Smoothie Sunday Check In

It’s been 6 months since I finished the first 66 days of my green smoothie habit. These breakfast drinks are fully integrated in our morning routine.

6 Month Goals:

  • Read 1 new book on food science
  • Try 1 new vegetarian restaurant

Book Breakdown:

The section where Openshaw listed all the different types of greens she uses in her smoothies and what parts of the plant to use was excellent. This week I left the ribs of most of my leafy greens in and I’m excited to try my radicchio and dandelion greens smoothies. I wish there had been a similar breakdown for the fruits and to that end there was not nearly enough of the content that I wanted. Anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims abound. I also thought her recipes had too much going on. I would not recommend this book, but I’m glad I read it.

Vegetarian Restaurant:Tonic

Tonic is a local kitchen and juice bar located in Rochester, MN. Clayton and I stopped in at the start of a road trip and they had a great selection of fresh juices and smoothies. I went with the Coastal Sunshine: orange, lemon, lime, and carrot. It was good, if a little heavy on the carrots.

For dinner I ordered the Market Vegetable Wrap and Clayton ordered the Midwest Mac. I ate more of Clayton’s meal than my own even though I was pleasantly surprised by the kale chips.

Our smoothie consumption stayed steady after I stopped tracking this habit daily. Of all the habits I have featured on this blog, this one has been the most successful. I feel comfortable moving forward without an additional check in!

Please stay tuned for a new habit as I continue my journey of personal development.

Spanish Saturday – The End

DuolingoOwlAccording to Doulingo I am now 35% fluent in Spanish! I have also earned enough Lingots to give my owl some sweet new digs! The rest of my action plan has not fared so well…

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – 70/66 days of practicing Spanish
  • 0/1 Pimsleur Spanish audio-book completed
  • DONE – 2/2 Spanish movies watched
  • 6/10 Spanish children’s books read
  • DONE – 3/1 Spanish podcasts reviewed
  • 0/1 Spanish meet ups attended

Grade: F

Incentive: I have NOT earned my News in Slow subscription yet.

Lessons Learned: I am still learning that summer is a rough time for personal development. I am proud of the progress I have made, and love the Duolingo app on my phone. But I do know that I could have done much better. Rather than focusing on my lack of progress I am going to redouble my efforts and continue improving my Spanish language skills.

One Month Goals: Complete the rest of my existing action plan!

Any words of encouragement are certainly welcome in the comments I as I work to achieve my goals!

Movie Madness: Spanish Films

I am a huge movie buff so I wanted to use films to improve my fluency in Spanish.

PP_YTuMamaTambien

Y Tu Mama Tambien (English Subtitled)

This Oscar nominated film is not my cup of tea. I made it to the pool scene where the two friends are masturbating together and gave up. The dialog was hard for me to follow even with English subtitles. They spoke very quickly, and there was a lot of voice over narration. I was only catching flashes of dialogue. I decided to go a different route in my second attempt.

 

PP_Hotel_Transylvania_2_posterHotel Transylvania 2

Since I had a hard time with a “real” Spanish film Clayton suggested that I watch Dora the Explorer instead. He thinks he’s very clever, but he did inspired me to watch an animated film dubbed in Spanish. Dubbed live-action movies are distracting because of the disparity between the voice and facial movements, but cartoons just approximate mouth movements. Diction is also much better with voice actors. Besides a kid’s movie is on par with my proficiency level.

Bonus Movies!

PP_AntMan PP_Avengers PP_Interstellar PP_RATF

When we were on our cruise the television in our room was set with Spanish subtitles. I read loud the Spanish translations of Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Interstellar, and Ricki and the Flash. Comic book movies are well suited to foreign language development. You get the benefit of new vocabulary words, idioms, and simple sentence structure with very few dramatic monologues.

Through trial and error I have found 2 new ways to help build my Spanish skills. There is a great selection of cartoons on Netflix that have been dubbed in Spanish, and if I watch a movie I’ve already seen I will add Spanish subtitles. When I am more fluent I would like to try watching a foreign film for native speakers again.

Please share your favorite Spanish movie in the comments so I can start a to-watch list.

Spanish Saturday – The Middle

I think this is the first time I have dreaded an midpoint review. Ah well, time to face the music.

Action Plan Progress:

  • 42/66 days of practicing Spanish
  • 0/1 Pimsleur Spanish audio-book completed
  • 0/2 Spanish movies watched
  • 1/10 Spanish children’s books read
  • DONE – 3/1 Spanish podcasts reviewed
  • 0/1 Spanish meet ups attended

Grade: C

Lessons Learned: With back to back vacations I have not made much progress on my action plan. Since I was travelling internationally I also didn’t have ready access to my Duolingo app so I had to improvise. I’ve also slipped on my weekly check ins. At this point it is fair to say this has been my worst showing with a habit to date.

That is in direct contention with the fact that I am really enjoying this habit. The Duolingo app is well built and taps into my competitive streak. It also helps that I have a good support group of people who are familiar with the language. While we were cruising my friend Ed would randomly quiz me on my Spanish vocabulary, and everyone was very understanding of my playing on my phone while we were at port.

