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Last updated on 3/10/23

Aim for the Right Level

In the last section, you defined your learning strategy.

Using that as a starting point, I will now guide you in creating your action plan. In other words, you will transform your strategy into a ready-to-use operational plan.

What format should I use to create this plan?

You may create it in whatever format you are most comfortable with. To save you time, I have made you a template of a monthly schedule in the second tab of your learning plan document, which you can personalize. If you haven't already, download the template.

Template of learning plan

A schedule template can be found in the second tab of your learning plan document.

A schedule template can be found in the second tab of your learning plan document.

Use the Template

Take a moment to understand how the tool works, using the subject that I have given you as an example.

If you already know how to use a spreadsheet, it will be very easy to use. If not, don't panic. Follow my advice and, before the end of this section, using the tool will come naturally to you.

To start, note that the tool is divided into two parts.

First half of the tool: your register.

This is where you will find:

  • All your subjects in priority order

  • Your current level for each of them

  • Your target level for each of them 

  • Your list of actions/activities selected to help you progress

The first priority of this tool: your repertoire.
The first half of the scheduling tool: your register.

The second half of the tool: your logbook or learning log.

This is where you will register the time you spend on each activity and, by extension, on each study subject. We’ll come back to this part of the tool a little later.

The second half of your scheduling tool: your dashboard.
The second half of the scheduling tool: your learning log.

For the moment, concentrate on the first half (the register). In order to have a clean copy of the tool, delete the example. Start to fill in the boxes:

  1. [STUDY SUBJECT No. X]  with your own study subjects in priority order.

  2. [Current level]   with your current level in the subject in question.

  3. [Target level]   with your target level.

The wording here does not have to be perfect. If you get it right the first time, that’s great! If not, the remainder of this chapter, as well as the information in the next chapter, will provide more guidance.

Assess Your Current Level

How can I assess my own level in a field? 

In the same way that you analyzed your strengths and weaknesses in the previous section, you can either assess yourself or have yourself assessed.

In either case, you should know that most fields or subjects already have their own rating scales. They vary from one field to another. For example:

  • For languages, the European Framework distinguishes levels from A1 to C2.

  • For sports, one says that somebody is a:

    • Hobbyist

    • Amateur

    • Semi-pro

    • Pro

  • Within a career or profession, one generally uses the terms:

    • Trainee

    • Junior

    • Intermediate

    • Senior

Division into four phases is common for many scales. In any case, your competence will advance along a learning curve similar to the one illustrated here.

(Note that in this example, the proportions are not to scale!)
(Note that in this example, the proportions are not necessarily to scale.)

Bear in mind that "time invested" is not the only factor you'll need in order to advance along your learning curve for a given subject. You may have heard of the 10,000-hour rule: the idea that experts had to invest approximately 10,000 hours into a subject in order to attain their level of competence. This is a useful estimate because it puts a learning curve—and the work involved in mastering a subject—into perspective. It helps add measurability to a learning plan and a learning log.

However, the researcher whose work this popular idea is based on, Anders Ericsson of Florida State University, would be the first to point out that the quality of time spent, specifically the quality of deliberate practice invested, is more important than any specific quantity of time.

Specify Your Target Level

Now do the same for your target level. Your target level is the micro-goal you set for each study subject. Don't hesitate to work by successive approximations until you can formulate your micro-goals the SMART way.

Make your micro-goals SMART.
Make your micro-goals SMART.

To help you project your target level, you can formulate your goal by completing the following sentence:

I aspire to be able to… [active verb]   [object of the action]   [context of the action]

An example of a SMART micro-goal.
An example of a SMART micro-goal.

A target level that is sufficiently specific, measurable and time-bound is easier to aim for.

How can I know whether my goals are attainable and relevant?

To answer this question, you need to perform an analysis of variance. In other words, you will identify what actions you must take to move from your current level to your target level. This is a topic we will explore in the next chapter. 😉

Let's Recap

  • To maximize your progress, keep a register of your study subjects and a log of your study sessions.

  • In your register:

    • list your study subjects

    • assess your current level

    • define your target level

    • break your study subject down into actions (more on this in the next chapter)

  • Your target level should be articulated as a SMART micro-goal, or a goal which is:

    • Specific

    • Measurable

    • Attainable

    • Relevant

    • Time-bound

I’ll meet you in the next chapter to identify the specific actions you'll take to move you from your current level to your target level!

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Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement