Goal setting

This resource describes goal setting is, and explains strategies to set goals.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is a process of determining objectives of what you would like to do and how you intend to complete it. Goals may be big and long term, for example, graduating from university, while others may be simpler and short term focused, for example submitting an assessment task.

Why set goals?

Setting goals will help you manage your responsibilities at university. Having clear goals will ensure you stay focused, motivated and on track with your assessment preparation and deadlines.

Through this process you may find it useful to engage in self-evaluation as you track the progress of your goal setting and update your goals over time.

NOTE: Different goals will work for different individuals, understanding your learning style may assist in setting personal goals.

How do I set goals?

Determine the timeframe for your goal

The first step is to consider whether your goal is short term or long term. An example of a longer term goal is one that reflects where you want to be in five years time, like what job you’d like to have when you finish your degree. Shorter term goals are more every day, and often help you work towards your long term goals, like completing each subject of your degree with a certain average.

Using the SMART goals strategy

There are many strategies and tools to assist in setting goals. A common strategy is the SMART goals strategy. The SMART system can help you identify what you want your goal to be and can assist in making it concrete and achievable.

S – ‘specific’
: the goal relates to something identifiable, rather than broader and general.

Example: I want to be able to attend or watch all of my lectures before the end of semester.

M – ‘measureable’: the goal has a way it can be measured t know if it has been achieved.

Example: I’ll spend 2 hours studying every Saturday afternoon.

A – ‘attainable’: the goal is realistic and achievable given the constraints of the task.

Example: I’ll study for 1 hour then take a break for 10 mins.

R – ‘realistic’: the goal is practical and a good representation of what could be done.

Example: I’ll aim for 5 marks higher in my exams this year than last year.

T – ‘time-bound’: a time-frame by which the goal will be achieved is included.

Example: I’ll graduate before the end of 2020.

Create a plan

Once you know what you want your goal to be you can work through the following process:

  • Identify potential obstacles and work out how to overcome. Pre-emptively considering what might stop you from completing your goals will allowed you to re-adjust them to overcome the issue. An example of an obstacle to graduating by 2020 is the potential for subjects to run in semesters that don’t match your schedule. In this case, you might have to look into summer session subjects or adjusting your goal of graduating by 2020 to graduating by the end 2021.
  • Establish sub-goals to work towards your bigger goal. Breaking down your big goal into smaller, more immediately achievable chunks will help you feel less overwhelmed and more on track with your progress.
  • Create a schedule or timeline to achieve your goals. You can integrate this schedule with your Office365 calendar to ensure you stay on track with your day-to-day tasks.
  • Focus on the present – and how you’re working towards achieving your goal in the now. Try not to focus too much on the lectures or deadlines you’ve missed. Focus on how you can achieve or adjust your goals from that point.

Evaluate your progress

It’s easy to set goals and lay out a plan and forget about it. Check in frequently with your schedule to see how you are tracking and evaluate whether you need to adjust your goals. Some ideas and suggestions for monitoring your progress are:

  • Have your goal written down where you can see it.
  • Keeping a tally of the goals you have completed.
  • Have friends or family check in with you to keep yourself accountable.
  • Graphing results and sticking them up where you can see them.
  • Celebrate when you achieve milestones.