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Set small goals to improve your study habits

By Jenna Moede

My new semester started a few weeks ago now, and I’m adjusting myself to the schedule for graduate students which extends from Wednesday to Wednesday. In my undergraduate work the week was always Monday to Monday, so it feels strange to change the days around.

Anyway, when my semester kicked off, I decided to set goals each semester in addition to the overall goals of my program. Usually I share my big goals with my support system, but this time, I decided to set little challenges just for myself to see if I could crush them.

I am trying this mini goal setting because I hope it will make a difference in my overall performance as a graduate student and help me have a consistent positive attitude about my decision to return to school even when it feels like graduation is forever away. I hope these mini goals will be subtle motivators for me to keep pushing forward and provide an opportunity to see how far I’ve come.

I want to find another benefit in this process which is determining which study tactics and process work for me as a student. I want these small goals to become the foundation for good habits so I can focus on creating and celebrating new little successes each semester to form even more good habits.

Right before my classes started, I brainstormed struggles and study habits that I hoped I could improve during my online graduate studies. Out of those, I have decided to pick three each semester that I feel would benefit me the most during that time.

This semester the three little goals I have chosen are: to read all the book material (really read, not skim), complete homework before the due date, and actively participate in online discussions.

When I chose these three goals, I felt they would have the most current value, and they would benefit me hugely overall in my graduate courses because they are such basic steps to success.

In what we’ve covered of my first class so far, the book material hasn’t been discussed in great detail so it may not boost my grade a terrible amount this time. However, familiarizing myself with the book concepts will help my application and understanding of the assignments. I also know that the book discussion varies by class and professor so, if I create this habit, I’m sure it will pay off for me sometime. Plus, it never hurts to learn a few extra nuggets of information!  

For my second goal, turning in my homework on the due date isn’t a problem, but I don’t always allow myself enough time to review and edit my work. In this current class, I have started out strong by finishing my assignments with at least two days to revisit the rubric, instructions and material before I turn them in.

Lastly, I am working hard to actively participate in online discussions as much as time permits. In the past I have been guilty of meeting the requirements and not really learning anything of substance from the discussions which means I’ve wasted my time on the assignments. It turns out that my classmates really do have interesting ideas and I have considered many different viewpoints because of the discussions that I may have otherwise missed.

Ultimately when I chose these three, I considered what I thought would make me a better learner and a better student. I really focused on the areas that have tripped me up in the past in hopes of improving them moving forward.

Like I mentioned before, I didn’t share these goals with my support network because I made them only as personal challenges. To remind myself of the goals though, I did make three colorful sticky notes. I put them behind my desk so that when I don’t feel like reading the book or reading posts, I can remind myself of what I want to accomplish and why.

I encourage everyone starting a new class or a new semester to consider setting some small goals to help you reach bigger goals. These little goals are like stepping stones on the way to graduation.

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