It works. Let’s start there. Goal setting helps you focus your actions to accomplish that goal. Fact is that goals increase your performance, especially when you are setting yourself tasks. If goal setting is a part of your daily life when you are studying, you accomplish two things:
- Every day you will know what to do
- Every day you can measure your progress
We all understand why this helps your performance. When you start the day knowing what you want to get done, you don’t need to spend any time figuring out what needs to get done, you can immediately focus on how you are going to complete the task. That saves you a lot of time and decision making effort.
In other words, you become more efficient, in both your time and your activities.
You also know the starting point at the beginning of the day; what tasks did I set myself today? Looking back at this starting point gives you direct feedback on your performance, another key element in both motivation and learning.
Just do it. If a simple tool like this can save you so much time and effort, are you doing it every day? At least on the days that you study, right?
But just doing it seems to be the hard part. That is where personal leadership, your ability to coach and move yourself towards your goals, becomes important.
Goals setting is an easy skill to acquire. Rather than turning your life into a set of to do’s or tasks, think about your long term vision, the bigger picture, for example:
“In three years I want to graduate from my bachelors degree.”
This goal is clear enough for a long term goal: three years, graduate, bachelors degree, and gives you enough direction to focus your activities per term:
“My bachelor consists of 9 terms; in order to graduate in three years, I need to pass all courses in every term, starting today.”
The breakdown of the long vision into actions you can take today and in the near future are crucial steps in goal setting; graduation is far away, term 1 is now.
You can now connect your long term vision, through your understanding of what you need to do, to a short term vision:
“I will pass the three courses in term 1, and I am aiming for a score of 75/100 on average over the three course.”
The next question you ask yourself is: what do I need to do to pass the three courses in term one? Per course, you can break down these tasks into weekly and daily actions; making your progress in learning measurable for yourself.
Certainly if you do this every day during a term, consciously or unconsciously, you will finish your courses and pass your exams easily.
That makes sense. It sure does! Certainly you understand it, but do you know it? To me, to know means that I do not only get the concept but apply it to my daily life; not in everything mind you (balance people, balance!) but when I need to get things done, and done properly, goal setting is a great tool.
It ties into your motivation psychology, and the link is very simple. If I say, Let’s run a marathon in two months, you might say: Are you crazy! But if I say, lets go for a 30 minute jog, 3 times a week, you might say: sure, I can do that.
Once you start jogging for thirty minutes, something changes. After 4 or 5 jogs, you can jog for 45 minutes, maybe even break into a run for a bit. After three weeks of jogging, you notice you are going faster and your general fitness seems to improve.
If then I say, lets practice to run a10K run, you might say: sure, I can actually train to do that. And so the virtuous cycle moves you forward.
Drawing the bigger picture, like running a marathon, is helpful, because it gives you a sense of direction: That is why I am putting effort into this. But breaking down the big picture into smaller steps and realizing that taking these steps brings you closer to the big picture, that is what will keep you going until you get there! Or at least get close to where you wanted to be.
Going course, by course, term by term, is like going kilometer by kilometer in a run. Every step, every chapter, brings you closer to the finish line.
Some people are driving east looking for a sunset. Setting a top three of things that you want to get done every day is easy. Following through on them is something you can learn to do. Connect the three things you get done every day to what you want to accomplish in life, and you will find a lot of energy, every day again, to keep going at it – even when things get tough.
Goal setting makes sense to me for a number of reasons. When was the last time you looked at your to do’s for today in terms of the bigger picture for your student life?
P.S. Obviously the sun sets in the west…