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Start the Year off Right!

January 23, 2019

Welcome back all Mason graduate and professional students to the spring 2019 semester! I hope that everyone had a chance to relax and recharge over winter break.

I believe that part of having a successful year is in how you choose to start the year off. Thus, I have compiled three strategies that I myself have found helpful and that I think will put you in the mindset to finish the academic year successfully and prepare you for any challenges that may arise.

  1. Make SMART Goals

With the start of a new year, many people choose to make a list of New Year’s resolutions in order to make their goals more tangible and hold themselves accountable. The problem, however, is that oftentimes the goals are too broad, and they become difficult to maintain for more than a few months. This can be especially challenging for graduate students who are juggling duties both inside and outside of the classroom. I recommend that you use the SMART acronym to ensure that your goals are:

  • Specific: Having a specific goal in mind means being aware of not only the steps necessary to complete it but also any challenges that you may have to overcome.
  • Measureable: Selecting a goal that is easily measurable will allow you to recognize when you reach it and will provide a more rewarding feeling as you will be able to track your growth.
  • Attainable: When setting new goals, they should match your current skills and allow you to progress at a level that is comfortable for you.
  • Relevant: When choosing your goal, it is important to understand why it matters to you and how it will benefit your life.
  • Time-bound: Too many times, people do not complete their goals because there is no time limit. So, the next time you start a goal, make sure that you choose a specific date to either have made progress or completed it, holding yourself accountable will lead to more successful outcomes.
  1. Accomplishment Journal

Have you ever tried to remember your past accomplishments only for two or three to come to mind? If you have found yourself in this situation, an accomplishment journal can make all of the difference by providing a standard place to keep track of your achievements and helping boost your confidence in your abilities. With this journal, you would no longer have to scramble to find this information when the time comes to update resumes or fill out other documents, as you can simply look through your own written record. This method would also allow you to be as descriptive and detailed as need be. And do not worry, if pen and paper are not your style, you can easily create an electronic version of this list using software such as Notes or Google Docs, making it extremely convenient. Additionally, when faced with challenges throughout the semester, this accomplishment journal can provide you with the motivation to continue by reminding you of all your past successes and your endless capabilities.[i]

  1. Come with an Open Mind

One of the most important things that you can do to be successful this semester is to come with an open mind. Whether it is in the classroom, in your research, or at work, you should try to embrace your new experiences and circumstances. By looking at your situation from a more positive perspective, you would be surprised at what you can learn and gain while adding value to the work of others. The graduate and professional students at Mason consist of people from all disciplines and backgrounds, and whenever we come together, it is an opportunity to learn and contribute to an ever-growing community.[ii] If you want more information about specific events and programs, visit the Graduate Student Life website and check out the Grad Life Event Flier for the spring semester.

I hope that everyone has a great start to the semester and that these steps provide you with the motivation and determination necessary to accomplish all that you set out to do.



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[i] Thomas Frank, “10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Start the New Semester off Right,” College Info Geek, last modified January 2, 2018, https://collegeinfogeek.com/start-next-semester-off-right/

[ii] Taylor Sienkiewicz, “Back to College: 8 Simple Tips to Start Classes off on the Right Foot,” Peterson’s, last modified August 30, 2018, https://www.petersons.com/blog/back-to-school-8-tips-to-start-classes-off-on-the-right-foot/