Hit the Mark & Accomplish Your Goals

by: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels.

The start of a new year is exciting, as it provides us with an opportunity to hit the reset button and begin anew! For many graduate students, a new year provides another chance to accomplish goals, that they were unable to achieve during the previous academic year.  According to an article published by U.S. News & World report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. If you are struggling to keep up with your new year resolutions, don’t worry! Outlined below are a few strategies adapted from a Forbes.com article, to help you hit the mark and accomplish your goals.

  • Create A Clear Vision: Develop a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and anchor it on why you want to achieve it. For example, what is your vision as a leader in public health? What public health crisis do you want to solve? Why do you want to solve it?
  • Commit to Two or Three Goals: You may have many academic and career goals that you want to accomplish within the next 2-3 years.  However, to help ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed, begin with 2-3 goals that you believe, will have the most impact on your life right now. Be sure that your goals are SMART goals and begin working on them today. Once you have completed your initial three goals, identify 2-3 more and start again.  
  • Make A Commitment and Then Stay Consistent: As a graduate student, you may have a very demanding schedule with your personal life, classes, assignments, teaching assistantships, etc. However, you can accomplish anything that you set your mind too. Identify a strategy that resonates with you and stick with it, as commitment and consistency is key.
  • Write A Letter to Your Future Self:  Write a letter to yourself when you are eighty years old. What goals did you set? What goals did you achieve? What are you most proud of accomplishing in your lifetime? Use the answers to those questions to define your goals and action steps from there.

If you need additional support with goal setting, please contact the Office of Student Life to schedule a coaching session today.

How to Manage Competing Priorities

By: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director

An article published in the US News & Report states that saving money is a great thing to do. However, according the article, if we save time, we may also save our health and sanity.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels.

Graduate students may find it hard to manage their time, school work, as well as other personal commitments.  You may have other obligations in addition to your role as a graduate student – such as being a spouse, a parent, caregiver for a loved, teaching assistant or e-board member within a student/professional organization. These various roles can be very rewarding, yet stressful to manage, as you take on additional responsibilities. However, research shows that learning how to manage your time, activities, and commitments can make your life easier, less stressful, and more meaningful.

Here are 3 strategies to begin managing your priorities:

  • Strategy #1: Create SMART goals. Establishing SMART goals, will help you clarify your ideas and help focus your efforts more succinctly.  Your goals are is your personal road map and will help to ensure that you can accomplish what you want in life. To get started, use the goal setting worksheet and identify your personal, educational and career goals.
  • Strategy #2: Prioritize Commitments/Tasks. To prioritize your commitments and tasks, you must determine which things to tackle first.  In order to stay organized and accomplish all commitments/tasks at hand, you will need to arrange them by urgency and importance. Consider using the Eisenhower method, a task management tool, that will help you categorize your tasks/commitments more efficiently.
  • Strategy #3: Organize Your Digital Calendar. To organize your digital calendar, review your daily activities and break them into categories such as personal, family, school and work. Designate specific colors for each category, so that you can easily identify them in your calendar. By utilizing a digital calendar, you will be able to have access to your schedule at all times. To get started use this calendar template make a list of your reoccurring monthly, weekly, as well as your daily tasks/commitments and begin plugging them directly into your calendar.

Please keep in mind, that no matter which strategies you use, in order to be effective  – consistency is KEY. Don’t wait until you have a meltdown to begin managing your priorities, start TODAY!

Designing Your Life Part 3

By Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

“Designers don’t think their way forward. Designers build their way forward.”  – Design Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

This is the final segment of this series. In the previous post, we discussed five design thinking ideas on how to increase self-efficacy from the TEDx Talk, Designing Your Life. Today, we will dive deeper into design thinking idea #3 and you will learn how to create an odyssey plan. By designing an odyssey plan, you map out three different versions for your life, for the next five years.  

Outlined below is the rubric that Bill Burnett recommends to design your odyssey plan:

  • Alternative Plan #1: Your first odyssey plan is your life as it is now. What are you currently doing?  What can you do to improve your life over the next five years?
  • Alternative Plan #2: This plan is your back up plan to your first plan. What if you the thing you’re currently doing suddenly ends? What happens if you experience a financial hardship and you’re no longer able to attend school? What will you do if your job is suddenly eliminated? What side hustle do you have, to make this plan work?
  • Alternative Plan #3: Your final plan is your wild card – it’s a plan that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and do something completely different.  What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? What you do if you didn’t care what people thought? What would you do if you knew no one would laugh at you?

