Happy New Year!
It is 2020, the year of the rat/mouse, the beginning of a new 12 year cycle in the Chinese Zodiac, and the year of the much anticipated Tokyo Olympics. Big things are sure to happen this year! What kind of fortune will it bring to you and your household?
Now that the winter holidays are over and we have all settled into our usual routines, it is a good time to take stock of our lives and see what we can put in place to ensure our well-being and success during the year. In order to do this I have divided important tasks into 3 steps you can take to success in 2020.
Step 1: Survey
This might be the most important step in your yearly life-check and may save you from a huge headache, or worse, down the road this year. At the beginning of the year it is a good idea to go over all your important documents to see if anything is expiring or needs updating this year. This is especially important for those of us that live abroad and need to maintain current passports and visas or risk getting into big trouble. Sometimes reminders are sent to you from the city office, prefecture, or immigration bureau, but not always so don’t rely on them. Check each document and write reminders on your calendar when the deadline to renew them is coming up. Better yet, set alarms in your digital calendar to remind you 2 months in advance and then again a month before the deadline, so you are sure not to miss it.
Are these items up for renewal?
- Passports: your own and your children's
- Alien registration card: even if you are a permanent resident, you need to renew the card every few years in order to update the picture.
- Driver’s license
- Health and/or life insurance plan
While you are taking a survey of important things in your life, here are a few more items to check on at the beginning of the year to make sure everything is in order:
- Check to see if documents like your last will and testament are still current, perhaps they need to be updated if there were any big changes last year.
- Go through your emergency supplies and see if anything is missing and if any of the items are reaching their expiration dates.
- Review your and your children’s health records to see if there are any specific medical checks or vaccines needed this year.
- Look for any big birthdays, anniversaries, or memorials coming up that might require some extra spending money or travel time.
Step 2: Make Goals
Many people talk about making new year’s resolutions but it is wiser to make goals and set a plan in action to achieve them. A great way to do this is to use the S.M.A.R.T method of goal setting, smart goals are goals that are:
Specific - rather than a vague resolution, make your goal as specific as possible. For example, rather than: “I want to improve my Japanese” try: “I want to pass the N2 level of the JLPT next December” or “I want to read the novel Botchan entirely in Japanese”.
Measurable - make sure your goal is something you can measure in order to see whether you reach it or not. This relates somewhat to setting specific goals, as in our example above - it is hard to measure a vague improvement in your Japanese language skills but passing a test or being able to read a novel is measurable.
Attainable - your goal should be something attainable by you, this year. Don’t set yourself up to fail by setting goals that are too lofty. For example, if you are just starting to study Japanese it probably isn’t wise to make the goal of reading a novel in Japanese this year, try to aim for mastery of hiragana and katakana or perhaps the N4 or N3 level of the JLPT.
Relevant - having a goal that is relevant to your life will make you more motivated to attain it. If you are never going to live in Japan or use Japanese, why make a goal based around learning the language?
Time Based - this is one of the most important parts of setting goals that you will actually reach. Plan the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal and then build them into your monthly calendar, with alarms if using an app/digital calendar. For example, in order to read the novel Botchan in Japanese, first you need to be pretty comfortable with kanji and vocabulary around an elementary grade 6 level, say you are only comfortable at a grade 4 or 5 level, so you plan to spend January to April brushing up on kanji and vocabulary. Then you might want to get a little more familiar with the dialect and older style of Japanese that Soseki uses in the novel Botchan so you plan to spend May and June looking into that. After that, you break the book’s 140 pages down to 28 pages per month from July through November, so you will read about one page a day - a pace slow enough to use a dictionary and check understanding, but regularly enough that you don’t forget where you are in the story. Finally, you decided to reread the whole book again in December. In this scenario each step is broken down and set out in an achievable timeline to keep you on track as you work towards your goal.
Step 3: Plan
Now that you have surveyed your documents and important dates and set your goals, it is time to make sure everything is entered in your calendar and you have a solid plan for the year ahead.
- If you need to take time off of work in order to renew your passport, driver’s license or visa, now is the time to think about how you are going to build that into your schedule and get time off.
- Schedule the steps and timeline to reach your S.M.A.R.T. goals.
- Plan to schedule doctor and dentist appointments for yourself and your children by entering them in your monthly calendar and setting an alarm so you will remember to do it and do not put it off. For example: March 1st - make appointments to have the whole family’s teeth cleaned, September 1st - schedule my yearly health check.
- Plot out any big work trips or vacations and how you might rearrange your daily schedule to fit them in - and if there is anything you need to do before them, such as renew your or your child’s passport.
- Think about any big expenditures that might pop up in 2020, or even in the upcoming years, such as tuition or a new appliance and start saving your money for them - you might even want to make a S.M.A.R.T. financial goal!
I hope I have given you the tools to help you have a great year in 2020. If I have left anything off that you think belongs on the list, please leave a comment below. We here at AFWJ wish you a happy and healthy 2020!