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Online Study Tips: Goals, Rewards, and Motivation

Tyson Schritter

Set goals and rewards

Earning a degree is a bit like running a marathon. It’s a long, challenging journey to the end. Without proper training and enough motivation, you might not cross the finish line. That’s why setting clear goals and reward systems are the key to success in both. The long grind of the school year can get tough, especially when you’re juggling the responsibilities of a job or family. However, setting attainable goals, tracking your progress, and giving yourself rewards can dramatically improve your college experience online and help you graduate.

The key to this is setting goals that are S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

The more specific your goal, the easier it will be to know when you have reached it. That way, you can measure your progress along your route, and pace yourself so that you reach your goal by the time you want to reach it. Goals need to need to be realistic and attainable. Remember, you’re not a superhero. You still need to rest and attend to other things in your life. It’s okay for your goals to be ambitious, so long as they are broken down into reasonably attainable parts. Chasing a goal that is too difficult will feel frustrating, and choosing one that is too simple will feel unsatisfying and boring. Aim instead to do a little bit better than your last time. It’s better to complete big goals gradually, step-by-step until completion rather than all at once.

This is also where relevance comes in. Knowing how and why the task you are doing fits into your larger plan is a great way to stay motivated. Very few people enjoy blindly doing difficult tasks without feedback or context for what they do. Setting deadlines for your goals will lend your efforts a good amount of urgency. If you choose your goals with all these attributes in mind, it should be much easier to stay motivated. To stay on top of your studies, you should set daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term goals using these criteria.

When you attain those reachable goals, make sure to give yourself a little reward to keep you going. This doesn’t have to be an overly involved reward. It might be an episode of your favorite show, a special snack you enjoy or just some extra study breaks. Some people like to turn their pursuit of goals and tasks into a fun game. There are even apps that will make the entire goal and reward system into a fun game complete with heroes, villains, power-ups, and experience points. Find the system that works for you and stick with it. You may soon notice these new habits become a part of you.

Visualize your motivation

What’s your reason for going back to school? Do you want a better life for your family? Do you want to earn more money so you can afford a new house? Are you going for your dream career? The more clearly you envision your goal, the more likely you are to reach it.

Take some time to think about the details of the future that awaits you after graduation. Where will you work and with whom? How much will you earn? What will you do with that money? The more details you can fill in about these motivations, the more likely you are to go out and reach those goals. Decorate your workspace with photographs, keepsakes, or other reminders of these goals to lift your spirits when things get difficult.

Here’s a rundown of all the steps we covered in a video from the University of North Texas at Dallas.

 

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