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Use goal-setting to keep your resolutions

Workshops help students change their habits and manage their time
January 10, 2013
By Wendy Helfenbaum

Photo by Concordia University

Does this sound familiar? Driven to distraction by technology, friends, a job or other activities, you delay studying or tackling an assignment, certain you have plenty of time. Then suddenly, you’re cramming at the last minute, or desperately trying to write an essay the day before it’s due. This term, you vow, you won’t let that happen.

Sorry to burst your new year’s resolution bubble, but that lofty goal probably won’t happen, says Dale Robinson, manager of Counselling and Psychological Services at Concordia.

“A key element in achieving your goals is that they have to be realistic,” she says. “You might think they’re realistic, but if you have goals that are too difficult to achieve, it sets you up for failure right from the beginning.”

Robinson,and her colleagues within the other Counselling and Development units run a series of workshops beginning in mid-January – including Getting Organized and Using Your Time Efficiently, and Plan More, Stress Less – that address common roadblocks students hit when trying to manage their time, avoid procrastination and improve their academic effectiveness.

In one session, Ten Tried and True Goal-Setting Strategies, Robinson guides students through several steps.  “Obviously, goals that are quantifiable are easier to monitor, so if I have a goal of reading 30 pages a week, I can check how close I am at the end of the week,” she says. “If I’m reading a lot less, maybe I need some support, or maybe I’m not reading the right way. This tells me where I need to improve, or that maybe my goal is too ambitious given everything else that I have to do.”

Do break a goal into manageable chunks, suggests Robinson. “Some goals are easier to do that with than others. If you want to be a more successful student, then ask yourself: What are the component parts that I need help with – learning or studying strategies? Time management?”

Deciphering your style of procrastination is another biggie, adds Robinson. “What are your particular triggers? Are you prone to answering every single text, phone call or request from friends that comes in? Figure that out, then anticipate and plan for it,” she says. “If you’re going to study, put your phone away for two hours, or tell friends you’re not available for a certain time period.”

Because today’s student might be juggling studies, a part-time job and family duties, it’s best to see this process as a marathon, not a sprint. Knowing yourself and being honest are perhaps the most important keys, says Robinson. “You can’t fool yourself. If you’re checking in with yourself – even if it’s five minutes at the end of the week to see how you’re doing – then you’ll know where you’re running into trouble, or where you need to modify what you’re doing.”

Online registration began on January 3 on the Counselling and Development workshop web page.

Goal-setting tips that work:
•   Set a deadline. "Effective goals are defined, specific and measurable. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re on track?"
•   Get real. "How do you know if your goal is realistic? Go by what you’ve done before; use that as a baseline. I’ve known people who make a goal of running a marathon, but then do inadequate training, try to run and then harm themselves. For most of these goals, you have to build up to them." 
•   Be patient. “Behaviour change is not a linear thing, and the longer you’ve had a particular behaviour, the longer it can take to modify it. But if you chart how you do, then you’ll see improvement, just not always in a day-to-day way. Don’t get discouraged.”

Related links:
•   Counselling and Development 
•   Counselling and Development workshops web page 
•   Time Management Handouts
•   Setting career goals early in your academic career 
•   How to Succeed at Concordia

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