Back-to-school basics: Why setting goals is important (and how to do it right)

Whether you’re already on the school-year grind or you’re getting ready to start, it’s always a good time to brush up on your skills. For the next couple of months, we’ll be bringing you some back-to-school basics to help your team get off on the right foot.

This week, we’re talking about why it’s important to set goals at the beginning of the year. Got any practical tips, feedback or ideas? Tweet us or message us on Facebook!

We all come into the year brimming with big ideas — grandiose dreams of transforming your entire newsroom into a lean, digital-first, integrated content machine.

Well, we hate to break it to you, but it’s pretty hard to change everything about your organization in just 12 months. And while we totally support you aiming high, we also want you to feel empowered to make real, tangible change.

One of the most important steps toward making an impact is setting realistic goals at the beginning of the year. Here’s how to do it.

Start with your dreams. Think of your perfect, ideal student newsroom. What does it look like? Who’s in it? What kind of work is being produced? How do others perceive it, both within and outside of your staff?

Now think about what aspects of that mental image that are the most attainable. What can you actively work toward? And, most importantly, which things will you make a priority?

Here comes the hard part — narrowing it down. By no means should you let go of your ideals. But setting realistic goals is the key to actually achieving them.

A great strategy for setting goals is to make SMART ones … that’s specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound.

Say, for example, you want your content to be seen by more people. You might think, “I want to grow our social media audience!” But how will you know if you’ve succeeded?

Let’s tweak that vague idea into some SMART goals:

  • “I want to increase our Facebook likes by 1,000 in the first quarter so more students have direct access to our content.”
  • “I want to create a weekly Twitter chat about campus hot topics with at least 30 participants by the end of the school year in order to create more engagement and foster discussion.”
  • “I want to post on Instagram at least once a day, starting on the first day of the year to show students different aspects of our coverage.”

Follow this process for the rest of your goals, and encourage your entire team to do the same. Set both professional and personal goals, then develop tactics, deadlines and ways of measuring each one so you can mark your progress.

And remember to be kind to yourselves — you’re full-time students, and occasionally you might also have a social life. Push yourself and your teammates to be the best you can be, but also remember to focus your energy on goals you can manage and feel good about accomplishing.

So tell us: What are your big goals for the year? Tweet us, hit us up on Facebook or shoot an email to our blog at We love hearing from you.

By Kayla Missman