Taking Stock and Setting New Goals

Published: Tues., July 14, 2020

As the summer winds down and the fall is about to begin, now is a great time to take stock of what you have accomplished this summer and what you would like to do in the coming year. Given the changes over the last several months that may have affected your normal schedule and plans, it is even more crucial to think about your progress.

Degree Progress

One of the first places you will probably start is thinking about your coursework and degree requirements. When do you intend to graduate? What classes will you need to take this fall? How might those courses help you make progress toward finishing your degree? A lot of times your courses may not only fill a requirement, but may also help you learn skills necessary for completing a part of thesis or dissertation research.

Check the degree milestones you must complete in order to earn your degree. What is missing from your list? What do you have yet to complete? Do you know when you will be taking those courses or finishing those milestones? If so, what needs to be done in preparation of those courses or requirements? Some classes may have prerequisites before you can complete a particular class so you can sometimes be delayed depending on the schedule for offering that course. List what has been done and will need to be done. Note when things will be expected to be completed. This will help you make sure you stay on track.

Research Goals

The next question you must consider is: Where do stand on your research projects? Many graduate students have some sort of research component that they are required to complete before they graduate. Finishing these projects often takes several years and you need to stay on top on your progress to make sure you will graduate in a timely manner.

Make a list of the research tasks you have for your thesis or dissertation. These may include things like: conducting your literature review, writing your prospectus or research plan, individual aspects of your data collection (e.g. getting IRB approval, drafting surveys, conducting experiments, etc.), data analysis tasks, or aspects of writing the thesis or dissertation document. Breaking these down will help you better understand what needs to be done and what has already been completed.

Teaching Goals

If you are a TA now or hope to work in academia, building your teaching skills will help you succeed in the future. If you are currently teaching, you may have goals related to teaching this semester or for the fall. For example, you may have a goal to design a course independently, complete a CIRTL certification or additional training on teaching, or perhaps to find opportunities to teach if you have not been a TA previously. If you have large goals, you may break those down into smaller goals.

Other Professional or Personal Goals

Lastly, you may have a number of personal or professional goals, related to professional skills like leadership or public speaking, or preparing for job searches. Taking stock of where you stand in relation to those goals may help you better understand the next steps.

It is also important to keep a record of your personal goals and weighing progress towards those. Think about your personal relationships, are there aspects of those that you which to change or improve? Maybe those relationships have worsened over the last few months when you have been separated from their friends and family. If so, now may be a good time to recommit to reaching out to them more frequently.

Setting Goals

As you make goals, remember to think SMART. This means goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Goals are best achieved when you make them concrete and achievable with defined timelines for completion. For example, writing your methods section is a more attainable goal and could be measured in a way that finish dissertation might be difficult to measure. Setting reasonable time frames for completing goals will also ensure that you achieve them. You will not finish your dissertation in from start to finish in a month, but you might be able to complete some component of it in that time. Be honest with yourself and weigh what you can accomplish and need to accomplish in a given period of time. Posting these goals or telling friends or colleagues will help keep you accountable for finishing them.

Even if you have not accomplished as much as you would like during this time, be kind with yourself. The last several months have been difficult for many of us and many people have had additional needs or responsibilities. Celebrate and acknowledge what you have accomplished and then make plans to make progress toward the other goals.