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Steps toward reaching a goal

Popularity 4Viewed 8540 times 2013-6-15 01:40 |System category:Life| Learning, Chinese, Study, Goals

In previous blog entries, I have discussed how to set goals (English) and a bit on how to help make sure you are making progress (Chinese).

In this blog entry, I would like to spell out in greater detail some of the steps that have worked for me in working toward a goal. This will repeat some of the information in the second link I just gave you, but this time it will be in English instead of Chinese.

As discussed in how to set goals, your goal needs to be measurable and time-bound so you can know that you have reached your goal and you have a schedule. Chances are that the goal you have set is a large goal. In order to reach that large goal, you may need to break it down into smaller sub-goals, each of which still needs to be a SMART goal. Some tools that I have found helpful in this is a spreadsheet and a notebook (or some other type of "log", which I will explain later.).

For my study in preparation for the HSK-5, I have first rounded up materials that should prepare me for the test. I have a series of textbooks with the accompanying workbooks, audio CDs, and answer keys so I can check my work. I also have a flashcard program on my iPhone (available on Android, too) that is quite flexible and allows me to test myself in various ways so I can work on vocabulary. I have the complete official vocabulary lists for all six levels of the HSK, and I have a complete set of test preparation books (HSK 1-6) with audio CDs and I also have HSK4-6 with audio CDs for a different set of test books, so I have ways to test myself to see if I'm ready for the actual exam before I take it.

My ultimate goal is to take the HSK-5 before my 50th birthday, which will be in November of 2015. The textbooks have two levels. Level 1 has two parts and a total of 23 lessons. Level two has one part and a total of 20 lessons. According to a university web site that I found, finishing Level 1 should prepare you for HSK-3, and finishing the first half of Level 2 should prepare you for HSK-4, so I am guessing that finishing all of level 2 will be a good start toward HSK-5. Therefore, I should make sure I have time after finishing the level 2 book so I can evaluate my progress and work on any weaknesses that I identify in the practice tests.

The textbook says that each lesson can be completed in a week with a teacher, so in my spreadsheet I have allowed myself TWO weeks for each lesson since I am working alone and must rely on Weixin, QQ, and email for help from friends when I do not understand something.

Thus, when I started studying, I set up the spreadsheet to track start and end dates of each lesson and I had it calculate the date on which I should finish if I take two weeks per lesson and it came out with the following dates:

Start Date: 2013-05-31
Finish Level 1: 2014-04-18
Finish Level 2: 2015-01-08

Since I plan to take the test before November of 2015 and from the HSK web site (they don't have the 2015 schedule out yet), they seem to offer the test nine times each year for the written test and four times per year for the speaking test. Since I was not aware of the speaking test, my goal only covers the "written" test, which includes listening, reading, and writing.

Therefore, I could have several months after finishing the Level 2 book to prepare for the rest of the test. That should be plenty of time to prepare.

But, since I know how to program spreadsheets, I added a few features: running projections.

I have two sets of running projection columns, one at two weeks per lesson and one at one week per lesson. They both track the latest completion date for a lesson and recalculate a projected finish date based on that information. This gives me a running estimate of when I could finish the books. Currently, my projected end dates at two weeks per lesson is about a month ahead of the original projected dates, and the projected end dates at one week per lesson have me finishing level 2 in March of 2014.

Beyond the spreadsheet, I keep a written log of my activities toward my goal. This is something that I started while working on my doctoral thesis and this is something I advise my doctoral students to do.

Every day (Monday through Friday, and weekend days if I study on the weekend) I will write down an entry in my log. This log can be a physical notebook or it can be a document on your computer.

Each log entry is in the same format:
What I did that day.
What problems I encountered.
What I plan to do to address the problems.
What I plan to do the next day.
Any other notes that may be important.

Having this information readily available is especially helpful when doing something more complicated such as a thesis because you can see what worked and what did not work so you don't repeat the same mistakes and waste time. It helps me in my language learning efforts because I can keep track of what seems to help.

In the case of my language learning, each individual lesson is a mini-goal. Mastering the vocabulary and the grammar of each lesson brings me on step closer to being ready to take the HSK-5. I will admit that I do not have the plan worked out yet on when I will use the practice tests, but I will incorporate that into my plans as I come closer to being ready to take the test.

The daily tracking also helps me stay focused on reaching my goal and helps me see the progress I am making. It also reminds me that I need to make some progress every day so I can record something that is actual progress toward my goal, and the log format that I have also helps me prepare for the next study period by planning my next steps.

I hope that this information will help someone out there reach a goal. I know many people reading this are trying to learn a language, most likely English or Chinese. If you have any questions, please post them here as comments so other people can benefit from your questions.

Thank you!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (10 comments)

Reply Report 小米1972 2013-6-16 21:30
very userful.thank you.
Reply Report querist 2013-6-17 06:38
小米1972: very userful.thank you.
I hope that it is helpful for you, Xiaomi.
Reply Report 小米1972 2013-6-17 14:52
I have pssed the HSK.
Reply Report querist 2013-6-17 20:24
小米1972: I have pssed the HSK.
Great! Congratulations!
Reply Report waizy 2013-6-18 09:01
come on! my foreign friends
Reply Report happymarymary 2013-7-4 13:02
Reply Report querist 2013-7-5 03:42
happymarymary: GOOD IDEAS.
I hope they help you, Mary. That is why I post them here. I just want to help people.

What goals are you trying to achieve?
Reply Report happymarymary 2013-7-5 19:35
know ten thousand English words with into two years. And my final goal is to knwo twenty-thirty english words. how fun
Reply Report happymarymary 2013-7-5 19:36
twenty-thirty thousand words.
Reply Report querist 2013-7-5 21:03
happymarymary: know ten thousand English words with into two years. And my final goal is to knwo twenty-thirty english words. how fun
And how will you test yourself?

If you read my blog entry on SMART goals, you will see some tips on setting good goals and making sure you can reach them.

Thirty thousand words is the approximate active vocabulary of an educated native speaker. That is a lofty goal. I am sure you can reach it, but please read the SMART goals blog entry so you can determine how best to reach that goal. Then send me a PM so we can work out the details.

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Ph.D. in Computer Science (Security) and also a physician, I travel to China on business a few times each year. I am learning Mandarin (and some Cantonese because I travel to HK and GZ) and intend to take the HSK in 2015 (before I turn 50).


Recent comments

  • Just a short note 2014-5-10 10:24

    Vocabulary seems to be the hardest thing to learn. Chinese grammar is logical, but learning vocabulary (especially to read) is a challenge when I have few opportunities to speak the language. I really wish I could live in China for a while.

  • Just a short note 2014-4-2 12:16

    good luck to you.

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