What are my goals:short term? long term? academic goals? life goals?
How do these goals relate to my values?
How are these goals helping me achieve what I want in university and in my life?
What can I do when I'm not clear on other peoples' expectations?
What roles do I play? Which is the most/least significant in terms of demands on my time and energy?
Setting goals helps us determine a direction, assess whether or not we are on track, and provides an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements. Goals can reflect different time frames (short, mid or long-range) but are most useful when they are specific, measurable, and involve an action or concrete outcome. Some goals are realistic and others are idealistic, and keep us reaching for a high standard or level of thinking. Given the nature of grad school, it would prudent to be more realistic than idealistic when setting your goals. Ask how much you can really accomplish at one time. Being an over-doer hurts not only yourself but your loved ones, too. You might need to alter your expectations once you've done a thorough and realistic plan for yourself.
Expectations of professors, supervisors, and your department are not always clearly laid out. This can make goal setting and prioritizing abstract and, therefore, more difficult to do. It can also lead to working too much and not having a life and/or wasting a lot of time. Another problem might occur if there is dissonance between your goals and that of your supervisor or department. For example, your supervisor wants your thesis proposal done by the end of the term, but you feel this is unattainable and would like several additional months to complete it.
Grad students need to juggle competing demands placed on them from the multiple roles they play, both professional and personal. For some students recognizing the relative significance of goals and tasks can be difficult as everything feels important. However, all things are not created equally! With the immense number of tasks grad students face, prioritizing is a must. Sometimes priorities are set based on immediate need, the relative value of the task, how quickly a task can get done, your motivation, or the consequences of not doing something. To survive and thrive as a grad student you'll need to assess the importance of each task vis-à-vis your life values and your goals.
The process of goal setting can be viewed in a shape of a coffee filter: you start by thinking about what you value in your life and how these values translate into BIG picture, long term goals. Once you have done this, you will find that you have greater clarity to make good decisions in the short and medium term. Thinking at the macro level first will help guide your daily decision-making and ensure that the immediate goals you set are couched in your value system. Therefore, it is important to spend time considering what part your values play in your academic choices.
After you've listed your values, you may wish to convert one (or many) of your values into a goal. It's best if you write the goal out so it can be reviewed later. Use the SMART method of writing goals as described on the next page. After goal-setting you will need to put an action plan into play to activate and track your goal.
Set aside an hour or more to jot down your needs and desires for your program. Compare this list to the one you made last year. Are the goals the same? different? Are you satisfied with where you are now? If not, what changes do you need to consider?
Goals should be set at regular intervals, perhaps each month, throughout the term. Continuous assessment of term or academic year goals will help you stay on track with your weekly and daily goals. For guidance in writing useful goals, try using the SMART method.
Review your upcoming week. What tasks need to be accomplished and when? Set aside 30 minutes, for example each Sunday night, to prepare a list of goals for the week.
The ‘To Do' List
At the end of each day, set aside 5-10 minutes to prepare a ‘To Do' list for the upcoming day. While doing this, have your weekly goals at hand so you can compare and contrast bigger picture items with here-and-now tasks. If you find that the weekly and daily tasks collide, it is time to rethink and revise.
Some students find facing a ‘To Do' list stressful, especially when they cannot complete the tasks they previously set out. Instead of a motivator, the list provokes guilt and may lead to procrastination. If this is your situation, try compiling an "Unlist". Instead of writing a list of tasks prior to doing them, write down your tasks AS you complete them. The outcome of seeing a list of items accumulate can be very motivating. You may wish to continue adding completed items to your "Unlist" throughout the week, month, or term, whichever you find most useful.
There are a number of strategies and tools you can use to help prioritize your goals. Always refer to your course outline (especially learning objectives and evaluation sections) to see what the professor considers important. We have provided an array of techniques in the hopes that you will find one (or more!) that really works for you.
No matter what the stuff in your "inbox" is, you only have 4 choices:
Do it: If the task can be completed in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
Delegate it: Give the task to someone else to do. This might be troublesome if you hate waiting for something to be done by someone else.
Defer/Delay it: But make a plan as to exactly when you will deal with it.
Dump it: Your choice here!
Source: David Allen's "Getting Things Done" www.davidco.com
Categorize your goals into:
A: immediate/ must do
B: might do now but don't have to/ could do if time
C: nice but not likely to happen/ can be delayed
Mark each goal with an A, B, or C. Do the A goals now!