You're listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 59 - setting how goals so that your teen not only has an outcome in mind this semester but has a crystal clear path on what to do in order to accomplish it.
Hi VIPs! I hope you and your teen had a wonderful mid-term break and that you're ready and raring to go for semester 2. I thought this would be a perfect time to talk a little bit about goal setting and specifically the system that I like to use which I am calling 'how goals'. Because I think there is a tendency to sometimes sort of name or specify a goal and put it out there into the world and then hope that just by, you know, working harder studying longer or doing more that that is going to come true. And for me I think it's important to get a lot more specific about not just naming the goal, we've heard all about things like smart goals and how to set those up very specifically, but I think that having a lot more focus on the 'how' we're actually going to accomplish that and specifically therefore what we are going to do on perhaps a daily or weekly basis is really, really helpful to essentially, make sure that we get there. And sometimes I think also taking the emphasis off the outcome can be really helpful just in terms of mindset and instead focusing on the things we're actually doing that will eventually just lead us to that goal.
So I want to take you through the process for setting up these types of goals and then how to make those happen. So a how goal is where the focus is not on the actual outcome but instead on what they are going to do in order to achieve it and therefore it forces us to chunk down and break down the steps, the process for getting there. And a bit of a metaphor I suppose or a way to explain this, and I know I use a lot of sort of fitness analogies here, but I think this really works.
I used to do a lot more running than I do now. I would sort of, you know, get partway through/halfway through maybe towards the end of a run and you know you're getting tired and you just wanna stop? You just wanna walk. And I would just set little markers that I could literally see just in front of me to get to. And it would often be a lamppost or that corner or that tree and I would literally just be saying get to the next tree and then just get to the end of this street and eventually you would have completed the 10K or the time or whatever it was you were aiming for. But just doing that next chunk is absolutely doable even if I'm grimacing all the way through. But I think this is useful because I think we naturally have to do this for very practical type goals or activities or outcomes like we naturally would say ok, if I wanna go and run a marathon I need to set up a weekly plan. And this week I'm gonna run this amount and I'm going to do these stretches. I'm going to do these mobility exercises in the next week. I'm going to run this much, these are the distances. It's very practical and natural to chunk down. But what I see for so many students is when it comes to academic goals it's like ok, this is the grade I want to achieve and I'm just going to study more or I'm going to work harder or I'm going to have to focus more. I'm going to spend more hours on my English study or whatever it might be. It's a lot more vague, less specific and less chunked down.
So I'm going to chunk this down into three steps for your teen or for you to help your teen create a how goal for semester 2. Now they can have more than one goal if they would like to. One is a great place to start. I wouldn't have more than three so between one and three is good. One is great and anymore than three is probably taking on a little bit too much. It might take away from their focus and really their follow through on accomplishing it. So those are my little bits of advice to get started. Step number one is to name a specific goal. Now there are two types of goal that I recommend students think about. Firstly it could of course be a specific grade or result, like I want to go from a B to an A in maths. But it could also be something about the way that they work now that is harder to measure but it just means that it takes a little bit more thought to think about what does that actually look like. So it could be, hey I just want to be more focused during my study time. I don't want to be getting distracted. I don't want to be on my phone and I'm gonna try not to go over and look at my emails or go onto YouTube. So in that case what does that actually look like?
That means I am going to set myself a specific time for study. So it might be I'm gonna spend 40 minutes on this activity and I am going to not look at my phone or go on my email or YouTube, check any other social media just during that time. And each time I sit down to study I'm going to set myself a specific thing that I'm going to work on in that time. I'm going to give myself a time frame to work on it and I'm going to put all other distractions out of the way. So that could be a specific thing in the way that they study so they are being more effective and efficient and productive during their study time and therefore a nice side effect of that is they will likely end up with more time for other things or less stressed that they don't have enough time to get everything done. So they name a specific goal and it does need to be specific so they know if they have achieved it or not.
