One of the best ways to be sure you are focusing on the right things is to set goals for what you wish to accomplish. This strategy helps you keep yourself in check and avoid distractions, so you complete the tasks you need to in the appropriate time frame. The two types of goals that can most help you in your productivity are short-term and long-term.

Short-Term Goals

Another word for a list of short-term goals is a “to-do list.” These goals should be created on a weekly (or even daily) basis, and should be based on the tasks that need to be immediately accomplished. This could include anything from studying for a Music History exam to spending 45 minutes practicing your lesson assignments. Whatever they are, these goals are best if they are able to be completed in one sitting. Items should not stay on this list for very long (generally no more than a week), and should be considered top priority when you have time to work.

Long-Term Goals

Long-term goals can have a much wider range, including year-long, semester-long, or monthly. I prefer to set semester-long goals for myself, and now is the perfect time to put together a list of semester-long goals. These goals should be based less in school work, and more based in your development. Examples of these goals are diverse and could include performance-based goals (be able to play excerpt X at 120 bpm by November 1 in preparation for my jury), professional development-based (update my resume by September 15 in preparation for a fall conference), or personal (lose X pounds by October 10th). Whatever they are, check up on them often! In fact, it’s a good idea to check up on the status of your long-term goals each week just before you create your short-term goals for the week.

It is also advisable to set short-term goals in advance for long-term projects. For example, if you read on your Music Theory syllabus on the first day of class that there is an analytic paper due on a Beethoven Symphony on the day of the final exam, outline at the beginning of the school year what goals you wish to have completed and when. You might want to make sure you have chosen which symphony you will write about by the second week of school, acquired a copy by the 4th, done an analysis of form on the first movement by the 5th, and so on. This way, you will never be caught writing the entire paper the night before it is due.

Suggestions For Setting Goals

Whether your goals are short-term or long-term, here are some tips for setting goals that will enable you to maximize your productivity:

* Make Your Goals Attainable-Whatever time frame you are setting goals on, they need to be attainable. It is completely unrealistic to set a goal of playing the most difficult piece of repertoire for your instrument perfectly by the 3rd week of school. While ambitious, this is an unattainable goal. Your goals need to be realistic, yet challenging.

* Be Specific-Create very specific goals, which will challenge you to maintain the high standards you have set for yourself. For example, instead of setting a goal of “play half of my jury piece well by midterms,” consider instead something like “play from the beginning to letter L in my jury piece with no technical mistakes by October 15.” This erases the ambiguities left by the first option in the words half, well, and midterms. It will help you keep yourself on track. Also, always set specific dates by which you wish to have your goals completed. Instead of saying “by the end of the semester,” put an actual date to it. This will make the goal seem more real as it approaches, and ensure that you complete it in a timely manner.

* Don’t Procrastinate-While this obviously applies to carrying out your goals, it also applies to setting them. Don’t put off setting your goals until tomorrow–do it today! In fact, go set your goals right now!

* Write Them Down-And not just on a scrap of paper! Have a journal or notebook you jot things down in? Write your goals and dates you want them completed by in there! Use the computer a lot? Save your goals to your desktop. Writing them down isn’t the only step, though; your goals need to be visible, or you will forget about them. Put them on a post-it note on your desk, or if you used the computer, save them as an image, and make it your desktop! This way you are constantly reminded of your goals.

* Prioritize-Once you have your goals written down, put them in order of their priority to you, and when you have time to work, work from the top down. This way, you will complete the most important items first, and if you should fall behind schedule on your goals list as a whole, you know the highest priority goals are already finished.

What Are You Waiting For?

There is no better time than the present to start setting goals! Have 10 minutes to kill? Start writing a set of goals for the coming school year right now! Be sure to keep them close by as the weeks and months pass by!

What goals have you set for yourself? Do you have other suggestions for setting great goals to maximize productivity? Leave a comment and share your experiences regarding this topic; let’s continue the conversation!

How to Stay Productive: Part 1-Set Goals