“Filled with Yet”: A growth mindset on preparation

Written by Rachel Brunson, Learning Center Assistant Director

Rachel graduated from USF’s School of Education with a Master of Arts in Organization & Leadership (emphasis in Higher Education & Student Affairs) in 2013, after receiving her Bachelors degree in English from Notre Dame de Namur University in 2011. She is originally from Angels Camp, CA, a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Rachel is passionate about enriching student success and impacting student persistence through collaborative learning and peer leadership; she is grateful to work in the Learning & Writing Center, which cultivates individualized learning environments for USF students. Outside of work, Rachel enjoys reading, writing, knitting, hiking, playing the piano, watching basketball, and traveling with family and friends.


“What is the chief way in which you prepare for an important task? What person, thing, or situation influenced you to prepare in the way that you do?”


“As I reflect on how I approach and prepare for important tasks, two things come to mind: (1) utilizing resources and (2) mindset.


We often think that personal success is determined by what we have accomplished on our own, but success can also be defined by how we utilize the resources and support around us to increase our likelihood to reach goals and complete tasks. Getting started early and building a foundation to launch from are essential components in my preparation process. When I’m approaching a task I often start by asking myself questions: What do I already know about this, and what do I need to learn in order to complete it? Who might I be able to reach out to for key insights or ideas? Have I done anything like this before that I can draw upon? Breaking a greater goal into subgoals and then creating a task-list for each subgoal helps me to feel less overwhelmed as I get to work.


In a recent workshop I attended the speaker mentioned how we should re-frame our outlook on what it means to be successful. She asked the group to think about if we only celebrate our “outcomes” rather than also celebrating our “efforts.” This approach of “praising the process” speaks to me, and also ties into the research of Carol S. Dweck, a professor of Psychology who is known for her work on the mindset psychological trait. Her writing and lectures on the “growth mindset” (versus the “fixed mindset”) inspire me because they offer me hope for a successful future. When I am not afraid to make mistakes while I am learning, I am more likely to successfully complete an important task. With a growth mindset, my preparation process might be a little more messy…over time, however, I have learned to fight my tendency to strive for perfection. As I realize I am not perfect (which I realize over and over), I also realize that the opportunities to try again or to do what I haven’t yet been able to are typically always waiting. This doesn’t mean I support taking serious things lightly. Rather, we should give ourselves the space we need to accept our shortcomings and strive to improve. I have found that this approach relieves stress I used to experience in both my academic and professional environments.


If you have ten minutes to spare, check out one of my favorite TedTalks, “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve.”


Do you find yourself commonly needing to approach new or unfamiliar content or assignments? It is natural to put pressure on ourselves to accomplish things on your own, and this can be daunting. I encourage you to check out Carol Dweck’s research, and if you are a student at the University of San Francisco, do not hesitate to visit The Learning Center for resources or assistance. We sit down 1:1 with students for Academic Skills Coaching appointments to help you get started and stay on track!”


Task Preparation – Haley Rietman

What is the main way in which you prepare for an important task? Was there a specific person, event or situation that taught you to prepare in this way?

This blog post was written by Haley Rietman.

Haley is the Program Assistant in the Learning Center. She started in June of this year and has immensely enjoyed working in higher education. By working in the Learning Center, Haley feels that she is able to contribute to the success of students and help them achieve their goals.

“When I have an important task, event, or project I am working on, I believe that preparation is key. I have learned through experience that time management and planning are important to my personal methods of preparation. I like to use what is called Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix to determine what tasks I should put more of my focus into before moving onto the next.

When I was a student in high school, my father always stressed what he called the important/urgent method. This is what I now know as Eisenhower’s matrix. It is a way of using your time efficiently and effectively. After making a to-do list, I decide whether a task is important, urgent, both, or neither. An important assignment would entail something that contributes to one’s long term goals and values. An urgent task is something that should be dealt with in a quick manner. Tasks that are both important and urgent take priority, whereas tasks that are neither can be saved for another day, and tasks that are important will take precedence over tasks that are solely urgent. Therefore, the order of prioritization would be:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important
  3. Urgent
  4. Neither Important nor Urgent

Prioritizing tasks by using this mechanism has benefited my preparation methods far more than anything else I have ever used to prepare.  Below is a diagram that further explains how the matrix should be used and I encourage anyone and everyone to try out this method if you are looking for a new tool to help you manage any and all aspects of your life.”