It’s now a brand new year and there’s no time like the present to re-evaluate your goals for academic success and career planning. Setting goals is the process of defining where you want to go and the best way of getting there.
It’s easy to do and definitely worth taking the time! Here are some top tips to get started on defining your road map for next year.
First, establish goal categories such as:
- Academics: Set goals for the grades you want to earn in your classes and then work out a plan for how you will achieve those grades. Your plans will include study time spent each week, a plan for getting assignments in on time, and making time for tutoring sessions in classes where you need extra help.
- Career goals: Outside activities, jobs and internships will help you to learn more about your chosen career, make valuable contacts and put experience on your resume. If you want a summer internship, then start applying now.
- Relationships: Maintaining meaningful relationships takes effort so remember to plan for the time you’ll spend with the important people in your life.
- Other: What else are you interested in accomplishing next year? Do you want to achieve goals related to sports, fitness, hobbies or travel? Be sure to keep these goals in mind when planning ahead, too.
Master your goals
The Office of Human Resources at Dartmouth College recommends that you write down your goals and follow this simple scheme. Make sure that your goals are:
- M – Measurable: For example, you might want to raise your grade point average by at least one percentage point — this is easy to measure and realistic.
- A – Achievable (yet challenging!): Be sure to include goals for the short-term rather than only focusing on goals that will take longer than a year to achieve.
- S – Specific: Instead of just aiming for any internship, you might want to fine-tune your goal to include a description of the type of skills you’ll be learning or the location of the internship.
- T – Time-based: Setting a deadline helps to create a sense of urgency that keeps you motivated.
- E – Energizing: Go for goals that will keep you energized and inspired.
- R – Relevant: Aim for goals that will feed into your ultimate personal and career aspirations.
Be bold when setting your goals and think about what you really want. Washington State’s College Bound blog suggested, “A specific goal should answer the five ‘Ws’ by the time you’ve worked through it. What exactly do you want and why? Who might be involved besides yourself? Is there a specific location and when does this need to be completed. Use action words, be clear, and be specific.”
Put pen to paper
Michigan Tech’s Excelling the Student Experience of Learning (ExSEL) program helps students to clarify their goals with a set of activities (PDF) that can be easily accomplished using a pencil and note cards. The activities involve taking a set of questions and answering each one in a minute and then making a list of activities and goals. Here’s your first question, “How do you want to spend the rest of your life?” Quick, you’ve got a minute to decide!
Keep in mind that goals will fall into categories based on their time frame. Some goals will be immediate tasks that must be accomplished within the next month. Other goals are short-range say six months to a year, while others are long-term taking more than a year to accomplish. In an article titled, “Personal Goal Setting,” MindTools gives an example of how one could outline lifetime goals and then scale them back into one-week, one month, six-month, one-year, and five-year goals.
According to MindTools, “Set your lifetime goals first. Then, set a five-year plan of smaller goals that you need to complete if you are to reach your lifetime plan. Keep the process going by regularly reviewing and updating your goals. And remember to take time to enjoy the satisfaction of achieving your goals when you do so.”