Written by Annie Rose Stathes, Edited by Laura Morrison for GradSchools.com, January 2014
The New Year is an excellent time to reflect upon previous actions and accomplishments and set new goals for the future. However, goal-setting doesn’t have to be limited to the New Year. As a graduate student, you have an opportunity to set new goals for yourself at the beginning of the year or before every quarter, semester, or course. The following article offers some ideas for New Year or quarter, semester, and course resolutions.
Earn every point possible, in every single class: Accomplishing this goal may be difficult if not impossible. However, there is magic in simply going for it. When you create goals that force yourself beyond your comfort zone, you often find you are capable of achieving more than you ever imagined possible. By setting a goal to earn every single point possible in each and every class, you’ll find yourself devoting more of your focused energy to readings, papers, research projects, homework and group projects. To meet this goal, talk to your professors about your goal, make sure you understand what’s required of you to earn full credit, and devote your mind, heart, and soul to each assignment! And, because this is an incredibly difficult goal, don’t beat yourself up if you fail; the goal here is to push yourself beyond your perceived limitations and to create a positive challenge.
Spend a certain amount of time working on your thesis every single day: The goal here is consistency and habituation. Whether you spend 10 minutes or 4 hours, spend some time working on your thesis every single day. On days you feel tired and need a break from reading and writing, spend time organizing your files or downloading articles from online journals. Other activities connected to your thesis could include reading, writing, researching, organizing content, proofreading, or even talking to others about your project. To meet this goal, set a schedule at the beginning of each week, write down specific tasks, and take action!
Subscribe to a professional association: Join a professional association connected to your field and take advantage of its benefits. Membership to a professional association may give you access to important news and research in the field, and expose you to opportunities (training, networking events, etc.) that may help your career blossom. Also, by immersing yourself in the language of your field, you will be become more fluent in it; this may help both your studies and professional prospects.
Attend one networking event every month: Once a month, put on your professional game face and head to a networking event. Dress professionally, bring business/contact cards, and set a goal to talk to a certain number of people.If you can, go to different networking events each month. If this sounds incredibly boring to you, make it fun: buy yourself a new outfit or two, take yourself to dinner after, or invite some grad school friends to come along.
Create an online presence: More and more companies and organizations are turning to the internet to see what they can learn about potential employees. Establish your online presence by doing the following:
- Guest blogging on a site or two connected to your field of study
- Posting thoughtful and informed comments in response to articles published online
- Creating a website that serves as an extended resume
- Clean up your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts to make sure they reflect how you want to be perceived by potential employers
Overall, connect your name to meaningful and respectable online “spaces” to establish a respectable and honorable online presence.
Find balance and well-being: It can be incredibly difficult as a graduate student to find time for studying, working, taking good care of yourself, maintaining relationships, and planning for your future. Set a goal to find balance between your activities by devoting more time to areas of your life that are currently suffering. Even devoting 20 minutes per day to something that isn’t receiving enough attention can allow for meaningful change to take place. Or, if you want to change something that isn’t related to time—eating healthier, for example—start by replacing one unhealthy meal or snack 3-5 times per week with something healthier. Making small and incremental change now allows for lasting results in the future.
Design an inspiring future: Take several hours (or even a whole day) to sit down and consider your future. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I want to be doing five years from now?
- What do I need to be doing four years from now to meet my five-year goal?
- What do I need to be doing three years from now to meet my four-year goal?
- What do I need to be doing two years from now to meet my three-year goal?
- What do I need to be doing one year from now to meet my two-year goal?
- What actions do I need to take over the next six months in order to be where I need to be in one year?
- What actions can I take next week to start meeting my six-month goals?
- What structures can I put in place to support myself in meeting my goals?
- What actions must I take to set up my structures?
Create a plan and stick to it: Creating an inspiring future by writing your five-year goals is a great step. Now you must establish a plan and take action. Buy or create a calendar that allows you to map out your steps and goals for the next five years and fill it with specific and realistic plans for action. Then, each and every day, take some action consistent with your plans and goals.
Be happy, peaceful, and at ease. Graduate school can be stressful. Devote time to taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional health. Try taking a yoga class(or buy an inexpensive book that allows you to engage in a less-expensive home practice), or meditate for 10 minutes per day, smile more often, acknowledge and thank people, takes walks at sunrise or sunset, notice beauty in your surroundings, and do things that make you happy.
About the Author: Annie Rose Stathes holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Political Science, from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is currently an instructor of writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado.
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