SMART Goals

At the beginning of the term and not sure how you will do it all? Feeling anxious or overwhelmed? Like you are constantly struggling to keep up with life, school, family and all of your other obligations? Feel angry, frustrated and upset that you will never catch up? Or that you put yourself in this situation?

First: Take a deep breath.

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All of that negative energy takes time and energy that you will need to be productive. Take two minutes and write your feelings out on a list to calm down. Make the decision to take charge of your study plan today and put down whatever regrets you are having about past actions. Seriously. You can’t change the past but you CAN plan for today and moving forward.

Take out your agenda, pull up your university outlook calendar or smartphone calendar. If you are a Webster University student we recommend using the Outlook calendar and Office 365 tools provided to you, but truly, any calendar planning system (Google, iCal, etc) will do.

Step One: Place all non-negotiable appointments on the calendar for the next 6 days.

You have to work? Put it on the calendar. You can’t miss your Aunt’s birthday? Put it on the calendar. Having a once a week dinner with your friends is the only thing that is keeping you sane? ON THE CALENDAR. Anything that is a “non-negotiable” must be placed on the calendar so you can plan around it.

Step Two: Book your online class “Study Time”

Each online class that is 3 credit hours will typically demand between 12-14 hours of time per week. Take a look at your class and review the deadlines and coursework you need to complete over the next 6 days. Then estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete EACH task or content module and schedule time for each task or module into your calendar. Be specific. You will likely under-estimate the time it will take you initially, but will become better at this over time. If you are under 12 hours after your initial scheduling then go back and schedule “buffer” time until you reach at least 12 hours per course. This “buffer” will give you some breathing room as you get a handle on your schedule.

Step Three: Book all “additional” social appointments

Have a happy hour you want to attend but isn’t required? Thinking of seeing that movie with friends after dinner, but really you could take off if you needed to? Add these appointments in where you can, but recognize that you might need to reprioritize in the short term to reach your long term goals.

Step Four: Schedule time to relax

Everyone needs to be able to take a break. Your performance will suffer and you will burn out if you aren’t building in time to just relax. That time should be dedicated to you and what you want to do, instead of everything else you need to or should do. No. You cannot count the time that you should be sleeping as “relaxation” time. While we recognize that you will likely be pulling some late nights to achieve your goals? Your body needs sleep, so you need to allow time for that as well. 

Now that you have your next 6 days scheduled review your appointments and determine if your schedule is *SMART:

Specific Do you know exactly what you will be working on at any designated study time? Have you reviewed the modules, assignments and syllabus to plan accordingly?
Measurable How will you know if you have spent enough time with the materials or assignment? Will your grades be your measurable output and will you adjust your time thereafter? Are you going to ask some questions of your instructor to make sure you are on the right track ahead of assignment submission? Have you allotted time to wait for a response?
Acceptable Did you schedule your study time at 3am before you head to work? Are you really prepared to make that happen even though you know you aren’t a morning person? If not you may want to take a look and reprioritize based on your long term goals.
Realistic Have you booked an appropriate amount of time for each assignment? If you have never answered a discussion question within 10 minutes before, is it reasonable to think you will now? Your buffer time can help with this until you are more comfortable evaluating realistic time frames.
Time-bound Is it clear when you are starting and stopping? Is it possible for you to start and stop at the times you have scheduled without a teleport machine?

*SMART principles were developed by Edwin Locke in 1981. We have made some minor adjustments to better reflect the time commitments of our working students.