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Southern Cross School of Distance Education

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Goal setting

Setting goals is a great process to use to help you figure out what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. Goals provide you with a purpose and sense of direction, which can be motivational, particularly when you might be struggling with the demands of being a student, preparing for exams, as well as juggling other aspects of your life.

The SMARTER goal setting process provides a framework for you to follow to set goals. These goals might be short term, such as one week, or long term, which could be in months or a couple of years, or the goals could be mid-term and be anywhere in between these time frames.

Writing your goals down is a great way to keep yourself accountable and allow you to monitor how you are going. You could also share your goals with another person or people who can support and encourage you. Both options will help you significantly in progressing towards success and achieving your goal.

Using to-do lists can be a short-term measure that you might use on a daily or weekly basis to help you progress in smaller chunks. Setting process tasks rather than outcome tasks is also worth considering as they are more achievable in the short term. For example, I will complete 30 minutes of revision, rather than answer 30 questions.

So, what are SMARTER goals and how can you use this process? 


What exactly do you want to achieve?

Clearly define your goal, using as much detail as you can.


How will you know if you have achieved your goal?

You need to be able to track how you are going, to ensure that you are making progress, and know that you have achieved your goal.


Have you set a goal that you are able to realistically achieve? Does it need to be easier or more challenging?

The goal should be ambitious, whilst considering your skills, available time, ability and even finances to ensure that you can accomplish the goal with some effort.


Why is this goal important to you and does your goal make sense?

The goal should meet your needs and provide benefit to you when you achieve it, without you becoming side-tracked and focusing on irrelevant tasks and results. 


What are the time constraints related to this goal? When do you need to have achieved it?

It is important for you to have a clear timeframe for your goal. Be sure to set a start and finish date to achieve your goal; this will help keep you motivated as well.


Are on you still on track to achieve your goal? What is working well and what hasn’t worked?

You need to regularly check in with how you are progressing towards achieving your goal. Reflect on how you are going and review whether you need to make some changes.


Do you need to make some changes to your goals or how you are going to achieve them? Maybe your short or mid-term goals need to be changed or you need to adjust the strategies and processes you are using to help you stay on track to achieve your long-term goal.

You may not need to make any changes; it will depend on how you are progressing. This step is completed in conjunction with the previous step with your regular evaluations.


S = get in to XYZ University to study ABC course

M = I will receive an acceptance letter offering me a place at XYZ University to study ABC course

A = yes, this goal is achievable, and I do have the ability and support to get into this course

R = in order for me to work in my chosen field, I need to gain a degree in course ABC

T = I have 4 terms of Year 12 before I sit my HSC exams and am accepted into university

E = I will check my progress twice per term (middle and last weeks of term) to evaluate my assessment marks, study routine and knowledge of each subject.

R = if required, I will adjust my short, mid or long term goals accordingly

Want more information about goal setting?

Atomi have some great resources related to goal setting including 2 videos on their YouTube channel and an article on their website blog:

How to write useful goals - Atomi YouTube channel

Reviewing your goals for direction - Atomi YouTube channel

How to set useful goals for trials and the HSC - Atomi Blog

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