My ‘Can You Achieve a Work-Life Balance’ series is where I share my experience of trying to find my perfect work-life balance, ideally living and working half the time in the UK, and half of my time in Spain.
I think I’m losing my touch. I made a SMART (Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; and Timely) goal last September (2012) to learn Spanish to intermediate level by June 2013. The thing is I’ve let my language learning slip a little recently and I realise that if I continue in this vein then I will not achieve my goal come June.
So what went wrong? It’s a new year and ordinarily I’m at my best and most motivated at this time of the year, having only just finished putting the final touches to my new year’s resolutions, or what I like to call my Life Plan, and can’t wait to get started and make things happen.
I could blame my Spanish teacher; she’s decided to take a few months off from tutoring me to have a baby. How unreasonable is that? But no I can’t really blame my lovely Spanish teacher as she has given me more than enough homework to keep me going until my lessons resume in March.
Well, we did have some friends over from Spain during December, and then there was Christmas, and to be honest since then things have just been so hectic with more than the usual amount of coaching to do and writing the online version of our Career Transition course. But hang on, I’ve always had a busy life and I’ve always been able to achieve the goals that I’ve set for myself in the past. So, is my SMART goal smart enough? What do you think?
My SMART Goals to learn Spanish by June 2013
Specific – I want to be able to speak Spanish at an intermediate level by June 2013
Measurable – I have made a list of the courses I want to study and have set myself a number of short-term goals with deadlines attached to the end of each month, which will help me to keep on target and chart my progress.
Attainable – I’m confident I’ll be able to learn Spanish to intermediate level by June, as I have set aside some time each week to devote to study and I have already successfully managed to learn French to an intermediate level (and there are many similarities between the two languages which should help me to pick up Spanish more quickly).
Relevant – my objective is to learn Spanish because I’m going to be spending half my time living and working in Spain hopefully this year, and dearly want to be able to converse with the Spanish people at large so that I can better enjoy getting to know them and their culture.
Timely – With my monthly study schedule and my medium-term goal which is to get to intermediate level by June I feel that I have a good chance of success.
Well, having read through my SMART goal I decided that it looked okay and that therefore, it was me. I was just being lazy. So last week I resolved to change this and forced myself to study, not putting up with any excuses for why I hadn’t got the time.
However, although I was pleased with myself for making the effort to start studying again, I couldn’t hide the fact from myself that I was not as enthusiastic and motivated as I’d been previously and I didn’t even experience the usual feeling of satisfaction that I get when I tick off each completed task on my study schedule.
Why? Because I didn’t feel that I was learning anything! Yes I had completed podcast 39 of Coffee Break Spanish, and finished reading the associated transcript for lesson 25 of NotesInSpanish but to be honest – nothing had stuck. I’d completed the tasks but I was nowhere nearer to being able to speak Spanish than I was before I started.
A few days later, I was listening to Corbett Bar from ThinkTraffic talk about Differentiation (How to make your business stand out) when he gave an example of a guy who had started an internet business called Fluent in 3 months.
This guy, an Irishman called Benny, had never been good at learning languages and couldn’t speak any languages apart from English. When he moved to Spain he tried hard to learn Spanish, but after six months only had a few scattered words and phrases. Then one day he decided to really devote himself to the project and tried some unconventional approaches that he’d never come across in any of the courses he had studied previously. He became fluent in Spanish within 3 months and what’s more now speaks 8 other languages fluently.
Fluent in 3 months? Well, I’m not convinced I’ll be fluent in 3 months, or even by June, but I can tell you that the advice and tips that I picked up from listening to what Benny had to say has completely changed the way I think about language learning and moreover has identified two problems with my SMART goal – it’s not Specific enough and I need to set ‘shorter’ short-term goals or ‘mini’ goals.
Set SMART goals which are really Specific
I want to be able to speak Spanish at an intermediate level by June 2013. This is not specific! When in June 2013 will I achieve my goal – at the beginning or the end of June? An extra 30 days could make quite a bit of difference to the level of Spanish I am able to speak and what exactly is ‘intermediate’ level?
For my goal to be Specific I need to be able to describe my target goal in great detail, otherwise, as I said in my post New Year’s Resolutions that Stick, it will be nothing more than a fuzzy, vague ambition and that will not help you if you want a plan of action to achieve a goal.
I also had to change the way I thought about my goal in order to achieve it. ‘Wanting’ to learn to speak Spanish is very different to ‘needing’ to learn Spanish, and this change of mindset can really help if you want to achieve something, especially in a short time period. If you want something enough you’ll do it. You’ll make time in order to achieve your goal.
So this is the revised version for my SMART goal: Specific
Specific: I need to learn to speak Spanish as I intend to live and work for 6 months of the year in Spain.
By June 1st 2013 I will have reached a level in Spanish where I am proficient enough to hold a conversation with a Spanish person for 10 minutes talking about:
- myself: what I do, where I come from, where I live in Spain, my family;
- themselves: asking them about themselves and being able to get the gist of what they say;
- the weather;
- buying food at the market: including polite conversation with the stall holder;
- buying clothing: trying on clothes, asking for different sizes, colours and chatting to assistant;
- directions; asking for directions and being able to repeat them back to the person for confirmation;
- ordering food and drinks: knowing the name for a variety of food and drink, ordering and paying;
- work that is needed to be done on the apartment including sorting out problems when they arise.
Set shorter (mini) SMART goals
I had set myself some short-term goals with deadlines at the end of each month but for language learning they were too far in the future and could easily be ignored until the approach of the end of the month. This is not a good way to learn a language. You must practice every day. You need to immerse yourself within the language even change the language setting on your computer and iphone to your target language, and let language become a part of your daily life – a habit.
Benny advised that short-term or ‘mini’ goals should be daily goals and in addition that many tasks should not be more than say 15-30 minutes in length so that they are both easy to accomplish and won’t take too much time from your busy day. He also advised that a timer be used so that you can keep to a time limit.
So Monday could be:
- Learn as many words for fruit and vegetables; (30 minutes)
- Learn 5 phrases that can be used in a cafe to order coffee and tostada and pay for the bill. (15 minutes).
It’s not difficult to see that how, in time, completing a large number of these ‘easy’ mini tasks will amount to a great deal of language learning and your monthly goals could then be a continuation of what you have learnt in each of your daily tasks. For example, ‘I am able to make small talk with a shop assistant in a clothing shop, and talk about what I want to buy, sizes, colours, prices and pay for the items completely in Spanish’.
You know how I love a challenge well..
Every few months Benny sets himself a challenge to learn a new language within 3 months and has to stick to his plan as at the end of the month his audience expect him to update them on his progress by making a video of him speaking in his target language.
I’m really tempted to set myself a similar challenge. That is to complete my SMART goal in 3 months instead of by the beginning of June. If I started today then that would take me to April 22nd. If I manage to achieve my goal by this time I could then set myself another SMART goal for the next 3 months and who knows by the end of a further 3 months intensive study I too might become fluent – if I do I promise I’ll make a video. Watch this space!
How about you? If you’re trying to learn a language/subject at the moment I’d love to hear about how it’s going for you? Have you made a plan? Are your goals SMART? Do you have an unconventional method that works for you or any hacks you’d like to share on the website? As always I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below.