The start of a new academic term is a great time to set yourself goals and look forward to things you want to achieve over the next ten weeks. The act of setting the goals, however, usually seems like the easiest part of the whole process, with actually reaching your goals often being the real challenge. How many times have you set yourself a resolution, only to lose your motivation a few weeks later? Here’s some ways you can set an effective goal, that will stick right through to week 10 and beyond.
Take some time for reflection
The biggest mistake that many people make is setting a goal that is too ambitious. The best way to avoid this is by looking back at what you achieved in term one. If you know you want to read more books, setting yourself a goal to read twenty books this term when you only managed to read one last term probably isn’t going to work. Managing your expectations is key to keeping your motivation and sticking to your goal. If you want to give yourself the best chance of reaching your target, personalise your goals to exactly what is an achievement for you.
Use Positive Language
While it’s really helpful to write down your goals, it’s easy to feel unmotivated to work towards them, if they are based on what you are giving up. Rather than ‘I want to be less stressed’ try setting your goal as ‘I want to be more stress-free’. Focus on the positives you are gaining by setting these goals, rather than what you are losing.
Measure your steps
You’ve set a goal, great! But how do you actually achieve it? Setting yourself a new target can be pretty daunting to start with, which is why it is vital to set out some measurable ‘stepping stones’ on the path towards your goal.
For example, if you know you want to be more stress-free:
- STEPPING STONE: I will plan my week every Monday morning, highlighting when I am going to work on assignments, so I feel on top of my deadlines
- STEPPING STONE: I will set aside at least thirty minutes a day to do an activity I enjoy
- STEPPING STONE: I will go for a 20-minute walk at least 3 times a week
Having these stepping stones makes your targets feel more achievable and keeps you motivated to work towards them!
Plan for obstacles
It’s key to plan ahead and mitigate any obstacles that could pop up in the future weeks. Do you already know that you have a big deadline in week 3? You could make a note now that you will need to plan your time more carefully at the start of that week, to ensure that you are on top of all of your deadlines, while also making time to work towards your goals.
Assign a benefit to your goals
We don’t choose our goals for no reason, there’s always a benefit that we want to achieve by doing them. Writing down your motivation for each goal can really help you on ‘down-days’ where you’re struggling to remember why you set the goal to begin with. For example, if your goal is to do additional reading for a module this term, you might write down ‘this module covers many topics I am interested in, doing the additional reading makes me feel more engaged in seminars and helps me to get the most out of the hour’.
Pick yourself back up!
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently’ – Henry Ford
If you fall behind on your goals, don’t give up! Tomorrow is another opportunity to work on them. Take some time to review what went wrong and look at ways you can avoid these obstacles in the future.