Setting goals is half the job of meeting them

“I am able to meet the goals I set for myself.” That’s what students should be able to say confidently if they’re learning the essential study skill of goal setting. We will discuss this study skill as one of four in a series of articles sharing what Excellerate and More Than Scores And Tests teaches to support students for lifelong success and confidence.

So what’s the first step in goal setting? Before you even begin, survey the kind of work you have and the amount of each kind. Do you have to do some or a lot of reading? Is the reading heavy or light? Will you need to take notes?  If answering questions is involved, you’ll also need to take the time to understand the bigger picture. Whatever the job, consider the tasks involved as well as the steps and time required to complete each task. (You’ll need pen and paper for all this; or use the notepad on your phone or computer.)

Now, estimate how much of that work can be completed during the cycle or hour you allotted for yourself. Do you need more time to complete what must be done in order to stay on (or get ahead of) the schedule and meet due dates or deadlines? Record how long it actually took to complete a task; practicing this skill is essential for being able to accurately predict how much time is needed.

Your goals should be specific and clear. After plotting out the tasks and time involved in a job, you can better answer: What exactly do I aim to accomplish in this current unit or chapter during this cycle or hour? Decide what you can accomplish within your limited time and use that time well. As with all skills, this takes practice; you’ll get better at it!

In addition to knowing what to do and how, understand the “why” why this even matters the “big picture” of the current unit and questions. Knowing the relevance of what you’re doing will help with this essential, underlying goal: “Pay attention to tasks with persistence in spite of distractability, fatigue, or boredom.”

Take a minute to address possible distractions: Silence your phone and set it face down on a surface out of arm’s reach. Set up shop in a quiet, low- or no-traffic area. Close any browser window with content unrelated to the job or task at hand.

Choose a work time when you’re energized; or do something to reenergize yourself before working. If you’re bored, entertain yourself; try singing your vocabulary words, stretching while memorizing formulas, or reading dry passages aloud in a silly voice.

Taking time to reflect on your own learning is just as important as learning academic subject matter. You can learn from your successes— what worked and what you can do even better. Be aware of your weaknesses and be flexible enough to adapt your goals and your plans to reach them. Adapting your goals is not excusing you from meeting the original ones you set. Rather, you adjust your goals based on a more accurate understanding of your own learning, growth, and abilities.

We want Excellerate and More Than Scores And Tests students to be able to say: “I am able to set realistic goals, think and plan how to meet the goal, and I am able to persist with positive motivation and focus. I am able to synthesize and reflect on my own learning.”

This article is part of a Study Skills Series. Read the first article, “What works better than just being ‘smart’?” Parents can get equipped to support their students in strong study skills at a free seminar on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Through a method developed at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Innovation Lab, our academic coaches teach essential study skills in Excellerate, an innovative K-8 math and reading and enrichment program. To find out more about Excellerate, visit excellerate.studio.

More Than Scores And Tests offers a sought-after “Essential Study Skills” course and teaches study skills as a key part of ACT and SAT test prep services; to learn more visit morethansat.com.

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