Start the year with a bang by setting realistic, manageable goals!

Start the year with a bang by setting realistic, manageable goals
It’s here! The year 2020 has begun and January is flying by! Now it’s the time of the year where we are overwhelmed with the sudden but familiar flood of personal goals and new year resolutions in our social media feed. From cheesy inspirational quotes on Instagram to your alcohol loving flattie making a dry January pledge. It really is so easy to get caught up in making the same big goals. Often these big goals are accompanied with an idealistic aim to revolutionise your life only for you to be set up with disappointment later on when such a large goal becomes overwhelming. So, how does someone even set new year's resolutions for students like yourself? Better yet, what can help improve your life but at a level that is achievable? Well, luckily we have created this exact blog to act as your guide to begin to set those goals and help you absolutely smash them!
Reflecting on the past year
It’s easy to dive headfirst into creating a tonne of new goals and personal standards to hold yourself up to for the next year right away. I mean, you see everyone else do it right? Here’s why that may not be the best idea. Well, first you need to acknowledge and reflect on the year that’s past. Think about what you have achieved already, what you’ve learnt, and how you can build on that. Maybe things last year didn’t run as smoothly as you would have expected, how can you prepare to change that this year? Sit down, grab a pen, notebook, your laptop, or phone, then begin to think about and celebrate obstacles you overcame, and then think about what obstacles you weren’t so successful with. Are these things you can try to achieve this year? It may seem negative to narrow down on what student goals you haven’t achieved but this will help you focus on what means most to you and are fantastic ways to reflect on what you can do better.
What does it mean to set realistic goals?
Setting student goals at university can be difficult, we all want to rush in and aim for getting all As, but part of setting realistic goals is making goals which can prepare you and help you get those A grades. However, let’s take this big goal of getting straight As. A big scary goal, that holds what feels like a tonne of small goals underneath it. This right here is the first step where we sometimes go wrong, we set this one big goal, and don’t break it down further than that. Those small goals are where we can start realistically planning.
Now you have that big goal, what do we need to achieve that, what are the steps and smaller goals that support the overarching one? Say you want to get As, you could tackle it in different ways, and here’s where your previous years reflection comes in. Maybe last year, you really struggled with managing your part-time job and your university workload and started handing in assignments past the due date, or you focused so much time on studying you found yourself becoming mentally exhausted and tired so weren’t able to bring your best self to class each day. Once you acknowledge this, you can start breaking it down. For example, if time-management is your root issue, start planning assignments ahead of time, break them down into sections, use a to-do list system, or reminders. If you need more in-depth time management tips then head to our previous blog all about time management here!
Keep at it! You’re in control!
It’s very easy to see these new steps and goals and be completely overwhelmed. So don’t worry! This feeling is normal. In fact, seeing so many tasks in one space can be just as daunting as the overarching goal you’re aiming for. You’re in control of your own achievements! But there are ways to make it easier. For your university based goals try tools like Asana, where you can set up a project, even the whole class, and break assignments down into tasks. Now, each time you complete the task you’re triggering the part of your brain that responds to rewards as each task is grayed out. You can even set dates to achieve them by and best of all, it’s free! If digital platforms don’t work for you then try out a physical diary. Sometimes having something to physically cross off can be just as satisfying! 
If you’re struggling with mental or wellbeing goals, then you may tackle it slightly differently. You could begin by setting a reminder on your phone to take a break when studying or change your phone settings to limit your screen time. Creating dedicated spots within the day for time outside, or time dedicated to improving your self care, even if it’s just to grab a drink of water, can make a drastic difference in the long run!
While ticking off goals one after the other is satisfying, you can’t remember to not reward yourself as you go through the year. As you reward yourself you’ll become more incentivised to complete the next set of tasks ahead of you. The key here is to not under reward yourself or over reward yourself? Why? As you reward yourself each time the reward will likely become less effective to give you that push and ambition to smash out your next goals. So why not break goals into sets? They could be per assignment, or class, think about how your brain works and work with it not against it. Do large rewards work or do small incremental ones work best for your brain? Achieve your goals doesn’t need to be hard, you can set it out so that it works with your brain, not against it!
Get started, but start small!
Setting goals in a realistic and organised way can seem stressful at first but you can tackle it! As the year goes on and you start crossing off small goals it will feel incredibly rewarding. The key lesson to take from this blog is that breaking big goals into small chunks can give you a pathway for success, where you won’t get run down or feel like you’re not making progress. Big change and large successes come in increments, take it one step at a time and you’ll smash those goals!
 Written by Amber Wharepapa, Auckland