Step number two is to decide and breakdown, and this is the most important part, what is required in order to achieve that goal. This is the how part of the goal. The first part is just the naming of the goal. We could just put anything out there and it doesn't mean that it's going to happen unless we know how to make it happen. This is essentially the what and the when. So specifically what do they need to actually do? What actions do they need to take? And also think about what do they not need to be doing? What do they want to avoid or stop doing? And I really, really want to urge you both to think about being strategic here. You really want to know what is going to give the most bang for buck. So I hear so many times people talking about doing some wider reading. Doing extra research and if you've heard me talk for a little while now you will know that those sorts of things are not things that I recommend. They certainly are not at the top of my list of recommendations that students can be doing in order to a improve their results or be optimised how they are studying. Yes it may well increase their knowledge but we know that knowledge is not the only thing needed in order to improve your teens grades. So really getting to know what will give them most bang for buck, most outcome for that effort is really important here. We don't want them doing more just for the sake of being able to tick a box or say that they're doing more.
We want that to actually contribute and lead to the outcome. That overall goal that they want. So for any of you that have your teen in the 10 Week Grade Transformation program or in Next Level Coaching, have your teen come and ask me and I will help them figure out what is the best thing they could be doing in order to achieve the goal that they want. So let's just take a really clear example to work through together.
Let's say a student wants to go from a B to an A in maths in semester 2. What do they need to do? They need to know exactly what they're going to do in order to make that happen. What is the bridge from getting from the B to the A? So it could be, I'm gonna do an extra 5 maths practise questions on top of whatever they're setting in class or for their basic homework each week. And remember, I said they need to be strategic. They wanna be choosing questions that are going to best serve them. So it might be their gonna do simple ones just to consolidate going to complex ones that are going to stretch them a little bit. And maybe one challenge one that is really going to represent what that A grade type of question is like. And then they need to think about how long is that going to take? And when am I going to actually do it? Maybe it might take an hour to do five extra questions. Are they going to do that in one session? Or let's say one question each day, five days of the week. Now I will say it is probably better for them to really get into the flow with that. So I would probably say do those five questions in a one hour chunk, once a week. That would be my recommendation if someone was to come and ask me about that so we need to specify when that's actually going to happen.
We can't just hope that we're going to find an hour at some point during the week each week so I might look at ok when do I have sport on? When am I working shifts in my job? When do I have some free time that I wanna actually have relaxing or spending time with friends or family or doing other fun things? And from all of that I might allocate one hour on a Sunday afternoon that said it's probably gonna be between around 3:00 to 4:00 o'clock. I'm going to specify that is my time to do my five questions. For maths, two simple, two complex and one challenge. That hour is even gonna have to include the time that maybe I decide which questions I'm going to do. Maybe I might even need to say I'm going to have an hour and 10 minutes. That gives me 10 minutes to decide which questions, see how specific we need to go on this. If we're not specific that's when things start to slip or procrastinating over things because it's like Oh well I don't know which questions I'm going to do so how do I sit down and do the questions? It's very easy for our brains to give us excuses but the key point here is that the how becomes the goal. So you getting five extra questions done from 3 to 4:00 PM on a Sunday afternoon each week throughout semester 2 is now our goal. Our goal yes is to go from the B to the A in maths but really the how goal , how I'm going to make that happen, is my goal. To do five questions from maths, two simple, two complex, one challenge every Sunday afternoon throughout semester 2. So our brains don't need to fixate quite so much on that A grade. If we set a strategic how all we need to do is focus on doing that how each week. And this is where step three comes in.
We need to set up a plan for worst case scenarios or for when things go off track. Because chances are, not every single week of semester 2 is going to go perfectly or be exactly the same so it might be that there are certain weeks where they know they're just gonna have a lot of assignments due or they're gonna have an exam block or there gonna maybe even get sick at some point which we can't plan for. There might be some other emergency or something unexpected that comes up. So step three is another how part of the goal and we need to think of this in two ways as well so if the how of step two are going to think of what and when and then for step three we're going to think about planning ahead for expected issues. And we're even going to make a plan for when unexpected issues crop up so expected issues might be a week where we know we're just going to have a lot on with assignments or maybe we know we have a sports tournament that week. Something where we're going to be busier than usual and have other things that might take priority over those five questions.
