2017 Resolutions Update - February

Posted: March 01, 2017

Hi everyone, Matthew Donovan here. This is the first of hopefully two videos that I'm going to be uploading today. This is the February update for my 2017 resolutions. Let's start right with it with languages.

Improve both German and Italian, and explore a 4th language
February, I think, was just a great month in terms of languages. I had two main focuses during the month of February:

I spent 5 hours over Skype speaking German. On iTalki I found a lady who lives in Russia but speaks German, and I booked five hours with her. It was an incredibly low cost to speak with her for five hours, and I found it to be very helpful. Right off the bat, I said to her that I don't want to focus on grammar, reading, or listening. What I want to focus on is speaking. I'm able to read, and I'm able to listen. I can find those resources online on my own. I can use LingQ, I can use other tools, but what's really important for me is just to have someone to speak to, someone that asks questions or prompts, and then I respond. That's really what I wanted to focus on - using the words that I have to form sentences, and get thinking in my mind in German. So in that sense I found these lessons very helpful. She would essentially ask me a few questions and I would ramble on for maybe five minutes on that topic. I would just use the words that I knew and express what I could, and then we would move on to another topic. So I found that very helpful and very beneficial. If I were to do this again I think that I would find a different tutor. I was with the same lady for all five hours, but I think there is benefit in switching things up. You have different people with different focuses and different views, different topics to talk about, all of these different things. I think variety is a very good thing. But that was German, as I said. I might continue doing this going forward, just spending an hour or two every month talking in German just to make sure I don't forget it.

In terms of Czech, my progress was huge during the month of February. I spent 20 hours on Skype talking in Czech. Now, I do think that I may have moved slightly too fast. During a lot of my lessons I was using Google Translate to look up words, so that I was able to form sentences. What I found with Google Translate is that I would look up the word and then I would forget it about 10 seconds after I'd used it. This happened all of the time - I would be saying something and I would look up a word on Google Translate, and then two sentences later I would want to use the same word, and I had to look it up again. And if I wanted to use it a third time, I still didn't remember it. So in that sense, yes, it was good in the sense that I was able to reinforce some of the words that I knew, largely the verbs. For example, "I am happy". I don't even know right now what the word for happy is, so I can't say jsem happy, so I would have to look up what happy is. But the main focus of that sentence is that I want to use "I am". Or, "I am not well", nejsem dobře. For me, the focus has been on the verbs. 'I am' is jsem. 'I am not' is nejsem. Things like that. 'I can' muzu. So since the focus was on the verbs, using Google Translate to find the adjective or the noun was a helpful tool. But again, this is something that I need to be mindful of, which is "If I look up a word, I'm most likely going to forget it", so I need to use other input methods to learn vocabulary.

20 hours was very good, I got a lot of practice speaking, and I'm much more comfortable speaking. I'm not afraid of making mistakes when I speak. I have very poor grammar oftentimes and very poor sentence structure, but I can be understood. Sometimes I will say a sentence in Czech and then also in English if the meaning isn't clear, but spending those 20 hours forced me almost every day to speak in Czech, and it really forced me to put the time in. I found that on the days that I didn't have Czech, I would try and spend 15 or 20 minutes in the evening with some input methods, but on the days that I had Czech, I was up at 6 o'clock almost every day speaking in Czech and that forced me to be active and it forced me to put the time in. During the month of February, I didn't spend a lot of time on LingQ with those input methods, whether that be listening or reading, and that's something that I have stepped up in the month of March, so we'll see how it goes. February was a great month in terms of language learning, I think I made lots of progress, and from what I've seen so far during the month of March I've made a lot of progress in terms of what I know in Czech, so I'm looking forward to see where that ends up. 

Read more. At least a little every day.
Reading during the month of February was pathetic. I didn't read a single book. I didn't spend more than five minutes reading. It's very important to me that I read, and I do want to get through 20 or 30 books, at a minimum, this year. I think I said that hopefully I want to get up to 50. I still have a long way to go, especially with not having read anything during the month of February. During the month of March, I need to make it a priority to read a chapter here and there, and slowly the book will get finished. If it's a 7 chapter book or a 10 chapter book, that's a week or a week and a half if I'm reading a chapter each day, which is three books each month. It's a matter of putting in a small bit of time, and blocking it out in my calendar. Whether that's right before bed, or maybe I'll try to wake up slightly earlier in the day and read when I wake up, or read when I get home from work. Whenever it is, it's important that I schedule the time. If I don't put in the time, I can't read the books, and unfortunately that's what's been happening during the month of February. It's constantly been on the bottom of my priority list and other things have been taking its place.

Follow the Couch to 5K program with the goal of entering a race during the summer
The third resolution is more exercise. Running on the treadmill and hopefully trying to get to that position where I can run a 5k race or a triathlon in the summer. February was another slow month. I put in maybe one or two runs on the treadmill. It's largely just a matter of making sure to find the time. As I said, I'm a few weeks into March right now, and I've also run five or six times this month during the first two weeks. If I go down to do laundry, the exercise room is right there, so why not run on the treadmill. If I have half an hour, why not go run. I'm bringing down music, and I'm bringing down podcasts. Also, I just recently found that Netflix can be downloaded offline to my iPad, and I brought that down once and watched a half an hour of House of Cards. Finding the time, putting it into my schedule, and then making sure that I go down and run. This is another important goal for me, a very important resolution. I'm making progress in the month of March, but unfortunately February wasn't very successful in this front. But this is why I like to have these monthly update videos, partly it's to recognize that I have this deficiency or that there is this area of weakness where I'm not following through, and the other part is to motivate me. To have to sit in front of the camera and say every month, "Oh, I haven't done this, I haven't done that, and I haven't done this", why not just do it so that I have some good news to report. It's a half hour... what else am I going to be doing during that time? If I'm listening to a podcast I still find it very productive, and it's quite relaxing I find - to go down and go running. Once I've been running for a few minutes I'm in the zone and I'm good to keep doing it until half an hour is completed.

