Think back on last year’s resolutions. Did you keep them? Chances are, some resolutions may not have been met, given that New Years’ resolutions are notorious for having a high failure rate. But this year, if MFT certification is one thing you are resolving to accomplish, it’s likely this is one resolution you cannot afford to break.
Getting back into the habit of studying and being productive can be frustrating, similar to the feeling of beginning to run a race again after taking a break to walk. Forgetfulness is a common experience for anybody returning to work, school, or studying after a break in routine during the holidays. It can take time to regain momentum.
One way to trigger your brain back into its usual study habits is to go back to your usual study space. The brain can correlate places with actions, which is called brain association, so going back to your favorite study spot in the library or coffee shop might wake your brain out of hibernation mode. You may see a similar effect if you have the bad habit of studying in bed. Bringing your books to bed gives you the worst of both worlds: it is hard to sleep because your brain associates this space with study, and it is also hard to study because your brain associates this place with sleep.
Once you find a study space that your brain will recognize as a productivity zone, take a look at your goal deadlines as you prepare for MFT licensure. A common reason why we fail to keep our New Years’ resolutions is because the deadline is so distant and the goal unrealistically high. Don’t get me wrong: we need to set high goals, and what could be higher than preparing for and completing the MFT national exam? However, what is just as important as setting high goals is knowing how to break those goals up into manageable steps. When you reach intermediate steps along the way to your final goal, reward yourself. So set short-term goals this year that will ultimately lead to completing your resolution.
When you are the only one affected by whether or not you complete your New Year’s resolution, it’s easy to put off or forget about. However, research suggests that, although it may sound counterintuitive, one of the reasons people fail to keep their New Years’ resolutions is precisely because they tell people what they intend to accomplish.
When you share a goal with someone before it has been reached, it is natural to receive praise simply for having the goal. That praise allows the brain to act as though the goal has already been completed, concluding in a lack of motivation.
Instead of telling others of your pre-achieved goals, allow your actions to speak. Create a study schedule and invite people to hold you to it. Rather than explicitly announcing your overall goal, you can invite accountability productively by inviting people who are already involved in your MFT licensing prep, if only indirectly by being affected by your schedule. This could be a spouse, a roommate, a significant other, or just a close friend. Let this person in on the details of your schedule and let your goals speak for themselves when they are accomplished.
A fresh start is perhaps the appeal of creating New Years’ resolutions. Last year’s goal that you put off until this year has another chance. A fresh, new you is more about creating new ways to achieve goals and making new habits as opposed to simply making new goals.
To avoid falling short of your goals this year, take an honest look at why you may not have achieved your goals last time. What worked and what didn’t? Maybe you were distracted in the study space you chose or maybe you set aside studying for the end of the day and consistently never got around to it.
If you were distracted by the chores and obligations that certain unproductive study spaces may imply, procrastination may have been the issue. Understand that procrastination is not about doing nothing, but doing everything else instead of the thing you need to do the most. Research suggests that the cure to procrastination is by doing nothing at all. Either you spend time either doing what you need to do, or you do not do anything. Go to your distraction-free productivity zone, as mentioned previously, where you have no choice but to study or do nothing else.
If, last year, you consistently set aside studying for the end of the day and never got around to it, perhaps a schedule rearrangement is in order. When you accomplish the easiest tasks first, you may not have enough willpower left to accomplish the difficult task when the time comes because the amount of willpower available to a person in a given day is limited. Therefore, as the day progresses, the likelihood that you would complete the more harrowing task diminishes. Allow your study schedule to accommodate the difficult tasks by putting them first. This will allow your day to get progressively better and eventually end on a high note.