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Self-management of expectations

Goal setting

Click on the video icon  This video from the University of New South Wales introduces you to the science of goal-setting

GoalsWhy do you need goals?

People who have clear goals help themselves to remain motivated in achieving them.

The goals themselves are important but the experience that you can gain in setting and achieving goals can also help you to be successful in the future.

  • Think carefully about your goals
    • make sure you have a healthy mixture of short term achievements and a longer term plan
    • short term goals, once achieved, can increase your confidence
    • longer term goals indicate a plan or strategy for success.
  • Think about the timescales you have to achieve your goals.
  • It is important to have goals for all the important areas of your life, such as career, finance, health and relationships.
  • Revisit these lists to keep them dynamic.
  • Act quickly to close any gap that is opening.
    • Be aware of any difference between what you expected to happen and what is happening.

Adapted from: Eales, A. (2020) Supporting students to develop transition skills during times of uncertainty. Available at: (Accessed: 12 May 2020).

Establishing and achieving your goals

(N.B. There is a template for this activity at the bottom of the page)


  • Write down some goals for this semester 
  • Do not prioritise or try to establish any order
  • Consider goals under the headings - academic, finance, career and personal.
  • In the columns labelled 'Time' indicate whether you intend to achieve them within the next one, three, five or nine months or years.
  • Add up the total number for each time period
Academic goals Time Finance goals Time Career goals Time Personal goals Time

Focus on your academic goal (e.g. passing your course by handing in reasonable quality assessments in time)

  • WHY you want to achieve this goal.
  • Make the goal as specific as possible—e.g. focus on this course
  • Devise a way to measure the outcome (e.g. you intend to get over 60% for each assignment in this course) 

Divide your goal into sub-goals

  • Things that you will aim to achieve
  • Individual tasks that each need to be completed to achieve your goal
  • Add methods and deadlines
Sub-goal  Method  Deadline Resources needed

Break your goals down into components

  • Break assignments down into small enough components so that you will definitely be able to complete them.
  • A suitable unit might be working for an hour. This will ensure that you will get to experience success.

Break your goals down into weekly tasks

  • Ask yourself 'what do I have to do in order to meet the goal?'
    • For example, if you aim to pass a maths course, your weekly tasks may include:
      • attending lectures
      • acquiring materials
      • completing calculations
      • attending calculation practices
      • participating in a calculation workshop
      • completing calculations with your friends
      • asking for advice
      • learning what you do not know using other websites
      • revising poorly managed areas
    • Think about what resources you will need (prepare), and work out ways to get those resources

Taking care of your personal well-being is the most important.

Remember to include things related to taking care of yourself, such as sport and nutrition, in your calendar.

Resources used to inform this page:

BarrierBarriers to achieving your goals

Give some thought to what might get in the way of you achieving your goals.

Are there any skills that you need to develop that would help you? If so, how will you go about developing these skills? Should you add this development to your goals?

Are there any habits that you have that could get in the way of your future success? What could you do to break any habit that is not helping you?


Procrastination can be a major barrier to achieving your goals.

Procrastination is when we delay or put off something we know is to our benefit.

The key is to stop making excuses and do something.

Click on the video iconThis video from AsapSCIENCE introduces the science of procrastination.

Adapted from: Eales, A. (2020) Supporting students to develop transition skills during times of uncertainty. Available at: (Accessed: 12 May 2020).

Strategies to overcome procrastination

This sway introduces you to some strategies to overcome procrastination

Strategies to avoid procrastination: alternative

Strategies to overcome procrastination

Take Action Do something  - it may create the mood and momentum to continue.
Visualise it In your mind, visualise completing the task and feeling pleased with yourself.
Break the task down Break a task or goal down into chunks, getting down to smallest unit. This can stop it seeming so big.
Five minutes Spend just 5 minutes on a task - once started you just might keep going!
Worst first Do the hard or boring bit first. Then the rest is much easier to do. Do the hard bits when you are at your best mentally i.e. in the morning if you're a morning person.
Keep motivated Keep yourself motivated  - write down your personal goals and post them where you can see them on a regular basis. 
Get support Get help from other people, friends, support services
Organise yourself Get all the items you need to complete a task and keep them close. Make sure your study space limits distractions
Avoid negative thinking Stop thinking you’re not good enough or that everyone else is doing a better job. Believe in yourself.
Mistakes Don’t worry about making mistakes - you only find out what works by trying things.
Rewards Use rewards – do something you enjoy after doing a task you’ve been putting off.  Also reward yourself at milestones along the way.
Reminders Make your tasks visible – set up reminders, signs, lists, notes all around you.
Make commitments People often say they work better under pressure, so create pressure. Tell people you plan to get something done, and then they'll ask if you got it done.
Slow down! Slow down the decision-making process. Consider the importance of the task and the consequences of delay.  Working last minute may mean your work is less accurate, damage relationships, and put yourself under stress.

Adapted from: Trinity College, Dublin (2010) Procrastination. Available at: (Accessed: 21 May 2020).