Setting Smart goals: How to set achievable goals for the new study year

Written by Kerstin Lakits, Dec 30, 2021

New Year’s is the time to set goals and great New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, most people know the phenomenon that motivation often disappears within the first two weeks of January and little to nothing changes until the following New Year’s Eve. But that’s over! We show you how to set SMART goals and achieve them.

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals mainly differ in their wording from “normal” goals. With this easy formula, you define your goals in a way that you can and want to achieve them and afterwards see what you have achieved. The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. We will explain what the inventor Peter Drucker meant by that down below. SMART goals also help with procrastination. Here are some tips for that.

SMART method

The SMART method consists of 5 steps that will help you set your goals, so that you can and want to accomplish them.

S – Specific

The vaguer your goals are, the harder it is to achieve them. If you want to “get better in your studies”, you are probably (and rightfully so) quite lost. What means better? In which courses? How much better? When is that goal achieved? To avoid these kinds of questions and feeling of cluelessness, it’s important to set specific, clear and explicit goals.

M – Measurable

It’s really motivating to see what we already have achieved. It’s this great feeling of seeing that your already at slide 19 out of 21 in your lecture or seeing that you only have to read the last 10 pages out of 120 pages of mandatory books. That’s exactly why you need measurable goals. On the one hand you see your progress and on the other hand you can celebrate your accomplishments.

A – Achievable

It’s great that you strive for the best, but completely unrealistic goals are going to discourage you. To get 60 ECTS with straight As in one semester, is unfortunately one of those unrealistic goals that only stress and make you give up. That’s why your goals can be demanding, but not unachievable.

R – Relevant

Your goals have to be relevant to you, meaning that you really want to achieve these goals. If your parents demand straight As, but your content with Bs and Cs, then you’ll hardly find the motivation to study more. That’s why you have to define your goals.

T – Time-bound

Everybody knows this: If you have to get up early because you have a class at 8 am, it’s easier to get up than when class starts at 10am. Time-bound goals motivate us because we keep in mind that we don’t have time forever. Therefore, your goals should have a time limit or deadline.

Step-by-Step: How to set your SMART goals

Now that you know what SMART stands for, we have a step-by-step guide for you. It will help you apply the method to your personal goals.

  1. Think about your goals:
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are your goals?
  1. Specific:
  • Make your goals more precise, as explicit as you can.
  • Add many details, numbers, values, etc.
  1. Measurable:
  • How can you measure your progress and achievements?
  1. Achievable:
  • Are your goals achievable?
  • Do you have enough time?
  • Do you have the resources and access to them?
  1. Relevant:
  • Why do you want to reach these goals?
  • What motivates you?
  1. Time-bound:
  • Until when do you want to reach your goals?
  1. Now write your goal as a SMART goal. Done!

Examples of SMART goals

Here are five examples of “normal” and SMART goals for you. You’ll immediately notice which are more motivating.

  1. “I want to improve my French.”

Now let’s make this a SMART goal:

Until June 2022, I will spend one hour every week reading a French book and 5 minutes daily to study vocabulary because I will fly to France on vacation in July.”

  1. “I want to do more sports.”

The SMART goal looks like this:

This year I will go running for one hour every week and will improve my pace by 30 seconds until October 2022 because I will run a half marathon.”

  1. “I want to study better for my exams.”

Applying the SMART method, the goal is:

“In the summer semester, I will start studying for each exam three weeks in advance and study with my notes, lecture materials and mandatory reading because I want to improve my grade from a D to a C.

  1. “I don’t want to write my seminar papers at the last moment.”

This is how we make this goal SMART:

“In the summer semester I will make a timetable at the beginning of the seminar and plan one hour each week to work on my paper, so that I am done with my first draft by the 3rd of June and have three weeks to correct and hand it in.”

  1. “I will read the mandatory reading for my lectures.”

Here is the SMART version:

“At the beginning of the semester, I will write down everything I have to read and read 20 pages each week, so that I am done two weeks before the exam and have enough time to study the content.”

The SMART method is actually really easy and with these examples you’ll hopefully be able to apply them to your own goals. The more explicit you write down your goals, the likelier it is to achieve them. With this method, you’ll surely reach all of your goals! We believe in you!

Still need more motivation? Here are more tips on motivation for your studies!

Have fun and a lot success!


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