This is the time of the year when many law schools conduct their orientation programs for incoming students. I’ve decided to begin my own orientation series “21 Steps to Becoming a Better Learner” here at Lawsagna. Experienced students can also benefit from this program because there is always room for improvement. I plan to address 2 or 3 steps each week giving you enough time to start working on them in between. Are you up to the challenge?
Without further delay, let’s take the first step.
Step 1: Setting your learning objectives
You’ve probably all heard about the importance of goal setting if you want to achieve good results. There is something very tangible about written goals that you can keep close to your desk and re-read regularly. They remind you why you do what you do. They help you measure your progress. And you can get a great sense of satisfaction when you check off a goal because you have accomplished it.
As the first step on your path to become a better learner, you will have to write out your learning objectives for the upcoming semester. Your objectives must meet the following criteria:
- Your goals must be put in terms that you can control. For example, “I will get an “A” in Torts” is not a good goal because grades are assigned by your professors. But the steps you can take to bring yourself closer to getting an “A” is something you can control, so they can be your objectives.
- Your objectives must be measurable. Including specific numbers, deadlines, time periods into your goals will help you track your progress. For example, “I will read books on networking” is not specific enough. Decide how many books you want to read a month and make that your goal: “I will read one book on networking each month.”
What should your goals cover? In my earlier post “Is Your Learning Significant?” I described Dee Fink’s “Taxonomy of Significant Learning,” which in my opinion, offers a good basis for your personal goal setting. You want your learning to influence various areas of your life so take a broad perspective on how learning can help you professionally, socially and personally.
Is it better to have big goals or small goals? My answer is both. Consider having two levels of goals. Since I like cooking analogies, I will call them the “appetizer goals” and the “main course goals.” The “appetizer goals” give you the big picture of where you are heading, they are like themes that work up your appetite for more definitive goals. They are motivating and inspirational in nature. The “main course goals” are the fuel for your activities. Concrete and well-defined, they are the focus of your efforts. They really give you something to work on.
For dessert, write out why you want to accomplish these objectives. Picture the rewards you gain from achieving your goals. Visualize the outcomes. How will it feel? Capture your best reasons on paper and return to them when you need extra motivation.
You also need to know the cost of your goals. Each goal comes with a price tag. Your objectives may require you to change some of your habits or behaviors. Maybe, you like to watch TV each night, or sleep in on weekends, or spend hours on the internet. What do you have to give up for the opportunity to achieve your goals? Identify those costs and decide if you are truly willing to pay the price.
Finally, schedule regular intervals to revisit your goals and track your progress.
Here are a few tools that can help you with your objectives. Joe’s Goals is a free online tool that allows you to enter your own goals and track your progress each day. HassleMe is a program that will periodically send you emails with the reminders of things you should be doing after you decide what you want to be hassled about (Hat Tip to Idealawg).
OK, it’s time to pick up a pen and a piece of paper and get to work.