I am learning perseverance with this habit. Things aren’t always going to go exactly as I planned, but it’s okay to adjust course while trying to stick to a commitment you made to yourself.

Pertinent Podcasts

Even though I don’t have a 3 hour commute anymore, I still try to make time for good podcasts. There are some great language podcasts out there so I sampled the ones with the best reviews. The podcasts below are listed in order of preference.

Spanish Obsessed

In each episode Rob, an English man, and Liz, a Colombian woman, have a short conversation. They translate the conversation and give you an opportunity to speak along with them. Each lesson is approximately 10 minutes. If you sign up on their website you can see a full transcript of the conversation.

I found it helpful that they don’t just focus on the exact translations, but also discuss the intention of the phrase. Also at the end they have a bit of fun giving you options for different phases or words you can use in the same scenario.

News in Slow

I could only listen to the beginning of the episodes without a subscription, but I like the samples. So much so that I am going to change my incentive for completing this habit. Once I hit my 66 days, I am going to sign up for the bronze subscription!

Right now I could only follow bits and pieces of the episode, but I think once I have a better foundation this site will really help improve my Spanish skills. If you’re further along than I am I would definitely check this podcast out.

SpanishPod101 

I was not impressed with their website. You have to sign up immediately and there is a hard sell right up front. Once I finally got to listen to the first lesson I found Fernando and JP engaging. Their use of practical scenarios like starting you off in a grocery store is a fantastic idea.

They also do a great job of breaking down the sample conversation and analyzing the vocabulary and grammar. The sessions are very short at 5-10 minutes.

I am going to stick with Spanish Obsessed for the time being, until I reach my goal and purchase a subscription to News in Slow. I liked SpanishPod101 but I’m not going to invest a lot of time in it right now.

Do you listen to any great language podcasts? Please share your favorites in the comments below.

Meditation Monday Check In

It’s been a little over 6 months since I finished tracking my meditation habit. Now is a great time to take a step back and reflect on the progress I have made.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • DONE – Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Aborted – Attend a Tai Chi class
  • BONUS – Practice Tai Chi on the Xbox One

Headspace:

Self-Esteem

The were 30 sessions in this pack and it was broken into 3 parts. In the first part we focused visualizing a calm blue sky, in the second part we visualized a bright light filling us, and in the third part we focused on letting our mind be free. I liked the last section because I experienced such a feeling of weightlessness and calm when he would say “let your mind be free and do whatever it wants.” It was more about creating a sense of calm and contentedness rather than trying to counter negative self-talk with positive self-talk. A neutral outlook is really what you are going for. Clayton seems that way naturally and I am trying to emulate him.

Focus

Another 30 sessions broken down into 3 parts. The exercises help you to practice focused flow by honing in on different parts of your body throughout the sit. You are supposed to carry the practice throughout the day and it is easy to pick up at random intervals.

Generosity will be my next pack. That will round out the series options, with Relationships since I have done one from Health and Performance.

Book Breakdown:

This book is broken down into 3 parts. Breathe! You Are Alive focuses on mindfulness and awareness in the small acts of life. The idea of smiling through out the day hit home with me, and I have made an effort to smile more to myself.

Transformation and Healing is about the benefits of mindfulness in healing difficult states. And Peace is Every Step is about the connection between inner peace and peace on earth. This book is short and sweet and full of wisdom. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Tai Chi:

After our move I discovered there are no Tai Chi classes in our small town. Rather than making a special trip up to the cities just to meet this goal, I decided to find something else that would allow me to practice Tai Chi on a regular basis. BodyWisdom is available thru Xbox Fitness and it tracks your movements with the Kinnect. I think this is a great alternative to an actual class, and as I learn the poses I plan to practice in a more serene area.

As I continue to practice meditation I find setting goals toward it is not in the spirit of the habit. I want to lessen my stress levels and enjoy a more peaceful state, not feel pressure to get it done. That is why I will not be setting an future action items. I plan to just enjoy the serenity that comes with a sit.

I’ll leave you with a one time use code for a free month of access to Headspace for the first person to enter it!

Gift Code: REW15-469237

Language Learning Tools

I chose Duolingo for my Spanish habit because I used a beta version for German a few years ago. I really liked the user interface, and since then they’ve come out with a great phone app. Below are some other online learning tools that seemed worth exploring, listed in order of preference.

Anki – More than just a language tool, Anki can help you remember anything you need to study. It is an open source tool with a very simple interface, but that makes it easy to use. I’ve created a deck for Spanish vocabulary and my project management exam.

Busuu – Similar to Duolingo. Select a language and determine your skill level. Lesson 1 starts with greeting people. I like the quick tips that are interspersed in the lessons like what time of day to use buenos dias. There are also images with the words which is very helpful. A key difference is that with Duolingo there are pronunciation exercises where you speak the words and phrases, but Busuu is all written exercises.