Enjoy the first co-op term of my program
Co-op is going well during the month of February. January was a lot of learning, a lot of picking up the tools and learning the basics and fundamentals. February has a lot more freedom, and there's a lot more experimentation. Seeing what works and what doesn't work. I'm relatively independent with what I'm doing, so it's just a matter of taking the skills that I've learned, applying them to my work, and seeing how that works out. The company culture and atmosphere is still great. It's a great place to work. It's very inclusive, and we all get along. There are only about 20 of us working at the company on a daily basis. Again, there is a fussball table, a billiards table, a dart board in the office, and we go out for company lunch on Wednesdays. There is a big focus on getting to know the people that we work with. Getting to know them, getting along with them, it makes the work day so much more enjoyable and you're able to get a lot more done. I'm very much enjoying co-op, and it's hard to believe that we're half way through at this point. It's just a matter of making sure that I put in good effort and do good work during these next two months, but overall co-op is going well. 

Keep at least a 10.5 GPA across all courses
I'm not on a school term right now, so there aren't any academics going on. During the month of February, I did start to take a look at Calculus. There is a YouTube channel, Professor Leonard, that has a whole string of mathematical videos. I've started to watch a few of these videos, and I find them very beneficial. A lot of the topics I do know at the basic level, and I'm not sure how much these videos will relate to the Calculus course I'm planning to take in the summer, but the way I look at it is that it doesn't hurt. If nothing else, it's helping to solidify the foundation, and who knows, maybe there are some topics or concepts that I'll be able to practice on my own and I'll be more prepared for the summer term.

I have high goals for the summer term for my academics. I really want to sit down, focus, and put in the time required to improve my grades and improve my average. At this point, it's largely a matter of doing what I can on the side, fitting it in with co-op, as well as the other resolutions that I have. It's important to make sure that I still read, go running, and focus on my languages. It's a matter of fitting things in, seeing how things go, and making sure I'm in the best position once the spring semester starts. 

Stay involved during semesters 4 & 5
During the third week of February, Laurier has their Reading Week. Since I was on co-op, I didn't get to experience this, but the university was effective closed for one out of four weeks in the month of February. That definitely slowed down the amount of volunteering that I was able to do, but I did still continue to stay involved as a general member on the Emergency Response Team as well as their promotions lead, working primarily on making new posters for hiring. The new season is coming in the middle of March so I made posters for that, but I've also been making posters for St. Patrick's Day and other events. I'm also looking forward to what's next. I'm applying to be potentially an executive member on the Emergency Response Team, I'm also looking to get back involved with Students Offering Support, where I previously volunteered as an economics tutor and I very much enjoyed that. I've also been looking at potentially getting involved in a few business clubs and opportunities within the School of Business that have come up, and I'm not quite sure what I'm going to be applying to yet so I'm not going to name and names or mention anything, but that's definitely something that's on my radar. I need to take a look at these things and figure out what I want to do and where I want to spend my efforts. February was a good month in terms of involvement, I've continued to be involved with everything that I will be involved with this semester. These aren't the types of things that I can just pick up in the middle of the semester, it's more a matter of looking ahead and figuring out what I want to do in the summer and what I want to do in the fall, and that's what I did in February and what I'm also going to be doing during the month of March. I need to figure out what I want to do next year and apply for that. I'm looking forward to that, I think it's going to be a great year going forward with a lot of volunteer involvement. I'll need to make sure I don't get in over my head, but I'm sure that with a good schedule and proper time management, as long as I'm committed and passionate about everything, I'm sure I'll be able to find the time. 


That's all of my updates for the month of February. I love this format, just sitting down and talking to the camera. I can ramble on about my resolutions, see how the progress is going, and it's a good motivator for me. It's giving me something to look back on and, I don't know, but I'm also looking forward to December when I can watch all of these videos month by month and see how I've progressed. When I'm in December, I'll know how everything has finished, but I think it will be interesting to see a past version of me speaking, every month, without any idea of what the future looks like. I think it will be a growing journey, but I think it will be an interesting one - very self-reflective, and I really look forward to that. I know that even for last year, reading through the blog posts that I had written while knowing what I know now, I loved reading through those. I think it's a very good marker or good archive of where I've been, and I'm going to continue doing these videos. I do need to work on getting them out slightly sooner once the month finishes, but I'm making progress. The January video was up at nearly the end of February, and right now we're almost two weeks into March, so we are making good progress. Anyways, thanks for watching the video, and I'll be back in another month with the March update. Until then, keep watching my Czech videos, I'll be uploading another one of those today.

As always, thanks for watching, and I'll talk to you soon. Bye.

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