Most of us have a goal we want to achieve. But sometimes we lose sight of the goal and it drifts further away. I’m not talking about changing your goal – there’s nothing wrong with that if you have decided on a revamp. I’m talking about the goal moving out of focus until it feels out of reach. Online students are good at working independently, but it’s easier to keep on track when you have clear goals and keep them in sight.

Compass rose with needle pointing towards the word Goal

There are some techniques to help you with setting the goal and keeping it in range. The classic, tried and true system is called SMART goals, which means setting goals that are:

S – Specific (be clear about what you want to achieve)

M – Measurable (make sure it is something definable, that you can tell has been achieved)

A – Adjustable (life changes sometimes. Flexibility is a strength)

R – Realistic (you want a useful challenge, but not an impossible task)

T – Time specific (give yourself a deadline so it’s not a “someday” goal)

You can also add SPR (SuPeRSMART) to that – Self controllable, Public, Rewarded.  The last two in particular are incentives to get there. Making a goal public both brings in a support network and gives you an extra push to succeed. And giving yourself milestone rewards along the way definitely sweetens the deal.

There are other resources you can use. How about a Vision Board? You can create a collection of images and items that help you visualize your dreams and keep you motivated. Not into the full-on Vision Board experience? Make your phone wallpaper an image of that amazing country you want to visit, the city you want to work in, the charity you believe in, or the art that inspires you to paint.

You can also try a buddy system, where you partner up with someone to move along. You don’t have to have the same goal, but you can inspire and challenge each other to get to the next step, and celebrate each other’s victories.

Gamification can help too. It’s closely allied with the Reward part of SuPeRSMART, as it can mean giving yourself a prize for completing steps. It can also be the challenge of maintaining a streak (say, exercising every day). A giant wall calendar with big check marks on it is honestly a pretty good tool for this. There are also habit tracker apps such as Productive (IOS) or Habit Tracker (Android).

Whatever way you choose to set and achieve your goals, just the process of doing it makes you mindful and engaged with what you want. That’s never a wasted exercise.