We need to adopt an approach to establishing and maintaining our academic progress – how we set goals and create personal habits that will result in a routine that is more likely to help us to meet course requirements and achieve the results that we deserve.
Academic progress is about our plan to hit our targets, how we work towards this, and how we might recalibrate when we lose our way. Our academic performance has a unique influence over our future, our motivation, and how we feel about ourselves. When we feel like we are succeeding and fulfilling our potential, we are inspired to continue and encouraged to aspire for more. A focus on results is important. We need a clear picture of the results we want to achieve, and while the final product is important, having familiar and effective practices to secure anticipated results is equally important. Trying to value both the journey and the result equally can be hard. We don’t always get a criteria sheet or a grade for the former; we have to provide this ourselves. This may lead us to view the process of working towards a goal as auxiliary to the product, when really we should consider its value as at least complementary and even, on occasion, superior. This process needs to be drafted, refined and practiced. We will need a plan. Specifically, we need to learn to identify targets and set goals. We need to be able to look at a big project and compartmentalise it into small, manageable stages to give us a clear picture of what needs to be done, and help us feel more assured because we have a clear understanding of the pieces of the puzzle, where each piece needs to go, and when each piece needs to be put into its place.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Identifying targets and setting targets represent the first step. We also need good habits and routine to put them into practice. Good habits refer to the practices we employ that help us be the best we can be. Practices such as timetabling or a reward system for completing work are effective in encouraging us to stay on track. The need for routine is universal. We need to remember, however, that in addition to basics like these that apply to everyone, these need to be supplemented by a range of other techniques. Different things will work for different people. Some of us rely more on an external motivation to work, while others have a strong internal drive and may require a clear structure to execute to completion. We need to experiment to find out what actually works to improve our performance in terms of process and results. Once we find what practices work for us, it's important to turn them into habits through repetition. Consistency of practice, starting our work early, and working effectively during the time at hand according to the priorities we set all enable us to create and maintain disciplined and well-tested routines. If we can do this, we are more likely to achieve the results and success we are aiming for, and we will still have the time to do the other things we enjoy in life as well.
Understanding both how you are going to be evaluated and who is evaluating you are also important. Familiarising yourself with the requirements and assessment criteria of your academic work helps you to keep track of where you are up to and what you need to do to continue to make progress. Getting to know your teachers, tutors and instructors also helps because you can build the relationships that will help you to enlist their support. Our teachers, tutors and advisors want to see us succeed. The better they know and understand you, the more your relationship with them will transform your academic progress. While we may have the tools to do what we want, sometimes we are not familiar with how to use them. Asking for help from teachers, tutors, peers and friends is an important part of academic progress. It represents the best kind of humility, the kind that admits imperfection, and it demonstrates a drive to become a better person.
We can contemplate our Academic Progress by considering the following questions: