Setting appropriate goals is highly correlated with student success. According to Michael Hunter Schwartz, author of Expert Learning for Law Students, students perform up to 30% better in their assessments when they set appropriate goals. Setting appropriate goals allows you to keep track of how you are progressing, and allows you to make adjustments before it is too late. According to Schwartz, goals should be:
- Concrete – setting out explicit actions and criteria so that you know when you have accomplished them,
- Short-term – otherwise you won’t be able to adjust your goals,
- Challenging – if you are easily completing your goals with time to spare, you may need to set more difficult goals, and
- Realistic – Likewise, you should be capable of meeting your goals.
Breaking down large, amorphous goals into smaller tasks makes the study process appear more manageable. This means that you will be more likely to begin working on your assessments early, and will reduce the temptation to procrastinate. Seeing how much you have to accomplish throughout the semester is also a good motivator.
Use either a digital calendar, your diary, or the calendar below. Fill in your assessment due dates (available here). Brainstorm the goals that you will need to accomplish by that time. Then, break these goals down into more manageable objectives. Some objectives may need to be broken down into even smaller objectives. Then put each objective into the calendar. Remember that during this period, you are also expected to keep up with class readings, and any work and social commitments that you may have. The goals included below are merely common examples, you will likely come up with additional goals.
Example Goals and Objectives
- A calendar for Semester 1, 2015 is available here.
- Some free, printable weekly planners are available here.
- A short explanation of the importance of breaking down goals into actionable tasks – small victories have been found to enhance motivation and commitment.
- For more on the importance of breaking goals down, see this video.
- For more on the value of smaller goals in reducing procrastination, see here.
- More information on the stages of planning an assessment are available on the Legal Academic Writing website.