Smart Goals

Image by Seb Tiburzio

Start of a new academic year, start of new ambitions and goals. So reposting this…:)

“A goal is a dream with a deadline”
Napoleon Hill

If there’s no deadline for your brilliant idea, you can only ever talk about brilliant potential.

It may seem like the whole of your University career is one long deadline – especially at the beginning. (Hopefully it is a dream as well). But as the Chinese philosopher Lao-tsu said in the 6th century BC:  Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You have to break down the mountain into a thousand small rocks, and tackle each rock, rock by rock. So while getting a degree is the long term mountain you have to climb, completing years 1, 2 and 3 at a minimum are the medium term boulders and the short term rocks are handing that assignment in by next week.

Even shorter term, break down your assignment into manageable pebbles. e.g. get hold of the readings…gather your notes…plan your structure…write a paragraph with a topic sentence, include some evidence (from your reading), write a linking sentence. Every task can always be broken down into smaller sub-tasks and if you are having trouble getting going, figure out and write down the sub-tasks (this last bit is important – don’t just think them out).

Setting smart goals is another way to actually get a dream happening. The SMART acronym goes like this:

Specific: I will write scene 1 of 100 scenes in the thirteen chapters of my block buster novel (so far so good)
Measurable: yes (there will either be concrete evidence of a written scene or there won’t)
Achievable: yes, because one scene will take me three hours
Realistic: probably not, as I don’t have three hours spare at the moment…(some say this letter should stand for Relevant. Writing the block buster may not be relevant to your Philosophy assignment)
Time-bound: um…I will try to do this by…um…I have an essay I should do first.

If you can’t fit the goal ito a smart goal framework it probably falls down on one of the levels – it’s either not specific enough, you can’t measure whether it happens or not, or it is not realistic or achievable. Or it simply doesn’t have any kind of time frame on it.

Try it – ok, a bit boringly – for an assigment:

Specific: I will get hold of the required readings and highlight relevant points for my essay. (NOT I will maybe take a look at MyUni…)
Measurable: yes, if I get hold of the readings  (or no if I don’t get hold of them)
Achievable: yes, because they are sitting there waiting to be downloaded or copied  (I just have to do it…)
Realistic/Relevant: yes (it’s not unreasonable for my teachers to require this of me…)
Time-bound: I will do this by the end of this week. Yes! I will.

Here’s a  SMART goals template to turn your brilliant ideas, hopes and dreams into real projects.

There are more study tips on UniThrive as well as useful learning guides on the writing centre website. Also try Unilearning for general academic writing information.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

– Mark Twain


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2 Responses

  1. Steven says:

    Great article Jane! Story of my life

  2. Rebecca says:

    I think weekly to do lists are the best idea! What I tend to do is organise my semester once the course timetables and course guidelines are out. If you put in all your assignment dates first, you can then break the assignments down into components and give yourself informal deadlines. For example, if you have an assignment due in week 5, you could give yourself until week 3 to do all the required research and reading, then one week to compose a draft, then another week to polish it off.

    … Of course, I say that, but the big problem with informal deadlines is that they’re easy to keep pushing back until suddenly there’s 24 hours left and 2000 words to write!

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