It’s that time again. It’s time for a new year, time for some new goals, time to revamp and make the most of the changes. Goal setting for students and parents alike goes by a common name: New Year’s Resolutions.
So what is your resolution this year? Weigh less? Fix your golf swing? Read more books? Eat better? Make better grades? Get a job? Get into college? Get a girlfriend?
Or maybe you’re like me. I didn’t make one.
I personally gave up on new year’s resolutions a while ago. Mostly it was because I never kept them. It just seemed weird to me to make a “resolution” and then not keep it. If you are “resolved” to do something, it seems like you should give more than a week and a half to it. I just never was able to do it, so I quit.
But I didn’t quit setting goals. In fact, I am ten times the goal setter today (post-new-years-resolution) than I was when I would make a bunch of resolutions at the beginning of the year.
So does goal setting still matter for students?
Oh yes, goal setting is a tremendously important skill for students. Few things matter more. And there is no time like January for revamping your goal-setting approach. We humbly submit these four student goal setting tips. We don’t do this as experts per se, but rather as people who have read the experts a lot. Guys who are much smarter goal setters and productivity experts say similar things to what you are about to read. So, here’s the four tips.
Goal setting for students tip #1: Set some goals.
Yes, this may be simple. But it’s important.
Few students actually take the time to ever set goals. That’s not recommended. Set goals. We highly recommend that every student at least make an effort to set some goals.
Notice that we “highly recommend” setting goals. Were more students doing this, we might only slightly recommend it. But as the situation stands today, we highly recommend it.Having some sort of goal setting rhythm will become for students a vital part of their success.
I do this at least quarterly. I look over my goals, see how they’re going, make adjustments to old goals, set some new ones and try to stay on track. I’ve found this approach to be loads more productive than making a yearly gung ho effort at a new resolution. We’ll explain this in more detail as we go, but, for now, just decide that you’ll set a goal. Start there and see what happens.
Goal setting for students tip #2: Shorten your goals.
Next, shorten your goals.
Really? Shorter goals are better? What about goals like, “become a doctor,” or “graduate from college,” or “buy a car.” Aren’t those kinds of long-term goals good?
Those are all admirable. Have those kinds of goals. But do your best to shorten them up.
Too frequently goal setting for students becomes dreaming about having better grades or a cool job. We want to move past long-term goals. 10-year plans, 5-year plans, and 1-year plans sound nice, but aren’t helpful… unless shortened. John Maxwell talks about goals in terms of steps towards growth, and if our goals are too far out in the future, we’ll not make the most of them.
If you have a one-year goal, break that into 2 six-month goals. Then, make your six-month goals monthly goals. If you know what you’re aiming at for the month, you can then break that into weekly goals. And if you know what you need to do for the week, you can set out daily goals.
That’s really effective goal setting for students: make long-term dreams go to work for you through daily goals (you can check out our online study skills course for more instruction on how this works).
I find that outlining a plan for year helps, but I have to then break it down by quarter. Once I know my direction for 3 months, I can effectively create my daily goals (which are by and large the most important).
Goal setting for students tip #3: Stretch your goals.
After learning how to break your long-term dreams down into short-term, nuts-and-bolts, do-work daily goals, it’s time to stretch those goals.
No one grows without stretching.
I used to coach high school swimming in North Carolina. I’d have to push some of my swimmers every once and a while, because both stretching and growing hurt. During one particularly difficult set of exercises, I had some athletes quit on me for the set. They said they couldn’t finish it. I politely “suggested” they could, and that they should put their head down and do it anyway.
They survived. They finished the set. And they had the best meet of their lives the following weekend.
Set goals that force you to grow. Whether this is limiting the time you give yourself to complete the goal, or pushing yourself to do something you don’t think you can do, stretching is fantastic. And don’t worry if you don’t complete that particular goal.
Missing a goal isn’t failure. Not trying is failure.
Note what this doesn’t mean: be insanely radical.
As a rule, small course corrections along the way make a much bigger difference than radical changes made annually. It’s a myth to think you can change everything all at once and expect lasting results. Small differences are much better, but be willing to stretch on those differences.
Goal setting for students tip #4: Write your goals down.
Writing it down makes it real.
After you’ve written a goal down, you can’t convince yourself you never said it. It’s right there staring you in the face. It can be on an index card. It can be with sharpie on the wall. It can be painted on your ceiling. I don’t care where it is. Just put it somewhere so that you’ll know that it’s real.
If you want to become a truly effective goal setter, you must write them down. There’s no getting around this one.
Now get to work – grab a pen and paper, you’ve got some goals to set! (And if you’re extremely brave, you can even write one down in the comments section of this blog. We would love to hear what goals our student readers are setting in the year 2014.)