Skills for study, life and work

Succeeding in your studies requires quite a wide range of skills, some of which you probably already have, and some of which you will develop during your time at NUI Galway. One key set of skills (for study, but also for life and for work) is the range of skills often grouped together as ‘organisational skills’, which include goal-setting, planning and prioritising, task analysis, and managing your time, your workload, your study space and your stuff.

A very good resource to help you to reflect on your skills and how to organise your learning is this All Aboard tutorial on learning tools. You can find out more about the All Aboard initiative in the IT and Digital Skills section of the Academic Skills Hub.

Setting and achieving your study goals

To stay focused, even when the going gets tough, you need to have goals. Goals can be long-term (over the next three to five years, for example), medium-term (over the next year, for example), or short-term (over the next few days or weeks). While you can have vague aims (“I would like to change the world/be rich/be successful”), goals cannot be vague. Goals should be SMART*. That is:


Your goal should be clear and targeted. For example, “I would like to bring water to 100,000 households in developing countries over the next three years”, “I would like to make my first million euros by the time that I turn 21”, “I would like to read this book chapter by 5 pm today” or “I would like to achieve second class honours in my degree”.


How will you know when you have achieved your goal? You need to develop a measure of your success, using ‘metrics’ such as quantity, frequency, quality, and so on. Examples could be number of words written, percentage of labs attended, number of exams passed, grades achieved in coursework or exams, and so on.


Is your goal realistic? Have you a reasonable chance of achieving it? Is it something that you have a degree of control over or are you dependent on others for success? Don’t set goals that are not attainable!


Your goal should be relevant to your overarching aim, to your other goals, and to your circumstances. So if your aim is to make the world a better place, your goal of qualifying as a barrister within the next three years may be relevant to that. However, if the time isn’t right for you to complete the required postgraduate qualification, because of family commitments or financial constraints, this goal will not be so relevant after all – at least for the moment.


Goals should always specify a deadline for completion. Be realistic about how long it will take you to achieve a goal – it often takes much longer than first anticipated – so, if you can, allocate more time than you think you will need into your schedule.

*The concept of SMART goals originated in the early 1980s and you may come across some different interpretations of the SMART acronym. There have been critiques of the SMART goals concept, but it is a useful tool for reflecting on your motivation and your commitment to your studies.

Download our goal-setting activity to experiment with setting your study goals over different time-spans.

Supported by the NUI Galway Student Project Fund