How to Set Goals That Will Stick

The sentiment is nearly ubiquitous: a new year represents more than a new, fresh calendar, it also represents a chance for individual improvement. While many welcome the new year with goals in mind, according to U.S. News, 80% will have abandoned those goals by mid-February. How can you avoid February slump? Establish effective goals for the new year with these best practices.

Set SMART Goals

Establish goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive. To determine success, you need a clearly defined benchmark, and you must be able to measure it. For example, instead of setting a goal to “study more,” create a plan to study one hour outside of class for every one hour spent in class. This is both specific and measurable. Stay on track by reviewing your progress. For this example, checking in at mid-terms can help you determine if it’s feasible or not. While a goal should challenge you, it should also be attainable and realistic. Studying for 10 hours a day isn’t likely an attainable or realistic goal since you also need to attend class, eat, sleep and fulfill other commitments.

Express Goals in Positive Terms

According to Psychology Today, setting goals positively creates an emphasis on success over failure. Positive goals also focus on an action-driven outcome. For example, instead of writing down “stop procrastinating,” establish a goal of creating a schedule for each task. In this example, the goal focuses on the positive and already implies the action that must be taken.

Create Goals in Line with Your Values

Determining your key priorities helps focus your goal setting on critical matters and ensures you’ll be inspired to pursue goals that are meaningful to you. If you don’t see value in achieving a goal, is it unlikely you will find the motivation to pursue it. Not to mention, if you set a goal that is outside of your values, achieving it may not be a good thing – and that’s just counterintuitive.

Set Your Goals in Writing

Physically writing your goals down adds an element of formality to your goals, establishing them as real and eliminating the opportunity to backtrack later. Be mindful of language and use “will” instead of “might” or “want to” to frame your goal in a strong way.

Create an Action Plan

 Determine how you will accomplish your goal, by what deadline, and evaluate your progress along the way. If you have multiple goals, understand which goals take priority and pursue those first. In creating your action plan, you will also establish what you can control to achieve the goal. If an action plan can’t be created, it’s likely that this is out of your control and the goal needs to be revisited.


If your goal were easy, it probably wouldn’t be on your list. Expect pursuing your goal to take work, and prepare to dedicate time to do so. Decide how you will reward yourself when you achieve your goal – just be sure your reward doesn’t contradict your goal. Finally, regularly review your goals and the action plan outlined to achieve them, both to make sure you’re on track and to determine if the goal and your plan remain valuable, necessary and pertinent.

If you are an online student looking to improve your grades and academic experience, consider these four goals recommended by Jarin Eisenberg, Florida Tech Instructor and Executive Director of Downtown Melbourne Mainstreet.

  1. Stay on track. With only eight weeks, a term leaves little room for falling behind, even for just a week. Plan to stay on track for the term by completing tasks and projects on schedule – or challenge yourself to plan ahead.
  2. Improve organization. Designate a space for studying at home without distractions and well-suited for reading and writing. Establish a filing system to organize course documentation, and use a calendar to record project deadlines and important dates. This system doesn’t have to be a paper system – consider organizing apps or free software, like Trello, to organize your tasks digitally.
  3. Engage in lectures. Avoid the temptation to ignore lectures in online classes. Instead, plan to engage by taking notes, listen to concept explanations and follow the instructors’ application examples. Lectures provide additional, valuable information to supplement what is covered in the text and course materials, and should not be seen as optional.
  4. Prioritize yourself. Online students must be mentally and physically healthy to operate at their best. Prioritize your health by pursuing rest and rejuvenation, which will equip you to become a better student overall. This means time away from computer screens, regular exercise and social interaction with friends or family.

While establishing clear goals and committing yourself to achieve them may be intimidating, attaining thoughtful, valuable goals you’ve set for yourself will be well worth your time, effort and dedication.

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