a tilt at the General Election in 2015 and all other upcoming elections. Sadly, I was simply not able to sacrifice enough time to make this happen and decided to knock it on the head for the meantime. I mean, 40 hours unpaid a week was already too much!

10. Freelance more

Fail

I still do freelance language lessons and editing and proofreading. However, the percentage of my income coming from this has more-or-less stayed the same. I was hoping to significantly increase my earning power. However, I’m not too disappointed about this as I had intentionally, deliberately prioritised other aspects of my work and life. This goal is important to me, however, so I need to formulate a new long-term strategy.

11. There were various other goals I have had which didn’t feature on the above list…

11a. Become a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and improve my standing within it and the profession.

Success

This goal is on-going as I haven’t yet reached the top of my potential. However, I did indeed join the SfEP and keep working away.

11b. Join on a full honeymoon to Thailand

Fail/Change of Goal

We went on a mini-honeymoon which I have termed a “snackimoon”. It was brilliant. But we still had designs on Thailand. However, over the last three years, whilst we both still want to go to Thailand, it’s not actually that important to us anymore. At least, not compared to what it was.

11c. Get into and stay in shape

Fail

I got into shape for my wedding and stayed in shape for a while afterwards. But bad habits reasserted themselves. Maybe I need to renew my vows every twelve to eighteen months!

SUMMARY

13 key life goals. A five year period. Four years down, one to go. My current score? 3.75/13. That can definitely be improved upon.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry