How to Set Goals (And Actually Achieve Them!)

Hi friends! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how far I’ve fallen in love with goal setting. A few years ago, I was inspired by this post from Dani at Dani Dearest on the importance of working towards goals, and started using her method to set goals for myself. I’ve since adapted and customized to make my own routine for both setting and achieving my goals, which is the one I’ll be sharing with you today.

I cannot rave on enough about how instrumental goal-setting has been in helping me grow as a person in all areas of my life. I am so much more balanced and reflective than I was four years ago, and I credit defining goals and actively pursuing them to much of that change.

With that in mind, here’s my personal method! As always, adapt to fit your liking 🙂

All about that balance

If there’s one tip that I recommend above all others, it’s this. Diversify your goals. Identify categories of your life where you’d like to grow; mine generally include academics, clubs/volunteering, physical and mental health, relationships with friends and family, blogging, and other hobbies.

I’m a big believer in work-life (or school-life) balance, and setting goals in all areas helps me focus on all the important areas of my life at once. I highly, highly recommend striving for at least a few different categories to facilitate growth as a person all-around.

I generally set about 10 goals per semester, because that’s what works for me. Play around with numbers to find what works for you, but keep in mind that the less goals you aim for, the slower you might achieve overall progress, but the more goals you set, the harder it will be to achieve all of them.

Be SMART about it

SMART goals are probably one of the biggest buzzwords of the past year or two, and for good reason. SMART goals are defined as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

That basically means: know exactly what you want, why you want it, and how you’ll know when you get there. A good example of a SMART goal might be “run 5k in under 30min by September 1st”. This goal makes sense if you’re a beginner runner (or a non-runner!) trying to step up your endurance. You’ll know that you’ve made progress when you can run for half an hour continuously. Maybe your ultimate dream is to one day run a marathon, so getting from nothing to being able to do a 5k is definitely relevant to getting to that marathon goal eventually. It’s measurable because you know exactly what separates success and not success: did you have to stop to walk or could you run for the whole time? And there’s a time limit on it too, which gives you that deadline motivator. Be sure, here, to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to reach your goal. You can’t go from not running at all to running a 5K in a week. But you can do that in two months, or three, or even four. On the other hand, don’t give yourself too much time, because if you’re like me, you’ll procrastinate. 🙂

Make a plan

Wanting to run a marathon is all well and good, but you’ll never do the training if you don’t have some sort of plan. Same goes for any goal; without a plan, your goal is just a bullet point on a piece of paper. Do your research, consult anyone you need to, and map out your progress. Check off days or checkpoints or mini goals as you go. Adjust timelines and plans as required. Be flexible, but dedicated in achieving your goals in a fairly short amount of time.

Remind yourself daily

Make a handwritten list of your goals as defined above, and put it in a highly visible place so you’ll be forced to see the list every day. This is a great reminder to actually get your shit done. I like posting a list on the wall above my desk so I see it in the morning and night when I’m doing homework.

I also really like making a tiny list on a post-it note and using that as my bookmark for my planner. This serves as a constant reminder to check your week’s schedule and see if you’re missing any opportunity to pursue those goals. For example, if my goal is to run that 5K but I haven’t pencilled myself in a run this week, you can bet your booties that I’m going to notice that when I run my schedule against my post-it goals list bookmark. Then I can plan to run on one or three days of the week. I’ve recently started using an app called Today to track some habits as well (it’s free!).

Shout it from the rooftops

Goals are more often attained when we tell other people about them. I like telling a friend about one or two of my goals for the semester (notice I said one or two—this fits into a casual conversation a little better than all ten goals, for me) as a bit of an accountability measure. If you tell enough friends two different goals each, you’re bound to have someone ask you about your progress at some point.

Grab a friend

Everything is so much more fun with friends. Buddying up with a friend is super easy to do for certain goals. My roommate and I often go to our favourite gym class together, which makes it so much more likely that I’ll actually go. For one, I feel worse skipping out when I know she’s expecting me to be there. Second, starting a new gym class is significantly easier when you have someone else who’s just as clueless as you are.

For some things (*cough* studying), friends are more distracting than helpful. But that doesn’t mean you have to do the activity itself with friends. It’s easy enough just to commit to meeting up with a friend to head to the library on Saturday mornings together, then going your separate ways to study alone (read: more productively). Or, you could even just ask each other about readings, assignments, or tests to keep each other on track.

