September is here at last! (I don’t like Summer in Korea because it is too hot and the air conditioner everywhere makes me sick.) Only four months to go before the end of the year…! It’s time to look at the goals we set for ourselves in January and make some last adjustments to be able to end the year with a feeling of accomplishment.
I always feel a new energy in September: I want to set new goals, and I am sure that I can achieve more during these remaining four months than I did until now. But let’s be honest with ourselves: if we could not perform well on a certain objective during the past 8 months, we probably won’t be able to achieve it until December.
I think that a good way to define realistic and doable goals is to draw a third column table:
- In the first column: Write the goals you want to achieve, ideally.
- In the second column: Narrow it to something realistic.
- In the third column: Transform the second column into weekly tasks.
To give you a concrete example, I bought a History book in July. In my language learning journal, I now see, written with my own hand in the category “goals for the year”: “Finish my History book this year”. It is still possible to finish it by December, this would mean read 3/4 pages a day. Three or four pages a day does not seem daunting, and my first reaction was “I can do it, Let’s do it!”. But of course, if I have not been able to go very far in my book until now, there is little chance that I will really open it every single day for four months. So I reconsidered my plan:
I like to set weekly objectives. If you have been over-enthusiastic for your yearly goals, and if you know you won’t have much time to study in Autumn, I recommend narrowing your objectives and dispatch them into weekly tasks.
I personally apply my three column technique to all the things I want to achieve and end up with a bunch of weekly tasks. If you have a journal devoted to your language study (or any other support), create a weekly page where you list all these tasks and check them when you do them. If you don’t really have time to study during the week, I recommend starting your weekly page with the weekend. You can do as much as you can during your resting days, and you still have the whole week to complete the remaining tasks you were not able to do. If you start your week on Monday and cannot study during your working days, you will see no progress at all on your to-do list, and it might be discouraging to stare at it for 5 days without checking anything. Plus, you will feel like you have a lot of things to do the weekend and this too might be discouraging.
Of course, all objectives are not easily divided into weekly to-dos. For example, I want to improve my listening skills. I could decide to listen to at least 2 hours Japanese pro week, but I don’t think I want to measure the time I spend listening to Japanese like that. What I can do, however, is dividing my listening program into two parts:
- Passive listening: just letting Japanese enter my ears while doing other activities.
- Active listening: working on a short passage and try to understand it completely by looking up words, or repeating each sentence, etc.
To me, a realistic program would be:
I like the idea to not set in advance what I will be listening to, so that I am free to decide during the week, depending on what interests me at the moment. Writing down what I have listened to or watched allows me to feel a sense of achievement and to evaluate whether I am always listening to the same kind of things or not. If it is the case, I will try to diversify my resources a little.
I often think that it would be great to just go on reading things in Japanese, watching films in Japanese and studying Anki without tracking my progress so precisely. But I know that I tend to get easily discouraged because I am prompt to think that I am not good enough, I can’t help but compare myself to others who are better (not just with Japanese) and feel that I will never get good at anything. As a result, I have tried and started a lot of things in my life and given up the majority of them. That’s why setting short-term and accessible goals is important to me, as well as tracking my weekly activity. Even if I can’t feel any direct improvement in my Japanese level, at least seeing that I have been active and done several things to study Japanese during the week is enough to encourage me.