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Goal Setting: The importance of making SMART goals as a student

Hey LifeSci, my name is Pierce Razzaque, one of this year's VP socials!

The fall term is nearly over, and amidst the many assignments and midterms you may be thinking, have I reached my goals I set for myself?

You have and likely will continue hearing about the importance of setting and trying to meet goals repeated by everyone from your parents, friends, professors, and scrolling through social media motivational reels repeating the same thing over and over. Developing goals using the SMART goal-setting model is a solution I have used (long-time readers of the blog may remember them briefly being mentioned in a blog post from April 16 2021-Accountability buddies- a great read or re-read if you have already read it)! Anyway what are SMART goals you ask?

To start, here is a nice summary table from the University of California How to Guide on SMART goals:



What will be accomplished? What actions will you take?



What data will measure the goal? How much? How well?



Is the goal doable



How does the goal align with broader goals? Why is the result important?



What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal?

So now that we’re on the same page let’s get into it!

S - Specific What and why of your goal?

A good goal needs to be concrete, specific, and defined from the start. If your goal is too vague you (ex be a better student) you will find reaching your goal difficult. An example of a specific goal would be wanting to make more lunch/meals so you can save money and not buy food on campus this term.

M - Measurable The how you’ll know if you reached it/making progress

So you have a targeted goal that is not too wishy-washy, now how are you going to measure your progress? Will you keep a journal log? A calendar that has check boxes? There are many tools for ensuring you can measure the progress of your targeted goal and to help you know if you accomplished the goal or not. Here are some questions to track your progress towards a goal: What score did I get on that midterm? How many times did I bring a lunch on campus instead of buying food last week?

A - Achievable Is this doable?

Have you ever thought that seems impossible to be that involved in research + extracirriculars while being a full-time student? How do they manage their schedule and achieve some very impressive things?

The key is thinking through how attainable something would be with the resources or constraints/challenges you may face. Setting an unachievable goal, ignoring limitations of your resources may be setting your self up for failure; so be sure your goal is achievable before investing too much time into the goal. Essentially be gentle with yourself and think whether a goal is doable for you or maybe needs to be altered to be made more achievable.

R - Relevant / Realistic

This may seem like one of the easiest parts of your goal when you are making it, right? Not quite! From my experience this can be one of the hardest parts as you do not grasp the extent of the challenge or task until you start or what you hope to gain in reaching that goal. ls running a marathon in 6 months to be more active? Making elaborate dinners/meals everyday to be healthier? Are these goals realistic? Or will they take away from other aspects of your life? Realistic/relevance is important to ensuring you’re working towards reaching a useful goal. It also ensures you’re not overextending yourself and sacrificing time for other very important things + goals in life (self-care, sleep, time with friends + family, etc)!

T - Time-specific Is the timeline sensible?

Well making a goal with these components is important, without a defined start and end point the chances of you achieving your SMART goal(s) are very low. For example, a goal could be you want to stay under budget on all your student house supplies and groceries so you can save money for a trip at the end of the academic year. When would you start this and for how long would you trial is important. Making it time-specific allows you to trial your goal and then adjust if things are not going to plan.

How can SMART Goals help you now or in the future?

The fall term is nearly over and with exams approaching, making SMART goals may help you finish strong and/or reset for next term or beyond! Thanks for reading and good luck getting through the rest of your coursework this term and with exams!

Below are some more good resources about SMART goals. Lastly, feel free to reach out with questions or if you want to share your SMART goals!

Some more resources:

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