Getting Things Done

The following was written by Rachel Brunson, The Learning Center’s 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 with The Learning, Writing, and Speaking Centers to cultivate individualized learning environments for USF students. Outside of work, Rachel enjoys reading, swimming, hiking, playing the piano, watching basketball, and traveling with family and friends.


I recently came across a Vox article recommended by Pocket titled, “The Myth of Self-Control.” As self-control is something I find myself struggling with from time-to-time (or more), I immediately opened the article and began reading. According to the article, based on current and past psychological research, resisting temptation is an on-going battle for so many of us. As students, we struggle with the decision to study, write that paper, go to class, schedule that tutoring appointment, or meet with our professor during office hours. We want to be studious and meet our academic goals, but in the moment, the temptation to do something else is always greater. Afterwards, we may feel disappointed in ourselves for letting temptation get the better of us. While we may give in to our temptations, there’s no reason to give up on ourselves nor our goals.  

What follows are several tips/strategies recommended in the Vox article and/or by myself. Hopefully you find something here to help you meet your academic goals. And if you have identified other strategies that work for you, I hope that you will share them with us via social media or via email at

Connect Goals to Values

Our values are those ideas, things and people we believe to be most important. When we decide to accomplish something, set goals, we’re more likely to accomplish those goals that connect to our values. As you think about those tasks or goals that are hard to accomplish, take time to understand how those goals relate to your values. To learn more about connecting your values and goals, I recommend checking out the article “The Value of Goals” on the Psychology Today website.

Goal and Implementation Intentions

When setting goals for yourself, consider possible stumbling blocks to your success and plan for them. Setting simple goals related to your larger goals is appropriate. For example, “In preparation for my upcoming exam, I will read and summarize passages from Chapters 3-5 of my text.” To ensure that you stay on track with accomplishing your goals, consider adding an implementation intention. For example, “To prevent myself from getting distracted by incoming text messages while I study, I will turn off my phone and keep it in my bag so that it is out of sight.” Or, “When I get distracted by negative thoughts during an exam I will implement positive thinking and controlled breathing to refocus.”   Use our 7-Step Goal Setting Worksheet to start the process of creating your goals and reflecting on those issues that might get in the way of your accomplishing them.

Mental Depletion

You may notice that there are times of the day when you work best and make the best decisions. For some of us, it’s in the mornings after we’re awake. During this time of the day, we’re usually most productive and resist many of our temptations. Make this time of day, the time that you tackle the hard stuff and leave the easier decisions for later in the day.

Develop Habits

Regular habits are easy to maintain because they are well, habits. People who follow a regular schedule, waking and sleeping at the same time, studying at the same time, and exercising at the same time allow you to forgo making difficult decisions because there’s no decision to make. You’ve built a habit and a schedule that’s easy to follow, and when distractions or temptation throw themselves in your path, it’s easier to say “no” because there’s already something else you are supposed to be doing. Building habits, or regular routines, can reduce the stress experienced from having to having to make decisions. The more structure you build into your schedule; the less stress you experience with decision-making. Try utilizing the 7-Day Study Plan found under Resources for Time Management and Organization on the Learning Center Academic Skills web page.

Enjoy What You Do

Instead of doing what you “have to do” do the things that you “want to do.” If you enjoy socializing, study with a group. And yes, there are ways to get in socializing with quality study time. Consider putting together a productive study group – reach out if we can help!

Reward Yourself

If you can’t think ways to make what you “have to do” something you “want to do” determine ways to reward yourself after accomplishing those hard to do tasks. Set aside a specific amount of time to get some quality study done and reward yourself with a tasty treat or bonding time with your friends. Break-up those long study sessions with 5-10 minute breaks for day-dreaming, watching your favorite cate video, or taking a quick walk. When you come back, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to learn more.