To get started with your odyssey plan, click here for the worksheet and follow these directions below (Burnett and Evans, 2016, p. 105):  

  1. Create three alternative five year-plans, using the worksheet provided.
  2. Give each alternative plan a descriptive six-word title and write down three questions that arise out of each version of you.
  3. Complete each gauge on the dashboard – ranking each alternative for resources likeability, confidence, and coherence.
  4. Present your plan to another person, a group, or your Life Design Team.  Note how each alternative energizes you.

Move forward in the design thinking process, by prototyping each of your alternative plans and make adjustments as needed. Choose the alternative plan that works best for you and according to Bill Burnett, you will design a well lived and joyful life!

Designing Your Life Part 2

By Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

In the previous post, we discussed dysfunctional beliefs that may hinder personal growth.  Below are five design thinking ideas from the TEDx Talk on Designing Your Life, that will help increase your self-efficacy as you move forward in the design thinking process.

  • IDEA #1: CONNECTING THE DOTS – To live a life that is meaningful and purposeful, you must know who you are, what you believe and what you do in the world.  To begin connecting the dots, examine your life-view and your work-view.  Your life-view is your understanding of the world and the ultimate reason why you’re here. Your work-view, goes beyond what you want out of work – it’s your definition, of what good work should entail. If you’re able to make a connection between these two views and create a coherent story, you may begin to experience a more meaningful life.
  • IDEA #2: GRAVITY & ACCEPT Gravity problems are circumstances we experience yet cannot change.  To live a meaningful life, we must accept this reality, have an open mindset and be willing to focus on problems that we can actually solve.  
  • IDEA #3: HOW MANY LIVES ARE YOU?  –  In his design thinking courses, Professor Burnett does a thought experiment with his students, and asks them imagine to themselves living in multiple, parallel universes.  At the end of the experiment, his students realize that they have more than one life– or interests that they want to explore. In order for us to discover our many lives, we must create an odyssey plan to explore alternative lives. 
  • IDEA #4: PROTOTYPING – In the design thinking process, you will generate ideas to help you move forward. However, to be successful, you must build a protype of your ideal life. Protyping allows you to test out your ideas, when you aren’t sure about what you really want. You can protype your ideal life, by talking to someone who is doing what you want to do or by actually doing what you want to do.
  • IDEA #5: CHOOSING WELL –  Determining which option to choose can be difficult because of fear of making the wrong decision or FOMO. According to Professor Burnett, if you make decisions reversible, your chances of being happy goes down about 60%-70%.  The process of choosing well requires that you: gather and create options to explore; narrow down your options to lists that you can work with; make a choice; then let go and then move on – it’s that simple!  Stand by your choice and make your decision irreversible. 

Take a few minutes to reflect upon the principle that you want to implement today.  How will this principle help improve your life? We will conclude the design thinking series, by creating an odyssey plan: a five-year plan that will explore alternative paths you can realistically pursue to design the life you want.

Designing Your Life Part 1

By: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

Three Part Series: 1 of 3

In 2017, Stanford University professor and author, Bill Burnett presented a TEDx Talk, on how he helps scholars design their lives using the technique of design thinking. Design thinking can help you design and create a lifestyle that is meaningful as well as fulfilling. As a student at JHSPH, you have the ability to design your life by maximizing all opportunities and resources that the School has to offer! To begin the design thinking process, be willing to have an open mindset, try something that has never been done before, and confront dysfunctional beliefs.

Dysfunctional beliefs can hinder you from working toward your personal and professional career goals. Here are few mentioned in the TedXtalk:

  • Dysfunctional Belief  #1: You can only be passionate about one thing. According to a Stanford study, less than 20% of people have one identifiable passion in their lives. This study found that eight out of ten people have multiple interests (passions).  In design thinking, passion is not an organizing principle for your search or your design. If you have several things that you are passionate about, you can pursue them all – by designing a plan to help you execute your ideas into motion.
  • Dysfunctional Belief  #2: You should know where you’re going by now and how to get there. You may have family and friends who have unrealistic expectations for you. According to Professor Burnett, people must be accepted for who they are, and should not be expected to have certain things by a particular age or designated time. They believe that anyone can start designing the life they want, from where they are.
  • Dysfunctional Belief  #3: Be the best version of you! This belief implies that there is one singular best. However, there are many versions of a person. For example, although you are a graduate student, you may be an executive at a large company, a parent, or a sibling. No matter which hat you wear at a given time, there’s only one you, and you are truly the best.

Are there cultural or societal ideologies that you believe are hindrances? Take a few moments to reflect upon these beliefs, write them down, and then commit to moving forward. In part two of this series, I will share five design thinking strategies from Dr. Burnett to help empower you in designing your life on your own terms.