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Tips to Help with Studying or Achieving a Goal!

There are several things you can do to help you stay on task when studying:


1. Organizing your Goals

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. That just means that SMART goals help identify the most important tasks and priorities to focus on. When making your SMART goals, remember:

  1. Make a checklist of activities to monitor your progress (remember to include breaks!!!)

  2. Lists tasks on your checklist based on importance or due dates

  3. Write out how many steps are involved in each task and how long each step will take

  4. Setting clear goals with specific numerical values (e.g., I will work on math homework for 30 minutes or do questions 1 through 6)

  5. Reward for finishing each task (e.g., when I finish my math homework, I will use any remaining time for my preferred activities)

Adding in breaks and limiting distractions while working is important to help you stay focused and on task. If distractions are limited and you know that you will get a break from your task after 15 minutes, then you can work towards the most important tasks.


2. Give Yourself Enough Time

Do you notice if your homework seems to take longer than you expected? We tend to underestimate how long a task will take us. So, giving yourself a bigger time “buffer” could make a difference. The size of your buffer will depend on the task size and importance. For example, if you think you can complete a take-home worksheet in 30 minutes, you may want to add a buffer of 5-10 minutes.


3. Daily Checklists and Personal Schedules

Develop a daily checklist and personal schedule create an effective approach for supporting time management. Daily checklists and personal schedules provide you with a visual reminder of your tasks. Having a day timer and checklist (see next page) can help you plan out your day and have your tasks in the same place

4. Sticky Notes, Timers, Highlighting, and Buddies

There are other things we can do to keep organized and have a little fun while working!

Sticky notes can be used as reminders. Try attaching notes to your TV, computer, or mirror. It might also help to put the sticky note in a new place each time so your eyes don’t learn to skim over it. Sticky notes can be useful to remind you to check your schedule when you sit down at your desk to see if you have tasks that need to be completed. Timers, especially visual ones, can help in time management by providing a visual cue and auditory sound when working on a task for a certain amount of time. Set an alarm on your phone and give the alarm a name, like “history essay,” to help you remember what it’s for.

Highlighting key vocabulary or concepts in bright colors can help you focus on what you are reading. You could also use a pen to underline important words as you go. You could even read important words out loud as you’re reading along.


Recruiting an accountability buddy, who can check in with you and offer reminders to get started on your work. It helps to choose someone who will hold you accountable and not take, “I’ll start in a few minutes” at face value.


5. Things that Help you Focus?

What helps you attend to your task? Some people need complete silence to work while others work best with background noise, including music. Ask yourself what works best for you and give it a try to see if it helps you focus!

6. Avoid the Procrastination Trap

If a task is not due for a bit, you may feel like you have lots of time and continue to put it off for later. Try these tips to break the cycle:

  • Divide big assignments into chunks: The idea of reading a 300-page novel may feel intimidating. Reading the 15 pages of the first chapter, less so. But if you read 20 of those chapters, you’ll eventually finish the book.

  • Gather all your materials ahead of time: Nothing ruins the flow of work like having to get up every 10 minutes to search for another book, pencil, or notepad. Gather everything you need in one place so you can access it easily.

  • Follow through on missed work: If you put off an assignment, do it first thing the following day. This teaches your brain that it can’t avoid difficult tasks indefinitely.

  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes: No one, not even Shakespeare himself, ever wrote a flawless first draft. Remember, you can always go back and edit your errors later. It’s usually much easier to find and fix mistakes typed on a page than to edit ideas floating half-formed in your brain.

7. Treat yourself

You may find it hard to motivate yourself to do boring, difficult homework to earn a good grade. One way to get around this issue is to offer yourself smaller rewards more frequently to keep your motivation high. For example, after every page of math equations you finish, you might reward yourself by calling or texting a friend or watching a funny video. If you tend to get wrapped up in an activity, setting a timer can help remind you when to get back to work.

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