Why goal setting matters

Young people are usually introduced to the topic of setting goals under the auspices of study. Most schools preach that defining goals is the route to exam success, while being a true point a lot of people will shun this structure because, students don’t like doing as their told. In your post-college life goals and planning are more important than ever. A lot of students become proficient at focusing on studying, but in college it’s more critical than ever to plan your goals with your career and non-academic pursuits insight.

How to set yourself goals

In marketing we often use SMART goals when we’re planning for future campaigns. Using the SMART approach we can set useful goals in our lives. Laid out below are the criteria themselves and an example of use.

Goal: ‘Post 5 photos on Instagram this month, have 5 new followers.’

  • S: Specific

    • This is clearly specific.

  • M: Measurable

    • You can clearly measure progress by counting how many photos you’ve posted.

  • A: Achievable

    • Five isn’t a huge number so it’s definitely doable.

  • R: Realistic

    • Again, 5 isn’t a huge number so the new followers goal is realistic.

  • T: Time Sensitive

    • ‘This month’ you have set down a clear timeframe but more is covered below.


Time Sensitive Goals

When setting goals it’s simplest to split goals by their timeframe. Further on there will be examples of how timeframes can be relevant to your aims, but simply a long term aim can range from a decade to just 12 months and the timeframes of your smaller goals will scale with that.

Here is a breakdown of how we should think about types of goals:

Short term goals

These are best thought about as the smallest tasks you can complete to move closer to your overall aim.

  • Examples: Fill out a form. Read a chapter. Attend a class.

  • Timeframe: Weeks.

Medium term goals

Usually a medium term goal is split into 3 or 4 short term goals. By splitting them up into small chunks every task becomes a lot easier.

  • Examples: Save X amount of money. Finish my exams. Read a book.

  • Timeframe: Months.

Long term goals

These are the big life changing aims you want to achieve. These goals will seem daunting but using this approach, they’re split into smaller, manageable pieces which you will feel are easily achievable

  • Examples: Run a marathon. Finish my college degree. Own my own business. Read 20 books.

  • Timeframe: Years.

Getting through final year

Your goal’s don’t have to be quite as big as setting world records, it’s good practice to start with where you are or have been. Below are a white labeled set of the goals a college student can use to help them through final year in college. Remember to think SMART and start at the end:

Long term:

  • Goal 1: Achieve a 2:1 degree by the end of the year.

  • Goal 2: Go on a J1 for the Summer.

Here we have two aims that fulfill all the SMART criteria, our next step is to drill them down into what needs to be achieved for them to come to fruition. Let’s take a look at the process over a time scale of months:

Medium term:

Goal 1:  "Achieve a 2:1 degree by the end of the year."

  • Have a GPA of 3.4 after semester one.

  • Complete thesis research by the end of semester one.

  • Submit first draft of thesis one month before the deadline

Goal 2:  "Go on a J1 for the Summer."

  • Complete visa application by December 1st.

  • Book flights by January 1st.

  • Have €1,000 saved from grinds classes by March.

  • Research work opportunities by the end of April.

Again, here we see that the SMART criteria are fulfilled, importantly each of these targets are achievable and realistic. Now let’s look at the level of weeks and see how this person can achieve the above:

Short term:

  • Goal 1:

    • Decide on classes before registration.

    • Create a homework/study timetable before week one of classes.

    • Find extra resources on topics covered in class during week one of classes.

  • Goal 2:

    • Work out when there’s free time to teach grinds and let possible students know.

    • Find out what information is needed for visa application form in the next week.

    • Decide on where in the US to go before midterm.

As you can see, planning based around long term goals allows you to shape your upcoming weeks and months. Marking the important milestones you need to hit, came help send your trajectory skyward.

Goals Inform Your Actions

Setting aims can help you develop your career while giving you room to manoeuvre in case of unforeseen circumstances. It’s important to know where you are going and planning your goals beforehand will inform your professional brand. It can also help you connect, network, decide where to share content and where you should be online.