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Here's why you need to set study goals this year and how to do it

By Michael Crump | 11 April 2016

Whether you’re already a student or thinking of taking up study, it’s all too easy to put off things. Days seem to get shorter and our to-do lists longer. Juggling social commitments, family time and earning a living seems like more than enough to handle. It’s easy now, more than ever, to get distracted and ‘procrastination’ seemed to be the buzzword of 2015.

So it’s easy to find yourself putting off personal goals because you are busy helping other people meet their needs, or you simply feel like your hands are full. Though the time for New Year’s resolutions is over, it is never too late to decide to set yourself study goals and aim to achieve them.

How Do You Set and Stick to Goals?

Here’s the thing; at the end of the day, you pick up an area of study because you want something. You might want to learn a new skill, or move your career in a particular direction. Perhaps you just want to challenge yourself, however big or small that challenge may be.

While study always requires hard work and self-discipline, it also offers the reward of immense satisfaction – after sitting at a desk for several hours there is no better feeling than submitting the assignment! When you set out to do something, and you do it well, it feels really good.

So, below are a few tips on how to set study goals for the year and how to make them happen.

Ask yourself what you hope to achieve

Take a few minutes, sit down at the kitchen table and write down what you want to learn or achieve this year. By documenting your goals, you are able to read it, absorb it, and return to this piece of paper whenever you need to. Writing down a goal helps to turn it into a reality. They may be big or small goals or just one goal. Everyone’s education path is different and we all have our own ambitions.

The next step is to write a list of things you can do to help yourself reach your objective. These are what you need to focus on. Choose one thing from this list that you are going to complete first. Baby steps!

There is no point in setting a goal without taking the time to plan how you will achieve it. Work through the list you’ve created, numbering each step in order of importance.

Figure out your priorities, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You can’t do it all at once!

Make a Choice

After all, setting goals is a decision making moment. In his eighth book, Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve your Goals, Michael Dobson explains, “We operate on a behavioural continuum that is dynamic and that includes three kinds of behaviours: assertive, aggressive, and passive”. Assertive behaviour is optimal for achieving goals.

It involves making decisions clearly and for your own benefit. He elaborates that passive behaviour may feel safe because it is low risk, but inaction is an action – postponing making a choice is really making a choice not to do something. Passive behaviour suppresses personal ambition by letting us avoid taking personal responsibility to set and achieve our goals.

Of course things like our environment and the people surrounding us affect our choices, but setting a study goal requires you to be assertive about where you want to go and what you want to achieve.

Use Your Time Effectively

Study does not have to mean days and nights spent bent over books, developing a Vitamin D deficiency because you so rarely see the light of day. You will be amazed what you can get done in an hour if you put your mind to it.

Everybody finds it hard to concentrate; some people have to take extra measures to find focus. A good balance is 20 minutes of focus followed by 5 minutes of rest. This might mean stepping out for some fresh air, or pausing for a well-deserved study snack.

There is no point in punishing yourself with hours of unfocused work that produces minimal results.

Find Balance

Undertaking study doesn’t mean sacrificing the enjoyment of every other aspect of your life. This may sound crazy, but education should be enjoyable. Allow yourself to go to dinner with your friends, or have a morning off. Work hard in the time you assign to study, so that you can enjoy your spare time guilt free.

Undertaking a certificate, diploma or bachelor is a long-term commitment. If you can make studying part of your lifestyle, and not a chore, you’ll find it rewarding. Flexibility is really important.

When working towards a long-term goal sometimes life gets in the way. It is important to make plans, write lists, set deadlines and targets, but it is equally important to accept that things won’t always go to plan and that’s okay. Some days you won’t be able to do it all, and other days you will.

Stay Motivated

In the midst of assessment and chaos it’s easy to forget why you’re studying in the first place, or what your goal is. It’s important to centre yourself and get back to basics. When you’re feeling unmotivated, tired, distracted or frustrated – because sometimes we all do – pause to remind yourself what you are working towards and why.

Pull out the piece of paper you first wrote your goals on and read it over a few times. Think about the things you have achieved so far. A lot of motivational advice sounds cliché, but it really is true that nothing good was ever easy.

It’s also true that you’re capable of a lot more than you think you are. You can read all the motivational blogs in the world but it always comes back to you deciding you want to achieve something and working towards your goal. When this hard work pays off, and you succeed in doing what you challenged yourself to, it’s one of the best feelings.

What Are Your Study Goals this Year?

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