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The Student Insider

Struggling to stay motivated? Learn how to set SMART goals and keep procrastination at bay


Written by
Natalie Strange

Sometimes it can feel like treading water when it comes to keeping on top of everything. With looming assessment deadlines, busy work schedules and ongoing responsibilities at home, it can feel overwhelming to manage them all.

Five smart goals (Student Insider)
The five SMART goals are: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound

​In this article, we will introduce you to a quick and easy method of managing your time and to-do list by using SMART goals.


Nadine wants to improve her wellbeing, but assessments are approaching and it is difficult for her to find time to focus on how she is feeling and destress. Nadine uses the SMART goal technique to define her goal more clearly.


Be clear about what you want to achieve and how you plan to do this. Think about the who, what, where and when to add detail to your goal.

Nadine decides that she would like to focus on meditation to improve her wellbeing and that she would like to do this for an hour every day.


Define how you will know that you have achieved your goal and use those measurements to help you keep track of your progress.

Nadine decides that she knows she will have achieved her goal when she has maintained this goal consistently for 8 weeks.


Consider your current situation and any barriers you are aware of that may make it difficult to achieve your goal. Use this knowledge to adapt your goal and set yourself up for success.

Nadine reflects that meditating on her own is not an achievable goal for her as she struggles with her focus and anticipates getting frustrated with maintaining meditation practice. She decides to use a meditation app that starts at a beginner level and will guide her through each to help her stay focused.


Think about the other commitments and responsibilities you have and consider whether it is possible to achieve your goal alongside these and make any changes needed.

Nadine reflects that with her study commitments, she does not have the time to dedicate an hour to meditation every day. Instead, she wants to aim to meditate for 10-15 minutes, which is more manageable and realistic with her current schedule.


Create a deadline or timescale to track your progress and specify when you want to achieve your goal.

Nadine decides to aim to achieve her goal in the next 8 weeks.

So, Nadine’s new SMART goal is: to meditate for 10-15 minutes every day using a meditation app for guidance practices and to do this consistently for the next 8 weeks.

What are the some of the goals you want to achieve? Start by choosing one that feels like a priority for you or that you have struggled to make progress with.

Top tip: If you choose a long-term goal or one that feels like the equivalent of climbing a mountain, try breaking it down into smaller and more manageable steps. You can use the SMART goal technique again to help scope out these smaller steps too.

This will help reduce procrastination and feelings of overwhelm and instead bring your focus to the next achievable step. This means that while you are climbing a mountain, you are not looking at how far away the top is, but instead at making it to the next checkpoint, and every step bring you closer to achieving your overall goal.