How to Set (Study) Goals and Actually Achieve Them

Setting goals increases productivity, as you work towards something, which gives motivation. Setting goals also gives more structure and therefore discipline in our life. These goals can be related to anything you want. I will give you some tricks of how to set goals and tell you about mine.

Tricks for setting goals 

Use the SMART technique.

When writing down the goals, take a look at the SMART-principle.
S – specific 
The goal is simple and clear.
M – measurable 
Under how much/many of your requirements is the goal reached? Writing this down gives motivation.
A – attainable/ambitious 
Be realistic and not too strict. Being ambitious is good, but overambitious will often lead to disappointment.
R – relevant 
Does it really matter to reach the goal? Is it worth taking the effort (now)?
T – time bound
Set goals for different periods of time; goals for the upcoming week, month, year, 5-years etc. Set a target date/period for more structure.

Set priorities

Within the list of goals, write down the goals that are the most important and therefore have the highest priority, so that future you knows what to work on more/harder. 

Make categories

Creating categories within your list of goals gives a better overview of your list and can therefore feel less overwhelming. Examples of these categories are studying/school/university, exercising, career/job, social life, mental health/taking care of yourself, budget related, etc.

Break larger goals into smaller ones

This follows the previous trick. Breaking larger goals into different smaller goals gives more structure to your list and helps in achieving the ‘main goal’.  For example your goal is to pass the math course you will be following from February to April. Smaller goals could then be to:
– Go to all lectures
– Practice at least one hour a day
– Make at least three practice tests within the week before the exam

Find a balance in easy / difficult goals

It is important set both more easy and more difficult goals. Easy goals give you a good feeling when you achieve them, but achieving difficult goals make you more proud. Difficult goals challenge you , but not achieving the goal because it was too difficult leads to disappointment. So include both of them on your list.

Reflect at the end of the period

Which goals did you achieve? If you did not achieve all of them, what could you do better the next time? Not setting the goal at all or prioritize it more? Ask these kinds of question to yourself, which helps in setting the goals for the following period.

Setting goals myself

I usually make goals at the end of the summer holiday for the next study year, feeling all refreshed. Of course, also during Christmas break/New Year’s Eve there are the well-known resolutions, and sometimes I also make these up, but it depends. The summer before third year of university, (part of) my goals included:

– Getting my bachelor’s degree at the end of the year (which should be, looking at the past two years, reasonable (including retakes) within a year from now)
– Completing my bachelor’s degree with 7.0 – 8.0 average (In the Netherlands, there is a 1-10 scale). Over the last two years, my average was around 7.5, so this also should be reasonable.
– Choosing master’s degree to do next year, if everything goes well
– Keep the balance in studying: work hard, keep structure, but do not put too much pressure on yourself and do (enough) fun times / give yourself rest.
– If you have time and feel like it (although university work will probably be more than enough), do some extra learning, as improving English/German, coding, excel, graphic design and painting.

– Try to do your student job a bit more (tutoring at a high school), but university stays the priority.
– Look for extra tutoring on university for math/statistics.

– Go to athletics every Wednesday night, and if you are free, on Monday.
– Slowly building up to a half marathon, but more important: do not get injured!

Social life 
– Take initiatives to contact people, to meet up etc.

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