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How Students Can Achieve Goals by Setting Deadlines

By: Beth Werrell
Student Goal Setting Chalkboard Clock

When Emmitt Smith was in high school, his coach, Dwight Thomas, made everyone on the football team write down their goals. “It’s only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal,” Thomas said.

Smith later played for the NFL and became one of the best running backs in history. “I know that writing down my goals was an essential strategy,” he said, thanking Thomas while delivering his speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

If you want to achieve your goals, writing them down is only the first step. The next step is to set deadlines and meet them.

Why Are Deadlines Important?

Setting deadlines is essential to productivity. It can help students finish school projects, follow New Year’s resolutions, or achieve other short- and long-term goals. It also helps to build intrinsic motivation

Deadlines are so effective because they make large projects or goals more manageable. Breaking up projects into a series of smaller tasks makes them easier to complete and prevents you from waiting until the last minute to finish your work.

Once you figure out which tasks you need to complete, organize them into steps. Assign deadlines to these steps to ensure everything is completed before the final due date. Next, you can schedule time on your calendar for each step and set time limits to keep yourself on track.

Tips for Setting Deadlines

Consider these tips while you set deadlines.

  • Schedule each step on your calendar. This will prevent you from procrastinating and missing deadlines.
  • Write down your deadlines. Writing down your goals and how to achieve them helps you analyze your thoughts and turn them into actions. Because it makes your goals feel more concrete, writing them down helps you commit to them.
  • Figure out the right time limit. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available to complete it. In other words, if you give yourself an hour to do your homework, you’ll spend an hour on it, but if you give yourself 30 minutes, you can probably get it done faster. That’s why you should set a time limit that pushes you to be as efficient as possible—but don’t make the time limit so short that it’s impossible to reach.
  • Use a timer. You can use a kitchen timer or an app such as the Free Countdown Timer to keep track of time and prevent you from working too slowly.
  • Do the difficult parts first. Getting the tougher tasks over with can spur your motivation and make the rest of the project go quickly.
  • Identify personal roadblocks. If you know you struggle with procrastination, perfectionism, or a lack of focus, decide which steps you’ll take to prevent the issue from getting in your way.
  • Anticipate mistakes or delays. If you miss a deadline, what will you do? Figure out a plan ahead of time for dealing with problems so you don’t get discouraged if something happens.
  • Determine your priorities. Start by figuring out which steps are most important and seeing if there are any ways you can save time. If you run out of time, know which parts you can skip or do quickly.
  • Find support. Ask a parent, teacher, or Learning Coach for feedback or help when needed. Sharing your deadlines is important because it holds you accountable, making you less likely to miss or change deadlines.
  • Get creative. Find ways to make setting deadlines fun. Make a chart, create a calendar, or draw a picture to visualize the process of finishing your project.
Student Worksheet for Setting Deadlines

Here is a printable worksheet to help you set deadlines. Start by answering the questions at the top of the worksheet, which will help you think carefully about your project or goal. In the “Additional notes” section, record any strategies you will use, such as rewards or activities. Once the first page of the worksheet is filled out, you can set it aside or post it on your wall.

Next, cut out the step sections on the dotted line. Ten sections are included in the worksheet, but you probably won’t need to do them all. Fill out the details and focus on completing one step at a time.

What are your tips for setting deadlines? Do you think they help you achieve goals? Share your thoughts in the comments.