Whether we realize it or not, goal-setting is something that we continuously engage in on a daily basis. But it is also something that tends to overwhelm us. Why? Because we often end up setting goals for ourselves that are unrealistic. And those unrealistic goals lead to us not being able to reach them. And not being able to reach them leads us to feeling guilty. And feeling guilty leads to decreasing motivation. And eventually, we just give up, letting this cycle go on and on. As we go about the semester with our Honors course loads and activities, creating practical goals, and actually following through with them, becomes absolutely essential for the efficient management of all of our time-consuming commitments. Personally, I have found that there are three things in particular that help with making sure that goals stay grounded, and thus, more reachable.
- Write them Down & Set a Timeline
Many times, we try to avoid writing things down out of laziness, thinking it’s okay because we can store it all in our minds. But as responsibilities continue to pile on one another, something is bound to be forgotten. Taking the extra minute to physically write out a list is beneficial not only because you’ll have everything in one place, but also because you are able to then release the mental pressure of attempting to embed all those things into your mind. That energy can then be channeled into truly achieving the goals themselves, rather than focusing on remembering them. Along with writing your goals down, attaching a deadline, even if it is a loose one, stimulates prioritization. We all have those moments where our to-do lists become so packed that we don’t know where to start. And those cases are when the previously set dates are most useful, as they serve as a factor that contributes to reordering lists in a way that ensures all deadlines are met. So start writing your goals out and set those timelines for them as well!
- Credit for Progress, Not Just End Results
Something we often get caught up in is caring only about the end result and paying no attention to the progress throughout. However, the problem in doing so is that we actually undervalue our advancements, whether that is getting through an assignment step by step, or studying for an exam chapter by chapter. To work through this issue, it’s best to start breaking things down into smaller sections. If an assignment has two parts, then separate it into two checkboxes. Once you get through the first one and can check it off, you’ll begin to feel accomplished, rather than feeling overwhelmed that there’s a full pending assignment. And that sense of accomplishment can also fuel motivation to quickly get through the second part as well. So start giving yourself credit for progress, not just end results!
- Don’t Overdo It
As I have mentioned here before, throughout the semester, I keep a rolling to-do list that is updated daily based on my schedule, deadlines, and exams. After countless times of seeing, and being overwhelmed by, a never-ending laundry list, I learned to start assigning less. Instead of allocating 6-8 things for the day, I would only write down 4-6, and then if possible, begin to work through more. How did this seemingly insignificant detail guide my goal-setting process? Visualizing only a few assignments every day made it easier to mentally map out a timeline for them and fully follow through with it. If I was able to get all of them done, then I was fully on track with the weekly schedule, and if I was able to get a couple additional things done as well, then I was also ahead. So stay calm and don’t overdo it!
All three of these helpful hints show that even though goal-setting can sometimes feel intricate and unattainable, it does not always have to be a super formal process. It only takes a few minor changes to switch from making unrealistic goals to those that are within reach.