Memrise – Again, similar to Duolingo and Busuu, but my least favorite of the bunch. Their user interface is not well done, and you only focus on a few words at a time. I prefer Duolingo’s approach of using phases to reinforce the vocabulary.

I am excited to start building my Anki decks, but will pass on the Busuu and Memrise in favor of Duolingo. Duolingo is free, no adds, and no upselling. Plus it’s working for me so far!

Have you tried any other online language learning tools? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Spanish Saturday – The Start

Hola amigos! I have become increasingly interested in learning a new language, and it’s time to turn that wish into a goal!

Habit: Practice Spanish on Duolingo for 30 minutes every day for 66 days.

Start Date: 04/17/2016

Projected End Date: 06/22/2016

Action Plan:

  • Practice on Duolingo
  • Listen to a Pimsleur Spanish audio-book
  • Watch 2 Spanish movies
  • Read 10 Spanish children’s books
  • Find a good Spanish podcast or radio show
  • Attend a meet up or find people willing to converse with me in Spanish

Incentive: A weekend trip to a fun locale where we can immerse ourselves in a Spanish-speaking community.

Lofty Goal: Attain enlightenment!

I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and some of my family members have a passing fluency. I figured my background with Spanish would make it an easier habit to dive into. I never gave learning a second language a shot in school, but I’m ready to take it more seriously this time around.

Ultimately I would like to become fluent enough in Spanish to add it to my resume. I’ve always wanted to travel more for work, and being able to speak another language will open new doors for me.

Follow me on Duolingo, and kick start your own habit!

Writing Wednesday Check In

I am happy to report that I have kept up with my writing habit over the last 6 months. As always I’ll start with my stats.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Improved my blogging stats
  • DONE – 4/4 habits developed and blogged
  • DONE – 1/1 book on writing read

Blogging Stats:

  • 62 posts (↑ from 22 posts)
  • 34 followers (↑ from 16)
  • 547 visitors (↑ from 126)
  • 818 views (↑ from 249)
  • 179 likes (↑ from 72)
  • 39 comments (↑ from 12)

Completed Habits:

  1. Smoothie Sunday – Drink a green smoothie everyday
  2. Tidy Travels – Implement the KonMari method
  3. Food Friday – Eat an 8 Weeks to Wellness approved meal everyday
  4. Project Management Monday – Read the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Book Breakdown:

“Write what you like.”

The On Writing section is the heart of the book and I came away with a lot of great tips:

  • Master the fundamentals: vocabulary, grammar, and the elements of style
  • Read and write a lot
  • 1st drafts shouldn’t take more than a season (3 months)
  • Give your writing life by adding your knowledge of life (especially work)
  • Situation comes first then plot and characters
  • Begin with the story and progress to the theme
  • 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%
  • Writers Market

“Door Shut, Door Open”

King shares an unedited fictional piece, and then a mark up of the same work. This is exactly what I have been looking for in these writing books. King’s work as a teacher gives weight to the lessons in this book.

It’s a popular book for good reason, and I recommend it to anyone looking to improve their writing.

6 Month Goals:

  • Improve my blogging stats
  • Blog about 4 new habits (one in each category)
  • Read a book to help improve my writing
  • Watch a documentary on writing/writers

Accomplishments abound with this blog. My closet is clean, I drink smoothies, eat veggies, lost 10 pounds, and manage projects better than ever. The best part is I’m still doing all of my favorite things like watching movies, reading books, and trying new things; just in a more focused manner. Here’s to leveraging your strengths!

Keep an eye out for my next habit!

Project Management Monday – The End

I finished reading the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)! Now to review my action plan progress.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Read the PMBOK
  • DONE – Found a study buddy at work
  • DONE – Watched 6/6 PMI webinars
  • DONE – Attended 2/1 PMI-Minnesota Chapter meetings
  • DONE – Posted weekly progress updates on improving my PM skills

Grade: A

Incentive: This week I am attending the Agile PMP seminar!

Lessons Learned: I had tried to read the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge (BABOK) 2 years ago with poor results, and I really think this blog helped me to cross the finish line on the PMBOK. Breaking this into a daily reading habit helped me to hone in on each section. I absorbed a lot of information and dove into work breakdown structures, earned value calculations, and risk management.

My favorite part of the action plan was trying to form a study group. I met with all the PMs in my office and solicited a lot of feedback on the best way to approach the certification. I found another person interested in going through the certification process with me, and she has been a tremendous help. We’ve both signed up for an exam prep course and are hoping to sit for the exam at the end of the summer.

6 Month Goals:

  • Complete the Agile PMP training seminar
  • Complete the RMC PMP Exam Prep course
  • Read the PMP Handbook
  • Complete the PMP application
  • Take the PMP exam
  • Read Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt

This habit has kick started my career development this year. Getting through the PMBOK has given me the confidence to tackle all sorts of goals over the summer.

Any suggestions for a new habit? I’ve got a couple ideas brewing, but would love to get some feedback in the comments!