Be creative, and don’t hesitate to throw out past/common rules in favour of making new/your own ones. These are just a few of the tips that have worked for me, but you should adapt them to your own life!

What goals are you going to rock this semester/year? Join the discussion in the comments below!

How to Prepare for a New Semester

Hi lovelies! Winter break is winding down, which means it’s time for a new semester! Luckily, I’ve had a bit of extra time over the past few days to start prepping for the upcoming term, and now I get to share my routine with you!

Start your syllabi collection

Now’s that time where most of your syllabi are probably posted online already. First order of business: collect all of them. Save them to your desktop. If you have binders (or whatever you use during the term) nearby, I recommend printing all your courses’ syllabi and sticking them in the very front of your binders.

Having copies of syllabi serves multiple purposes:

  • You can take a look again at the marking breakdown. The syllabus is essentially an overview of the entire course, including what you’ll be learning and exactly how things will be marked. If you read it now you’ll know what you should focus your time on for maximum grades.
  • Exam, readings, and assignment due dates. This helps you stay ahead of the curve for less last-minute panicking (more on this below).
  • You’ll always have a handy list of resources for extra help readily available to you (psst: not all of the best resources will be listed. See this post on the top underutilized resources in university!)

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Now is a good time to ensure you’re on track for all of your course requirements. Pull out your course plan, take a look at your program requirements, and ensure you’re on track. Don’t wait until after the midterm to find out that you really needed a prerequisite course, or that two of your classes are anti-requisites so one doesn’t count, or that one of your classes isn’t accepted by your top grad school admissions office.

Book an appointment with your program’s academic counsellor (before it gets busy!) if anything seems out of whack. You should do this anyway once per semester even if everything seems okay—your academic counsellor should be able to confirm that you’re on track.

Make an assignment calendar

This is something that I’ve found to be super helpful in the past year or two. Though it’s great to have all your syllabi in binders, I also love having one big list of everything I need to do and when. You can use a planner for this, or this method from Organized Charm this method from Kirsten at Organized Charm is great too. Having that one central list is amazingly helpful for those “I know I have something due this week, but I can’t remember what it is” days.

To do this, go through all your syllabi and write down every assignment and its due date for the whole semester. Then stick these in your planner’s calendar or make a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet with a list of all classes’ assignments sorted by due date. Print it off, then stick it in a place where you’ll see it every day so you’ll know ahead of time when things are due.

Obviously I put hand-in assignments on this calendar, but I also put readings as well. This is incredibly helpful for me to keep track of readings and make me keep up to date on them.

Replenish your supplies

If you’re craving a trip to Indigo (or Barnes & Noble, for my neighbours in the States), now’s the time. I sometimes ask for Indigo gift cards for Christmas solely so I can buy a new planner before the new school year, but if I end up with any leftover credit, some fancy pens are always a fun way to spruce up your pencil case!

If your highlighters have all run dry from finals, go buy some more right now. Get yourself prepared and add a little bit of #studyspo, something special to make January as fun and inspiring and ~academic~ as September was!

Reassess your goals and set new ones

I love goal-setting—so much so that I’ve posted a guide to setting goals and actually achieving them! Goal setting and reflection has been one of the best habits that I’ve adopted in the past few years, and I thank Dani from Dani Dearest for the idea. I generally set myself a set of 10-12 goals per semester. It’s important to balance those goals between different aspects of your life: my categories include academics, extracurriculars, health, friends/family, personal projects (including blogging, photography, writing, and other hobbies), and planning for my career. It’s also super important to be realistic and have a plan that actually makes sense, but more on that in the goal-setting guide.

And let’s be honest: there will be semesters that you don’t always achieve all of your goals. That’s okay! Take a few moments to reflect on why you weren’t able to meet those goals. Either the goal itself or the plan to get there might need tweaking, so figure out a new goal/plan and carry it forward to the upcoming semester.

Put a Post-It note mini-list of your semester goals as your bookmark for your planner. This way, they’re a constant reminder to work towards achieving them.

Reassess your time commitments

Confession: I sometimes bite off more than I can chew at Clubs Week in September. And then I try to volunteer and blog and improve my grades and make new friends on top of that. Some years, I end up having to skip a few meetings/coffee dates/study sessions here and there, and it sucks. I try to use the new semester to reassess what’s most important to me and what, if anything, I really need to cut.

