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Starting a school diary to track your progress

Are you struggling to make progress? Have you lost sight of your goals? Not seeing any gains?

No, this is not a protein powder advertisement, nor is it about the gym or weightlifting. We’re so used to hearing these phrases in the context of having an ‘active lifestyle’, but we rarely consider them in terms of academic success. However, using the analogy of a student being like an athlete is very useful, especially when it comes to improving your schoolwork. It’s all about recording, tracking and monitoring your progress. Every successful athlete will have a coach, a personal training programme and high-tech equipment which will record their heart rate and performance.

As a student, you too have the equivalents; a teacher, a timetable and grades. Athletes monitor, track and analyse their progress constantly in order to improve, and you should do the same. It may sound like a lot of effort, but really it’s just a case of planning and being more organised with your time. Using a school diary is a good way to ease into this, and we’ve come up with a few ways that will help you get started.

Goals

Even at a young age, goals are a vital part of success. They motivate, encourage and drive our ambition. Ultimately only YOU can make a difference to your performance. For example; if your teacher says that you don’t write eloquently enough in your answers, what are YOU going to do about it? How can YOU fix it?

Dividing up your goals into the categories: ‘short- term’ and ‘long-term’ is a more realistic and strategic way to plan out your targets. A short term example would be- make sure I do the reading for Monday’s geography lesson, whereas a long-term goal might sound something like ‘ I want to get a 6 in my English GCSE”. Make sure that you’re being honest, set yourself proper goals and outcomes, not just ‘to do’ lists of what you want to achieve or unrealistic targets that are unreachable. Remember that they should be your PERSONAL goals. They should be driven by YOU, not by anybody else. Write them down, as this will help you to visualise what you are trying to achieve, and will motivate you towards success. If we return to the athlete analogy… athletes will constantly be thinking about what they can do to become faster, better and stronger. What are your goals as a student?

Sunday is an ideal day to set goals for the next week and review your goals from the previous week, it will make you feel organised and prepared for the Doing this thoroughly will help you to determine your progress. Remember to focus on the positive things that you’ve achieved, and be flexible. Sometimes our best plans get off track- either through circumstance or lack of motivation. So be patient with yourself, and get back on track as soon as you can.

Write everything down

Planning is the key to success. Structuring and organising your time will ensure that you’re always in control of your learning. It may sound ridiculous, but writing down what you need to do will change the way you think. Writing down our goals is the first step towards making them a reality. It can also help us stay accountable. When you’ve outlined your goal in writing, display it somewhere you can see for an extra shot of motivation.

Using lists, planners and checklists will break down school and homework into manageable pieces, meaning that if you stick to it, you’ll be working more efficiently, and will be more likely to succeed in your goals. Making a list of what you should be doing will constantly remind you of the work you need to do and the work you have done. Crossing things off the list will feel like an achievement, as it will create a sense of progress, expand your possibilities and increase your productivity.

Write down what you learnt during the day (eg. what you enjoyed/ found difficult etc) Through using the planner, you’ll be constantly reminded of what you’ve done and what should be doing. It will also mean that you’re exposing yourself to things you’ve learnt more frequently!

Feedback and recording

After you get a test, essay or piece of work back, read what your teachers have written as feedback, and then ask them for a verbal response. How are you doing in relation to your target grade? Are you scraping a 4 when you should be aiming for a 6? Do you feel like you’re rushing your work or not reaching your full potential? Try using facts and figures- eg. I got 56% in my History test, and I want to be getting 60% which is a 4% improvement.

How can you go after that 4%? Is it a case of learning one particular topic in more depth? Or is it a matter of changing your style of writing? Your teachers will be able to give you advice and help about specific things that you need to do in their subject. Talking to them for five minutes at the end of a lesson or sending them an email will help you endlessly. Once you’ve done this, write down what they tell you to do, and think about how you can achieve it.

Treat these pieces of feedback as personal goals. A few weeks down the line, talk to them again, and compare the responses. This will give you a better indication of how you’re performing and whether you’ve been making progress or not.

Remember that you are your only limit. You have to want it, and be hungry for success. Are you willing to put forth the effort to reach your goals? One extra degree of effort separates the good from the great. Are you ready to turn up the heat?