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Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s the subject of your fascination that keeps your mind turning until the early hours and gets you up in the morning? What’s standing between making your dreams a reality? What does success look like for you?

Staying motivated can sometimes feel like a Herculean task, especially when the finish line isn’t clear. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, particularly if you’re studying or working on a project that’s important to you, at least of one of these questions will be swimming around unanswered in the back of your mind.

Jordan Peterson, researcher and teacher of psychology at the University of Toronto, believes that the old age practice of writing down your thoughts and emotions to these questions can be decisive for students.

"The act of writing is more powerful than people think," Peterson says.

Petersons co-authored paper, published in 2014, demonstrates that closing the achievement gap (in his case he studied gender and ethnic minorities at university) came down to students completing a short written exercise in setting goals.

Petersons fascination on this topic has spanned over several decades, with experiments on the effects of expressive and therapeutic writing dating back to the 1980’s.  His “goal setting” theory in particular, positively indicates that writing down concrete, specific goals and strategies can help people overcome both mental and psychical hurdles and achieve their desired result.

So, in a nutshell, you really can’t go past the humble list.

But how do you make a great list?  Is there an art to it? Do I need to colour code? What do I include and what do I include?

Here’s how you can break it down.

Get a notebook, a diary or even a whiteboard.

You could use a word document or put a note on your phone. The important thing is that you have a dedicated place to compile your thoughts and your goals that is easily accessible. Figure out a system that works for you!

Make your list achievable

When I was studying, my to-do list had at least 20 items on it each day – it’s safe to say I only did four or five of those things.

Every list should be realistic. A long daily list may look productive, but if you don’t achieve everything on the list, you can’t help but feel disappointed.

The Australian Make Your Mark initiative suggests making a master goal and then break it down into actionable sub-goals. From your sub-goals, you can even break it down further!

They say your list could look like this:

MASTER GOAL: By December 2017 I will have my Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care completed and will be working in the industry.

SUB-GOAL: By January 2017, I will have enrolled in a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care with an online provider


  • Step One: Research which education institutes offer online courses in Early Childhood Education and Care by 1 August 2016.
  • Step Two: Call or email each provider for more information by 10 August 2016. With each provider I will ask questions about:  Fees and financial help,  Enrolment dates,  Teachers and trainers, Employment and placement help,  Tools available for students
  • Step Three: Decide which education provider I will study with by 24 August 2016
  • Step Four: Enrol in my course by 29 August 2016
  • Step Five: Apply for any financial help I might need by September 5.

Assign Times to Daily Tasks

You can understand more about what you can achieve my allotting times to your tasks.

If you have “Write a cover letter” or “Write the summary of my thesis” on your list of to-do’s, have a think about how long it could realistically take you to complete it.

When you do this for each task, you’ll find you’re less likely to create one of those long lists I was talking about earlier. A bit of time pressure can also help you jump into gear.

For example:

9am – 11am – Write a cover letter for childcare job (2 hours)

You have control over your list

No list is final, it’s simply a tool to help you visualise your goals. You can reschedule, extend, and ditch goals as your needs change.

Remember, the hardest part is always just before you start. But once you’ve worked out your actionable steps, you can give yourself a mental high five and keep on trucking towards your dreams.


Do you desire a career change, want to upskill for a promotion, or simply keen to hit the books? Check out our range of courses now! 

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