Learning Tips: Set Up Some Benchmarks

As students, you’ve probably been asked over and over about your academic goals. And they’re probably something like this:

  • make an “A” in College Algebra.
  • earn a degree.

And these are certainly useful goals to make and achieve. But sometimes as  a guide for specific days, they can be a bit fuzzy in helping us know what to do.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say I’ve been planning to study for two hours after dinner when someone calls and asks me to go hear a band. Now I really want to make a good grade but I also would like to hear the band. So here’s my reasoning:

It is September and final grades won’t be given until December. I have three months to study and only one night to see this band. It won’t be a big deal if I don’t study tonight.

The problem with this sort of reasoning is that it can happen over and over again until suddenly it’s late November, and I’ve got a semester’s worth of studying to do in two weeks. (This may or may not be based on actual life experience.)

This is where short-term benchmarks can come in handy to make sure I stay on the right track.

So for my class, I might decide the following weekly activities are important:

  • Go to class.
  • Take three pages of notes.
  • Read the assignments.
  • Do the homework.
  • Conduct one hour of research/writing for the two papers assigned in the class.

So I make a checklist and each week, grade myself on my completion of the activities. This method keeps the tasks in front of me, and make me less likely to procrastinate because the final grade is “months away.” 

If I’m invited out, then I can check to see how many of these things have been done and if I have time to still complete them if I take the night off. I have to be honest with myself, but that’s a little easier to do on a weekly basis than on a semester one.

This has proved to be a very helpful tool for me. Give it a try and see if it works for you. 



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