Key to Korean #12: The Power of Regular Progress Checks

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Lots of people go through life working and playing – making a living and taking vacations – and by the time they’re 50 or 60 wonder where the time’s all gone. I also have just gone through the past 2-3 years fairly oblivious to their passing.

Looking back now, I’m reminded of what my dreams and goals WERE at that time – the things I HAD been working diligently on – and my present doesn’t really match up with the envisioned future of my past. Actually, there’s only ONE area that has met or exceeded my expectations in the past two years: our BUDGET.

  • Three years ago, I took a new job, my wife and I both worked, and we saved nothing from our two paychecks.
  • Two and a half years ago, we had our son, my wife quit working, and we “survived” on my one income.
  • Two years ago, we had been planning to go to America to see my family – but had to use the extra money I’d earned in order to pay for some unexpected medical bills. We had no emergency fund, so that basically broke our bank.
  • One and a half years ago, my parents loaned us the money to come to America.
  • One year ago, we had nothing. We came back from America to the same life we’d had before – living paycheck to paycheck, no savings, no emergency fund.

But then, last year, something small DID change. We started having a monthly meeting about our budget. My wife started d0ing private lessons, and I took as much overtime work as possible. Since then:

  • We’ve saved more money than we did in the whole first 3 years of our marriage combined.
  • We’ve paid off more student loan debt in a single year than I did in 5 years when I was single.

The reason for our success is two-fold, but the steps we took are small and can be accomplished by anyone doing nearly anything:

  1. We increased what was necessary to help us succeed (your income is your greatest asset for building wealth – your time is another key for accomplishing other goals).
  2. We had regular (monthly) progress checks to measure and motivate ourselves.

Increase what’s Important, Decrease what’s Less Important

I recently listened to a pastor say, “More is not always better.” That’s definitely true. Anytime you get more of one thing, it means you have to give up more of another thing. Life and time are finite. We cannot continuously increase everything and expect to prosper without something else suffering:

  1. More money = more work = give up time at home
  2. More stuff = less space
  3. More games = less study
  4. More vacations = less money

Determine for yourself what your major goals are. Then determine what you can increase and what you can decrease to accomplish those goals. For example:

  1. I need more speaking practice. I can increase practice time if I practice with Korean students during my lunch break. That means I have to decrease my time with colleagues or class prep time. Are those acceptable things to increase/decrease?
  2. I need more Korean STUDY time. I can increase study time if I decrease blogging time. Is that an acceptable compromise?

(And so, because I need more STUDY time, I HAVE decided to slow down this blog. Rather than posting DAILY, I’ll focus on Monday Motivation, Wednesday class resources, Friday Follow-up, and an occasional TOPIK-related post as well.)

REGULARLY Check your Progress

It seems fairly easy to me these days to budget our money.

  • We’ve set some very simple goals.
  • We have very clear directives.
  • We have a laser-like focus.
  • We check up on ourselves, our goals, and our progress every 17th of the month.

Why do you think programs like Weight Watchers are effective at helping people lose weight? It’s not because they teach you to eat less or exercise more, it’s because they make you have a “public check-up” once a week by stepping up on the scale. The COMMUNITY ASPECT of programs like this is what makes them effective.

Why have we been more successful with managing our money this past year than ever before? It’s because we have regular check-ups with each other and we hold each other accountable to the budget that we agree upon each month.

Likewise, if you want to be successful in your dream:

  1. SCHEDULE regular, fixed check-ups (is it the first of every month? the 14th?)
  2. Let people (at least ONE person) know what you’re doing – make it public. At least you know you’ll work harder to meet your goal if you feel someone else’s eyeball on you.
  3. Be sure to have a SIMPLE enough “baby step” of a goal that you can “laser-focus” on it. Making goals too big or too complicated will wear you out. (For example, our BIG goal is to “pay off our student loan debt.” BUT, the full amount of the debt is divided into 4 separate loans (one per semester) – so we FOCUS on killing them one at a time.
  4. REMIND yourself of your goal and your commitment DAILY. Without a daily reminder, it’s easy to forget why we’re doing what we’re doing and just “let life happen.” Don’t let life happen to you – YOU should happen to life.

Reminder

So, here’s your reminder (a recap of the whole previous blog post). If you want to accomplish something or be successful:

  1. Determine your major goals
  2. Decide what you can increase and decrease in pursuit of those goals
  3. Schedule regular progress checks
  4. Make your progress checks public
  5. Break larger goals into smaller, more manageable pieces
  6. Remind yourself DAILY why you do what you do

As a last thought, have you ever wondered why they say, “If you want to learn something, teach it”? Having regular, new material to present to your students is one of the most effective methods to keep you accountable to learning it (well).

What are you learning? What are you teaching? What are your goals?

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