Planning and Goal Setting for 2021

By Ulster University Modified on January 06, 2021

Suggestions for new ambitions after the rough year that was 2020.

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Suggestions for new ambitions after the rough year that was 2020.

We can all agree that 2020 was a crazy and unexpected year. No one saw a worldwide pandemic coming, and none of us had lived through one before either. We all had to adapt to the new "normal" as best we could.

In 2020, many people got to know themselves better. There were fewer pressures to go out to do things or socialise, which meant, more time for self-care, and figuring out what we enjoyed in life, what we missed and what we didn't miss so much!

Now that we're looking ahead to 2021, here are a few ideas to help you set goals and work towards living your best life and embracing not only what you enjoy most, but what will make you feel good as a person.

Banish a bad habit

Everyone has bad habits, and its easier said than done to eliminate these. Whether it's procrastinating, snacking late at night, watching too much reality TV, or biting your fingernails, everyone is guilty of something small. Most have probably tried to give these up once or twice and failed. Try to banish these one last time and when you find yourself slipping back into old ways again, remind yourself why you decided to give up in the first place.

Many habits take roughly a month of effort to break, though some can be even more difficult! Take it slow and focus on small victories.

Dig into podcasts and books

Reading books, journals or articles and listening to podcasts are great ways to self-educate. Find something that you have an interest in and dedicate some time to increasing your knowledge. At this time of year, many people have jumped onto the healthy eating and fitness band wagon. If you're not into reading as such, podcasts are excellent ways to learn more. You may be surprised at some of the tips and tricks you pick up from listening to other people's views and explanations.

Furthermore, at this stage of the academic year, students are beginning to think about which school or college they would like to study at in September. Podcasts on acing your application or writing a personal statement may prove beneficial. Of course, there are plenty of podcasts on lighter topics, too!

Reduce your screen time

Sometimes it's hard to avoid, as many students use online resources for their schoolwork and learning materials, especially now.

Many of us are guilty of spending too much time online between school, work and social media. If you were to reduce your screen by 30 minutes per day to begin with, what would you do in those 30 minutes? You might walk around outside, chat with friends, or play a game. We tend to sit when watching TV and scrolling on our phones. By doing so a little less, we're increasing our activity levels which will have great benefits for both fitness and sleep quality.

Think about your long-term goals

If you are in school hoping to enrol at a university or college in September, now's the perfect time to set realistic goals about what you want to achieve.

Do you want to graduate with a degree in three to four years time? If so, what do you need to do to start your journey of getting there? The most obvious answer is getting the right grades for your chosen course. Therefore, setting aside some extra study time could have huge impacts on your overall performance.

If reading books and long paragraphs of text doesn't help you concentrate, listen to podcasts or video recordings. Think about what subjects you struggle with, the ones that require you to put in a little extra effort. For example; biology. Use a search engine to find a 30-minute video recording on a topic that you are required to learn for this semester's biology exam. Small changes can have big impacts.

Do some research

If you're applying to college or university this year, don't leave it to the last minute to research institutions that suit your personal needs and goals.

Not every school may offer the course that you wish to study, so it's important that you know all about the institutions that do, and where you are applying to. If they're outside of your home country, make sure to research all of the points to consider when moving away. Where are the nearest airports? What is the cost of living, what are the entry requirements for that country; the list goes on. You can never be too prepared!


No matter what your personal goals and aspirations are for 2021, planning is key. If you have a plan then your journey is set out for you and you know how you are going to get there.


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