What can we plan ahead for? So if we know that we have let's say one week in term 3 that is going to be really busy and really tricky we might just want to have Sunday afternoon off. What are we going to do about that? Will we do maybe an extra question each week for the first five weeks? Will you do a full 10 questions the week after so you kind of doubled up the following week to make up for the lost time. And I will recommend having some thought again around the strategy behind this because yes, we could think well hey, like there's ten weeks a term we're saying we're going to do five questions each week maybe we could just sit down and do 50 questions in one day! But remember, this is about being strategic and optimising that work. So getting five questions done per week is a way to have spaced repetition. If we take that away it may not now be the most strategic or optimal way to do things. So this isn't about cheating the system. It's just about being aware of things that might come up and how we can not let that slip just because those things happen.
Then we have the unexpected issues, so how do we plan for something that is unplanned? This is where it's a really good idea to set at the start what I call a bare minimum. So let's say we get sick and we miss some of our maths classes. We might not really be in the position to do an extra five questions. Because a) we're not feeling well and b) we've now missed some of the content. So maybe the bare minimum is that hey, if something unexpected comes up maybe my bare minimum is just that I make sure I catch up on anything that has been missed. Catch up with the content. Do the questions that should have been done in class. That is the bare minimum so that I'm not missing any actual content.
If we think about it like training for the marathon in the running example, maybe if you had a week where we got sick we're obviously not gonna go running but maybe we will just commit to saying hey I'm just gonna do the stretches and mobility exercises whilst I'm not feeling well. And then along the way as they start to execute on this it's about tracking as they go, thinking what is working? What might not be working? Are they sticking to it and if they are, they can give themselves some sort of appropriate reward. And also they might even wanna evaluate. Do we think that this is making a difference? There's no point in keeping on doing something if it isn't on track. How do they know if it's going to make a difference? And if they're not following through, if they're not sticking to their how goal, they need to answer honestly for themselves, why not? Why am I not following through? Why am I not completing these five questions? And then what might they need to adapt to mean that they do? And it might be that they need to adapt something in their mindset or it might need to be something that needs to be adapted on a more practical level.
I have plenty of episodes on how to optimise focus and motivation and productivity. How to actually follow through on getting tasks done. So I'm not going to go into that. I want to stick to the goal setting process on this particular episode, but if you do want more on that follow through on how to get things done and do them in a really effective and efficient way then I would definitely recommend checking out some of the previous episodes I've done on this. So I'll give you a few that you can go to and I'll put links directly to these in the show notes I would recommend episode 2: Why your teen procrastinates, even though they actually want to get it done. And episode 53 and 54 will also be really good so that's motivation mindset hack and staying focused when studying. Those will also both be really good. And some of those might even help you figure out why your teen might not be following through, might not be sticking to their how goal. So those will hopefully be helpful to you as well as the key point I want to make for today, for this episode is that rather than just setting a goal, we actually want to make the how the goal. So the goal is not to go from an A to a B in maths, the goal is to do five extra questions each week so that we are consolidating and honing and extending our ability through spaced repetition that will then get us the A in maths. So for semester 2 have your teen set at least one how goal. Name the specific goal. Breakdown and dissect exactly what is required. What they need to do in order to achieve it. What they need to stop doing or not do in order to achieve it. Specifically what that looks like and when it will happen and then worst case scenarios when things are not on track what will be their bare minimum? How can they account for and be proactive in knowing when things will be difficult and what they can do in order to mitigate that? And then the outcome goal. The actual result, whatever that is, will take care of itself.
I hope that you and your teen have a very successful and happy semester 2 to come.
I will see you back here next week. Have a wonderful rest of your week, take care, see you soon, bye!