Learning to manage one’s time effectively and to set appropriate and reachable goals is important for becoming a successful student. Setting goals will help you to become more effective in your academic life and career, and balancing your goals every day will help ease stress.
Each of us is motivated by something, whether it is the desire to excel academically, find a better paying job, or simply learn. This motivation is what helps gear us every day to do the sometimes difficult tasks we face on the road to success.
By understanding our motivations, we can stay motivated to reach our goals even when we feel stressed or rushed. But how do we go about this?
First, evaluate your motivation. What do you want to achieve by attending school? Why is achieving this important? Think on a larger scale and get more specific. For example, if your motivation is to start a new career, begin examining why this change is important to you.
Do you want to make more money? Maybe it’s to provide a better lifestyle for your family. Do you want to work in a particular field? Why? Begin making a list of goals and personal motivations.
Secondly, once you’ve evaluated why you want to achieve your goals, think about what the needs are to achieve them. Think in terms of a large, medium, and small scale. In addition, these goals might be set for the short-, mid-, or long-term. You must prioritize your goals by importance; larger goals can be divided into smaller goals.
This will help keep your goals in focus and manage them so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Using the acronym SMART is a great way to keep your goals in focus. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. The goals you set for yourself, no matter how big or small, should be specific. Avoid making vague statements like “I’d like to do well in school.” Instead, define what well means and specify what that would look like. A specific goal would be “I’d like to maintain a 3.8 grade point average.”
In addition, your goals must be measurable. As mentioned above, your goal must be specific so you know exactly what the manifestation of your goal will look like. You must also consider how you will measure if you’ve reached your goal. Using specific numbers or deadlines can help you measure your goals. Remember that your goals must be attainable. Setting goals that are impossible to achieve or have an unreasonable deadline will only be discouraging. Creating small, manageable tasks that lead up to a larger goal is the best way to stay motivated and achieve your goals.
Setting goals that are not relevant to your larger goals or do not provide any sense of accomplishment is also counterproductive. If you have many small goals that relate to your home life, when all your larger goals pertain to your career, you may end up feeling discouraged and may not accomplish all you’d like to. Try to tie your goals to a timeline. If you do not accomplish a task in full by the end of your timeline, you can always continue with a new timeline, but providing a deadline for yourself will help keep you motivated and accountable.
Once the goal is reached, use small motivators that are important to you to keep spirits high and moving toward your major goals. The small motivators can be something as simple as an ice cream sundae after a major project, or a nice dinner after completing a course. Whatever the motivator, make sure that it motivates you to keep at the task at hand. Remind yourself often of the goals you have set for yourself and the rewards you have set up along the way to keep it at the forefront of your thought process.
Once you have your SMART goals, there are many ways you can note and keep track of your goals. Staying organized will help you reduce stress and track more easily. If you are organized and prioritize important tasks first, you can avoid the stress of having to constantly address issues and last-minute problems. Being organized can also help you avoid missing details or important information in a task, which could result in having to repeat the task or spend more time fixing an error.
Use all tools available, including technology where appropriate, to help organize these goals. Today’s smartphones are a great way to organize your goals and keep track of the timelines set to accomplish them. They are with you all the time and allow you to make changes and updates quickly. More traditional day planners are another way you can stay organized with your goals. Whatever method works for you, stay diligent and you will find it beneficial to the success of your SMART goals.
Spend quality time on a task and you will be less likely to have to fix it later on. Don’t spend your time making lists of daily tasks like brushing your teeth; instead, focus on tasks or goals you’d like to achieve. This can be daily, short-, mid-, and long-term goals. Break down your time into intervals, with time set aside for specific tasks. Leave time at the end of your day to address tasks that may have come up that are not in your schedule or to address tasks that had to be moved to accommodate an urgent matter.
When determining what time to spend on what task or goal, it is important that you understand when you do your best work. If you are a morning person, consider scheduling more difficult tasks and goals around this time, rather than in the evening when you are tired. Maybe you do great work in the afternoons. Try to arrange your schedule so you can complete tasks around this time. Not only will your work quality be better, you will be more efficient in completing it.
Some people choose to do a daily journal, noting their progress on each of their goals. Others might make to-do lists, which they can check off with each completed goal. In addition, you might find a calendar system helpful. Try out a variety of methods to see which works best for you. Sometimes a combination of methods might end up being best. There is no right way to track and manage your goals, but finding a method that works for you is important for success.