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Realistic and Attainable Goal Setting with Journaling (SMART Goals)

With the start of 2024, many of us embark on a journey of self-improvement. We have the “New year, new me” mentality and set new goals to live a healthier and more positive life. But let’s face it, our gym goals start looking distant after 2 weeks into the new year. If this feels relatable and a little daunting, don’t worry. We’re here for you!

Instead of setting goals that disappear quickly, like the money in my bank account after getting Starbucks, let’s create sustainable goals that we can maintain long-term using the SMART approach. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Our goals must be Specific to be clear about what we want to achieve. Also, they must be Measurable, so that we can track our progress. Goals should be achievable and Relevant, so that we don't set ourselves up for failure. Lastly, goals must be Time-Bound to create a sense of urgency for completion.


With regards to a goal being specific, try to clearly state and narrow down your objective. Journaling helps to establish a foundation for work-life balance, and it's important to focus on the positive components of your day. In terms of specificity, write about three positive things that occurred in your day and show gratitude with regards to those areas of your life that are often overlooked. This increases your motivation throughout the day and enables you to acknowledge ways to balance your time and schedule, so that you have time for yourself! We call this a positive feedback loop, which is a cycle that amplifies your emotions as you see your writing come to fruition.


It is always a good idea for your goal to be measurable so that you can track your progress and determine whether you are accomplishing your desired goal. A measurable goal should have a timeframe and can be quantified after a certain amount of time. Dedicating a specific time and place of when and where your goal will take place and for how long, is a good place to start. For example, “I will journal every other evening at 9:30pm before I go to bed, in google docs for about 5-10 minutes throughout the month of January”, is a measurable goal. This way at the end of the month, you can refer back to your google docs folder and measure whether you have journaled every day and achieved your desired goal.


Journaling can be daunting, especially for a busy university student. But, the amazing part is that it can be tailored to your other commitments. Based on your schedule, you can select how often and when you will be journaling. Fitting it into your schedule tends to be the hardest part, so make it reasonable for you. You could start with 5 minutes every other day before bed, and work from there! If writing isn’t your thing, there are many other ways to reflect on your day. For instance, you can make notes on your phone, take videos or audio recordings. The important thing is that you're setting aside time to reflect.


Ensure that your journal entries are related to your life, and what you most value. This may involve reflecting on how your day was or what you hope your day will encompass. You could also discuss how these may contribute to your long-term goals. This is a great way to see your personal growth and how you have changed!


Tailoring your goals to be time-bound is key to consistency. Aim to dedicate a small chunk of time, just five-to-ten minutes in the morning and/or evening that can be fully dedicated to journaling every day. By doing the same task at the same time, you will be well on your way to building strong habits. Challenge yourself to journal every other day, once a day for a week, one whole month, etc... and see how far journaling takes you!

No matter what you want to achieve this year, utilizing the ‘SMART’ framework can help you to get started! When working towards our goals, we are most likely to succeed if we start with a small goal and increase it slowly over time. It can be tempting to take on too much, but our goals are less likely to be maintained over time if we bite off more than we can chew. If your goal is to journal this year, start by dedicating two minutes every other day. Once a few minutes a week becomes easy, you can always set a new SMART goal and work your way up. If 10-20 minutes a day is your ultimate goal, you will get there in time!! You will also learn a lot about yourself along the way.

Utilizing the SMART framework will help you to consistently meet your goals, set new ones, and maintain progress. In 2024, we are taking it slow, giving ourselves a framework, and becoming our best selves!

You got this!!


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