How to target your effort and reach your study goals faster!

How to target your effort and reach your study goals faster

On Sunday, I won first prize in a competition. It was training worth $1000 and I was super excited because I love to learn. 


And last week, I was a runner up in another competition, narrowly missing out on a £500 prize. In fact, I've won eight competitions since December, from big ticket items to a £40 voucher for my local farm shop!

  • Do I enter 100s of competitions? No.
  • Do I enter more than the average person? Mmm, possibly...
  • Do I go all out to win those I do enter? Absolutely!

The reason why I often win is because of targeted effort. I put the right sort of effort in at the right time. Targeted effort has been a major factor in my success as a student too. So what does this mean?

Targeted effort and growth mindset

Those of you who know me will know that I talk a lot about having a positive study mindset and in particular a growth mindset.

Students with a growth mindset know that the more effort they put into their studies, the better their results. 

You can contrast that with students who have a fixed mindset - who believe their talent and ability is limited - and they believe nothing they can do will improve it.

So they don't put the effort in, or don't put as much effort in.

But simply putting effort into your studies is not enough. It has to be TARGETED effort.

To give you an example – you could jog on the spot for an hour and put in a lot of effort, but you're not going to get very far! I see this with students who are clearly putting effort into their studies, but because they don’t have the right strategies they're not getting very far.

What can you do?


Here are three ways you can be sure you’re putting targeted effort in.

1.    Set success criteria

If you think through how you are going to apply targeted effort in advance, it’s a lot easier to monitor your performance. Before you go back to University in the Autumn, take some time to journal or write down what targeted effort would look like for:

  • your reading,
  • research,
  • in a lecture,
  • when you’re writing an essay, and
  • in an exam.

Don't skip this step and think it is self-evident! Humour me here and actually write it in your journal or workbook. One of the BIGGEST lessons I've learned in my life is that planning is crucial to performance.

Putting targeted effort in might look like this:

  • Doing the required level of reading
  • Challenging yourself to test your knowledge
  • Making sure you do the recommended reading before the lecture
  • Being determined to never give up until you’ve found a solution

These are some example of what effort looks like and by defining those, it will become easier to assess you’re putting the right sort of targeted effort in.

2. Get feedback

If you find that you’re not making progress, get feedback from people you trust. This will help you understand where you’re going wrong in your studies and how you can target your efforts more effectively. 

Don’t struggle in silence. I've said this before and I'll say it again if you are struggling to make progress ask someone for help or insight. Most problems will have been encountered and overcome before, and getting another perspective often helps.

Once you've got feedback, then take action on that feedback.

If somebody directs you to do something new, then be open to change and take advice on board. Continuing to put effort into an approach which doesn't work for you, may keep you busy, but it's not going to improve your results. Be open to new approaches and prepared to retarget your effort in another direction.

3. Use different strategies

Make sure you try out a range of study strategies. Different study methods work for different students and something that worked for a friend, or which somebody else at University is using, may not be quite right for you. Take a step back and think how you can tackle your study, essays or exams from a different angle.

You can use the resources on the website for inspiration, you can watch other tutorials like this and you can ask for advice. But make sure you’re using the WHOLE range of tools that apply to whatever aspect of study you’re conducting.

Remember, there's a plan and purpose for your life - study hard, stand out and start right NOW!