Setting and Achieving Graduate School Goals

Earning your graduate degree is a long-term goal that will require years of planning on your part, but you will have other goals during those years that will either coincide or conflict with your long-term goal of earning your graduate degree. Besides earning your graduate degree, your goals may include immediate goals (e.g., reading an article, taking out the trash) or short-term goals (e.g., passing a difficult course, spending time with friends). You will probably have other long-term goals in addition to achieving your degree (e.g., career goals, personal goals). It is easy to think briefly about goals that we would like to achieve and then to move on quickly to something else, never giving our goals another thought. Unfortunately, this method of setting goals does nothing to help us achieve them. To actually achieve the goals we set for ourselves, we must actively plan for and work toward our goals. You can use the following information to help you set and achieve immediate, short-term, and long-term goals.

How to Set Graduate School Goals

To set goals for yourself, you should first identify a few broad categories in which you want to achieve something (i.e., family, finances, career, etc.). After you have identified these categories, you should choose a few specific goals for each category. Now you can organize your goals in each category into immediate, short-term, and long-term goals. Once you have organized your goals in this way, then you can determine deadlines by which you would like to accomplish your goals. Finally, you should determine things that you can do to accomplish each goal and prioritize each activity for each goal.

How to Achieve Graduate School Goals

Now that you have identified and given deadlines to your immediate, short-term, and long-term goals and have developed and prioritized activities to achieve those goals, you can begin planning and scheduling your activities. First, you might want to keep a personal journal in which you record how you spend your time during each day over the course of one week. After a week, you should review your time journal to see how you spend your time each day, when you are most productive (morning, afternoon, or evening), and when you have downtime that you could utilize for something productive. Once you have established how you spend your time each day, you can use a schedule for set activities (perhaps a weekly, monthly, or yearly calendar), a planner with separate sections for different projects, and a to-do list. The following are some things you should remember about using a schedule, planner, and to-do list to maximize your use of time and to achieve your goals:

Schedule time for planning. Review your schedule daily, including your daily goals. Evaluate your schedule weekly, and adjust it when necessary. Your schedule will be useless unless you maintain it and keep it as accurate as possible.

Schedule time for unknowns. Set aside time each day, week, month, and even year for unknown circumstances (transportation problems, missed alarms, family emergencies, etc.). You cannot anticipate with certainty what the unknowns will be exactly, but you can anticipate that unknowns will arise. If you set aside time to deal with unknown circumstances before they arise, then you will be more flexible and better able to adjust your schedule without interrupting important activities that are necessary to achieving yourgraduate school goals.

Learn how to prioritize. Label items on your to-do list as low, medium, or high priority, and address those items accordingly. Keep your to-do list handy at all times. This will allow you to take care of tasks when you have appropriate–and perhaps unexpected–time for those types of tasks. For example, if you have your to-do list handy while you’re waiting at the bus stop, you can see what simple, low-priority task you can use that time for (e.g., returning your mother’s phone calls).

Divide, delegate, and finish tasks. Divide major projects into smaller steps so that you don’t have to do everything at once (e.g., instead of trying to create a 25-slide PowerPoint presentation in one night, you could divide the project across 5 nights, creating 5 slides per night). When possible, delegate whatever tasks you can to other people (e.g., ask your roommate or partner to take out the trash so that you can read your scheduled assignments). Finish one task in its entirety before moving on to the next task.

Schedule time for yourself. Overscheduling and exhausting yourself will get you nowhere. You need personal time to renew your energy and to accomplish your graduate school goals. You must schedule time for your own physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Set aside some time each day and maybe even one whole day each week or month to focus solely on yourself. .

 

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