Not Sticking to Your Goals? Try Writing Them Down
With summer rearing its head, many of us college students are starting to find ourselves finally able to step back and relax a little bit. Students spend all semester juggling their classes, homework, exams, maybe a job (or two) and then having social lives on top of that.
The fact that you can finally sleep in and lounge around with no need to worry about whether or not you have a paper due, or if your work schedule conflicts with your exam schedule, is great. I definitely recommend taking advantage of that for a couple days!
However, this behavior can also lead to getting yourself into a potentially poor routine throughout the rest of summer and eventually back into the semester. A broken routine is what makes it so difficult to readjust when it comes time to get back into classes and a crazy schedule. This is why the ability to set goals for yourself is such an essential skill.
During the summer time, there is a lot of freedom to practice goal setting and become motivated to follow through on your goals. This way, when you’re back to your juggling act, you’ll already have the skill set you need to dominate the semester.
The idea of goal setting might seem easy, and you’ve probably been doing it one way or another for years. With that said, goals come in all sizes and many of us start out with those that are far too ambitious.
But it’s actually important to start small– really small. Think of a few, between three and five, goals that aren’t super ambitious and write them down. Notice how “writing them down” is in bold and italic, as it’s really important!
Writing down your thoughts is a great way to remember tiny details. More importantly, it is very satisfying to cross things off of any kind of list. (Trust me on this one, as a person who makes probably twelve lists a day). When coming up with these goals, don’t overthink it and don’t worry if your list looks like a to-do list at first. For example, your first goal might be: “go to Target and buy a journal.” The point is to get into the habit of writing down what you want and need to get accomplished.
Once you get a few ideas down, start working through them one by one. Check off the goals that you have the most control over, or that will be the easiest to finish. This will keep you feeling accomplished by getting something done, rather than discouraged over a tiny “failure.” Once you complete this list, start a new one! It might seem repetitive but going through the motions is how we learn, and pretty soon you’ll be so used to this technique that you could do it in your sleep.
Once you start getting into this habit, you can start adding in larger goals that are more long-term. Note that it’s valuable to be aware of what you want to get out of these larger goals. A good way to do this is to write each one on a separate piece of paper and then add how you are going to get it done and what you will get from it when it is completed. A tip is to put the intended outcome in parentheses after the said goal.
Finally, make sure to cross off or highlight each completed goal in your list. As mentioned before, it’s super satisfying to see what you’re getting done even if you may not think it’s very important. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the big things we have to do, so allowing yourself to visually interpret what you’re accomplishing (no matter how small) is an awesome feeling.
Like I said before, this may all seem really easy, and you’re probably thinking that you’re a pro already (maybe this is true as I don’t know you). However, for a lot of people (myself included), start off with goals that are way too big and end up completely overwhelmed.
For example, I played volleyball for about six years until I tore my ACL during senior year of high school, and since then haven’t played competitively. Before my injury, I would work out about ten hours each week. Once I stopped playing, though, I stopped working out consistently and at that level. This past year, when I decided I wanted to start consistently working out again (mind you, I stopped playing five years ago so it’s been awhile), I did a really good job of keeping up with my workout goals for about three weeks over winter break. And then school started again…and I wasn’t doing such a great job of keeping up with my workout goals anymore.
Of course I made myself feel terrible about my setback because I felt like I was being “unhealthy.” In retrospect, though, I didn’t need to feel that bad about it at all, because in reality I was a healthy eater and walked to and from school Monday – Friday. After putting this into perspective, and thinking concretely about why I wanted to go to the gym, it was really just because I missed the competitive piece of working out at a competitive level. My realization caused me to change how I was looking at my fitness goal and modify it so that it better fit what I wanted in the long term.
Another mistake we make when we first start writing down our lists of goals is trying to check off too many things at once. This sounds contradictory to what I said before about crossing things off eagerly, but it’s important to know your limits.
Think about what you’re putting on your lists and how that fits in with the rest of your day or week. A good way to make sure you’re not putting too much on your plate is getting some kind of planner/journal combo, which can allow you to check what you have going on and then see what you can realistically get done in the time you actually have.
The practice of goal setting can seem overwhelming for some. For others, it may seem too basic of a practice. But giving these simple steps a try can help motivate you to accomplish goals and continue improving both in school and your personal life. Take it from me, an admittedly very disorganized person in many aspects of my life, taking the time to write down your goals and cross them off once you’ve accomplished them can help you get your act together for school and many other planned future endeavors!