If there’s a club that you haven’t been able to participate fully in, consider dropping it for the semester (or, if you’re on the executive team, consider giving up your position, sharing it with someone else, or even just asking for help with some of the work). I know that’s terrifying for the part of us that wants to pump up that resume. But doing three things well is better than doing five things just okay.

All of these steps have been awesome in keeping me organized, inspired, and focused throughout the whole semester. It’s a great way to get excited for the upcoming term, and I’ve found the routine to be most helpful before classes begin when you have significantly more free time.

Best of luck for the new semester!

Tell me your best way to prep for the new term below!

Semester Goals: Fall 2015

Hi lovelies!

Last year I basically had an existential crisis because I was in a major that I hated and could not see myself having a career in. I had a long-time friendship become very one-sided and emotionally manipulative. My grades suffered, my mood suffered, and suddenly I hated everything and just wanted to quit and hide under a blanket for all of eternity.

This summer, I realized that by allowing all of that drama/nonsense to continue, I was hurting myself, and by association, I was negatively affecting my friends and family. At some point, it hit me that trying to always push through, ignore my own feelings, and take the high road wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, I would burn out and break down. Why was I doing things that didn’t make me happy?

My philosophy is this: If it’s not adding value to your life, then why are you doing it?

Since then, I’ve been on a constant journey towards self-improvement. I switched majors into something I actually enjoy. I’ve distanced myself from people around whom I feel guilty or sad more often than happy or grateful. I’ve pinpointed ways to improve in every aspect of my life, and I’m actively making a plan to get there.

One of those ways is goal setting, an endeavor that, admittedly, hasn’t worked well for me in the past.

I used to set yearly goals, like New Year’s Resolutions, and I’d write them into my phone’s notes and rarely look at them throughout the year. I never actually stuck to them. I’d accomplish the easy ones that I’d probably do anyway, but I’d never even start to work on the more challenging goals, which kinds of defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

This summer I stumbled across a post from Dani at Dani Dearest in which she hadoutlined her goals for the semester—”15 goals for 15 weeks”. She mentioned how much more likely we are to accomplish goals if we share them with others. It’s a system of accountability, and it works.

I truly believe that the key to accomplishing your goals are making them challenging, but manageable and measureable. This is why you’ll see numbers in most of my goals. It provides me with an actual benchmark against which I can measure progress. I’ve started small as a way to encourage myself to continue setting goals next semester as well.

So, here are my goals for the semester:

  • Work out at least once a week: working out is entirely new to me since I’ve always played soccer and/or waterpolo year round, which usually provided me with enough exercise. But university is different. I have yet to discover what works best for me (home workouts vs the gym vs gym classes), so this goal is super ambiguous and small for now.
  • Create a budget and stick to it: Again, a newer concept for me, but I’m really trying to manage my money better to start out on the right foot after I graduate.
  • Get at least a 75% in all my courses: My grades suffered a lot last year, and there was a huge disparity in my grades between classes. I’d like to make sure I’m putting the appropriate amount of work into ALL of my courses.
  • Get a 80% average overall: I just really want to get back onto the Dean’s Honour List. Losing that was a huge blow for someone who has been on the honour roll every year since kindergarten 😛
  • Run 5km in under 30min: I used to play soccer, so I could do this with no trouble. Now? Not so much.
  • Reach 1000 pageviews on Hope and Mascara: I’m incredibly excited to grow this blog!
  • Use my planner consistently: Because working on these goals, school, blogging, exercise, volunteering, clubs, and social commitments is a lot to remember!
  • Join 2 clubs that I actually enjoy and GO TO THE MEETINGS: In line with my motto above, I’m a firm believer that you’ll only go to club meetings if you actually enjoy the club. As such, I’m straying away from the pre-med, pre-law, pre-etc, investment club type things that I don’t really enjoy, and instead focusing on my hobbies.
  • Find a volunteer position: I’d really like to find a continuous volunteer position, rather than just events every so often, which are harder for me to schedule other commitments around.
  • Keep up with schoolwork: Again, something that really screwed me over last year, and I’d like to work on improving at.
  • Write at least 10 times on Hope and Mascara: Part of my action plan to grow this blog!

So those are my goals for now. I will update with progress later on in the semester!

What are your goals for the semester or year? Have you tried goal-setting before, and how has it worked out for you? Comment below!

With love,

Holly