Change How You See Temptations

Sleep is important to maintain healthy brain functioning and productivity during the day. If you love sleep as much as I do, you may find yourself hitting the snooze button one too many times. Getting quality sack time is important, but so is quality time experiencing life. When you struggle to get out of bed, try thinking about all of the wonderful adventures you may be forgoing by staying under the blankets. If you can’t think of any can’t miss opportunities, plan some so that you always have a reason to get up and go out into the world.

Accountability Partners

Like many things in life, overcoming temptation and getting things done requires a little help/support. In college, there are so many people available to walk with us on our journey. They are our friends, faculty, advisors, tutors, peer leaders, and mentors. The Learning Center specifically provides Peer Tutors and Academic Skills Coaches to serve as accountability partners. Schedule a weekly appointment to discuss strategies and resources, discuss your progress, and develop plans for the coming weeks. (See instructions for scheduling a Peer Tutoring Appointment or an Academic Skills Coaching (ASC) Appointment.)

Learn from Failure

These are only a few strategies to keep you on pace to accomplish your goals. If you try these strategies once and they do not work for you take time to reflect on what did work for you, what got in the way of accomplishing your goals, and alter your approach or identify new strategies that can work for you. Only you know what works best for you.

Growth Mindset

The following was written by Haley Rietman, The Learning Center’s Program Assistant.

Haley grew up in San Diego, CA. She also attended college in Southern California at Chapman University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Haley is currently in school at USF pursuing her Masters in Counseling Psychology. Haley hopes that through her work in the Learning Center, she will be able to encourage students to achieve their academic goals which will in turn benefit their overall success.  Haley’s passions include traveling, exercising, and reading and when she has spare time she likes to explore San Francisco.



We are almost halfway through the semester here at USF. It is already March and
midterms are upon us. With that being said, I want to stress the importance of keeping a
growth mindset. Typically, when we think of mindset, we hear of two different types: fixed and
An individual with a fixed mindset believes that skills and intelligence are set from birth,
you either have them or you don’t. They believe that you are not in control of your abilities. An
individual with a growth mindset believes the opposite: each individual is in control of their own
abilities. They believe that skills are built with hard work and they have the power to improve
their learning and grow their skills.
Growth mindset has the power to change the way you learn. Professor Carol Dweck has
done numerous studies on how two people with similar talents will come to achieve different
results based solely on their mindsets. Dweck and her team have found that beliefs and focus
are the major characteristics of mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset first believe that
they can improve and second, focus on the process of improving rather than the outcome.
Dweck’s team has also identified four key components to growth. The first is effort; individuals
with a growth mindset believe that in order to grow, you must put effort into your work. The
second is how one sees challenges. Challenges should be embraced and be understood as an
opportunity to improve. The third component is mistakes. Individuals with a growth mindset
see mistakes as a way to improve learning. The last component is feedback; in order to fully
grasp a growth mindset, feedback must be embraced with the ultimate purpose of improving
the process.
You might have read the previous paragraph and thought “I already encompass these
characteristics.” There are however, some misconceptions when it comes to the growth
mindset. They are as follows:
 Myth: Being positive, flexible, and/or open-minded is the same as having a growth
o Fact: Positivity, flexibility, and open-mindedness are qualities that one has
always had. The path to achieving a growth mindset is intentional. Everyone has
a mixture of a growth and fixed mindset depending on the realm of their
thoughts. Some may have a growth mindset in regards to statistics, however, be
fixed in economics.

 Myth: Growth mindset is just about rewarding effort.
o Fact: The ultimate goal is that these efforts are yielding positive results. So yes,
trying new strategies, seeking help from others, and learning from mistakes are
important however, unproductive effort is never the goal.
 Myth: As soon as you embrace a growth mindset, good things will happen
o Fact: Developing a growth mindset takes time and there is room for regression
as well. Challenges, criticism, and negative environments can cause setbacks.
The best way to avoid this is to be aware of what may set you back and continue
to strive for improvement.

Adapted from: Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York:
Ballantine Books.
So, as you work through your midterms, try and shift your fixed mindsets into growth mindsets.
Strive for progress, not perfection, and remember, this is a process. Starting to reframe your
mindsets now will only help you in the future.