College should challenge you in a number of new and rewarding ways, yet with all these new challenges, it’s also important to develop the skills you need to be able to cope with stress, a hectic schedule and impending deadlines. Learning how to set realistic, productive goals for yourself throughout each term can help you stay on top of things and make the most of your education.
Set S.M.A.R.T Goals
One of the most important things about setting goals while you’re in school is that each one needs to be distinct, achievable, and rewarding in order to keep you moving forward. Before you set any major goals for yourself, try to ensure they meet the following criteria.
S – Specific
When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the popular ‘W’ questions.
Consider who needs to be involved to achieve the goal (this is especially important when you’re working on a group project).
Think about exactly what you are trying to accomplish and don’t be afraid to get very detailed.
Set a time frame to ensure you can accomplish your goals in a realistic amount of time.
This question may not always apply, but if there’s a location or relevant event, identify it here.
Determine any related obstacles or requirements. This question can be beneficial in deciding if your goal is realistic.
What is the reason for the goal? What are you trying to achieve in the end?
M – Measurable
Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.
To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?
A – Achievable
When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.
R – Realistic
To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force.
Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.
T – Timely
A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to start going to the gym, when do you want to start going? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.
Need Help Getting Started?
If you have a change you want to make in your life, or something you want to accomplish, a goal journal can be a good way to do that. Goal journals allow you to keep track of your progress, as well as keep you accountable for your progress. You don’t need any special items or skills to keep a goal journal – just a little self-discipline.
Benefits of Keeping a Journal
- Keeping a journal forces you to commit your goals to writing. When you write down your goals you turn vague desires into well-articulated targets you can clearly see and aim for. You’re taking the first step toward turning the desires in your head into something concrete that exists in the material world.
- By setting aside fifteen to twenty minutes a day, every day, at a predetermined time to write about your goals you’re guaranteeing that you’re going to spend at least that amount of time each day thinking about your goals and how you’re going to achieve them.
- A journal allows you to record your progress. If you’ve encountered setbacks while trying to achieve an important goal you may be feeling discouraged. When you feel like you’re losing your motivation to keep moving forward it’s a good idea to take out your journal and look back at the progress you’ve already made toward the achievement of your goal.
- A journal is evidence of past success. Before you start working on a new goal it’s a good idea to sit back with some of your old journals and read about your past successes. This will help motivate you to get to work on the new goal with a feeling of certainty that—just as you’ve been able to achieve other goals in the past—you’ll be able to achieve it.
- Having a set time during which you’re going to write about your goals each day keeps you accountable. Knowing that at the end of the day you’re going to have to sit down and write about what you did that day to move you closer toward the achievement of your goals is a great motivator to get you to do what you’re supposed to be doing. You can even pretend that your journal is an accountability report which you have to hand in to a supervisor.
- Writing about your goals helps you to uncover hidden fears that may be holding you back, as well as limiting beliefs. A lot of the time we can’t see how we’re holding ourselves back. Writing can help you to get in touch with a deeper part of yourself and bring stuff to the surface that you didn’t even realize was there. Once you’ve brought your hidden fears and limiting beliefs to the surface, you’ll be able to deal with them. A journal can help you gain self-awareness and bring your blind spots within your visual range.
- A lot of the time we know what we want, but we don’t know how we’re going to get it. Your journal can serve as a brainstorming tool for coming up with steps you can take in order to achieve your goals.
- Writing about your goals helps you to identify possible obstacles that you may encounter, and create an action plan on how you’ll deal with those obstacles when they arise. Then, when an obstacle does appear across your path, you won’t be caught off guard. Instead, you’ll know how to deal with it.
- A journal can help you to keep the ball rolling. The last thing you should do before closing your journal for the day is to give yourself an assignment. That is, identify what you’re going to do the following day in order to move your goal along.