Are you setting the right goals? Probably not...

Posted on 11 September 2017 by Nick Chubb

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of goal setting on this blog, particularly when it comes to distance learning. We’ve talked about SMART goals and setting clear goals to avoid procrastination, but we haven’t talked about making sure you’re setting the right type of goal to achieve results and the truth is you probably aren’t.

There are two types of goals you need to consider if you want to be successful in your studies; end goals, and process goals:

  • Your end goal is where you’re going, it should be results oriented, SMART, and attainable in the medium to long term. (Eg. Pass GCSE Maths next summer)
  • Your process goals are the steps you will need to to take each day to get there. (Eg. Work through the GCSE maths textbook for 30 minutes every day).

Most people set their end goal, but they then have no idea how they’re going to achieve it which is a bit like heading out on a long journey without directions; You know where Edinburgh is, you can even point to it on a map, but without knowing which road to drive along or what train to take you’ll struggle to get there. If you don’t map out the process you need to go through to attain your end goal, you’ll get lost along the way.

We all know where Edinburgh is, but we wouldn’t leave the house without checking the directions. Studying is no different.

Once you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, it becomes much easier to do something about it. Both your end goals and your process goals need to be written down. According to research by Dave Kohl of Virginia Tech University, just 5% of people write their goals down, but you are 9 times more likely to be successful if you do.

Here’s how we suggest you use your new goal structure:

  1. Write down your end goal and the process goals you will need to achieve to get there. Post it somewhere you will see it every day: on a bulkhead, on top of your laptop, on the fridge, it doesn’t matter where it is, as long as you see it every day and can mentally check off the process goals as you do them.
  2. Block out time. Use your calendar or planner and block out time each day or week to complete the process goals, ideally you want to complete your process goals as early in the day as possible to stand the best chance of succeeding. Once the time is blocked out, honour it as if it was an important meeting with a Senior Officer.

Netflix will always be more appealing than Calculus but if you carefully plan your process goals and are disciplined in your approach to them you will be amazed how much progress you will make towards your end goals in a short space of time.