Setting Study Goals for Yourself

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  • 0:00 Goals
  • 0:33 Setting Goals
  • 3:00 Achieving Goals
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Study goals can make the difference between academic success and failure. In this lesson, we'll look at how to set good study goals and how to organize yourself to achieve the goals you set.


Sean has decided to go back to school. It's been a while since he's been in school, though, and he wants to do well. He sometimes thinks about how many different ways he could screw this up, and he'd rather avoid that. But how can he succeed?

One key to success is to set goals for yourself. If Sean can set goals and work hard to achieve them, he will likely do well in school. Let's look closer at how Sean can set and achieve goals related to school.

Setting Goals

Sean knows he needs to set goals in order to do well in school. But what types of goals should he set? Is it enough to say that he's going to 'study a lot' or 'get good grades?' Or is there a better way to set goals?

When setting goals, Sean will want to make sure that they are specific, measurable and time-bound. Specific goals are those that are focused in their purpose. For example, saying that Sean will 'study a lot' isn't very specific. But saying that he will 'study every day' is more specific, and saying that he will 'study for half an hour every day' is very specific.

Measurable goals are those that can be objectively measured. This is often tied in with being specific. For example, Sean can measure whether or not he has studied every day for half an hour, but he can't measure whether he has studied 'a lot.'

Finally, time-bound goals have a specific time in which a person needs to achieve that goal. Sean might set a goal that he will study every day for half an hour, but if he doesn't specify that will happen this semester, he might put it off for a long time. Likewise, if Sean says that he wants to graduate, it could take him decades. On the other hand, if he says he wants to graduate in five years, that time limit will help guide Sean in setting and achieving goals.

In addition to being specific, measurable and time-bound, Sean should gear his goals towards process, not outcome. What does this mean?

Think about it like this: let's say that Sean wants to do well in school. He might set a goal that he wants to get an A in his English class this semester. That's specific, measurable and time-bound, but it's also outcome-based. What happens if he gets an English professor that just doesn't give out As?

However, Sean knows that to get a good grade in his English class (whether that's an A or another high mark), he will have to study. So, he can set a process goal for himself, saying something like, 'I will study for my English class for half an hour every day this semester and extra at exams time.'

The key here is to look at what you can directly control. Sean can control how much time he studies, but he can't completely control what his grade ends up being. Setting his goal by focusing on what's within his direct control helps him set goals that are achievable and keeps his motivation high.

Achieving Goals

Sean has a pretty good idea how to set goals now. He knows they should be specific, measurable, time-bound and that they should focus on performance, and not on outcome. But what does he need to do to make sure he achieves those goals?

When setting goals, Sean will want to plan for obstacles. Nothing goes perfectly in life, and we all know that we'll face times when something makes it difficult to achieve our goals. But if you can identify possible obstacles in advance and come up with ways to deal with them, you raise the chances that you will succeed.

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