Columnist: Conscientiousness critical to success

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 6, 2016

Ernest Fannings

Contributing columnist

How many students or working professionals do you know who are highly conscientious?

These are the people who show up to appointments on time and tend to keep their calendars organized. They set ambitious goals and meet predetermined deadlines.

Others refer to them as “reliable” and “on top of things.” They often receive compliments such as, “You’re so thoughtful” or, “You’re prepared for anything.” Many admire them for their conscientiousness, and many envy them as well.

No matter what class project group they’re in or where they work, they’re assets to any team.

Being conscientious is more than just an innate trait — it’s a skill. We can develop it with consistent yet easy actions that we incorporate into our everyday lives.

Since conscientiousness is defined by being organized, resilient, punctual and setting goals, it stands to reason that we can improve our overall level by working on any one of these traits. I’ll explore each of these in more detail in future guest comments.

Many times — whether a student, parent or other — we become so focused on working hard that we neglect to organize our work. This can come in the form of a student who is eager to start a project, but doesn’t want to set a schedule for their work ahead of time.

It’s equally easy to forget the importance that thoughtfulness plays in our lives. For workers, it could be the social skills needed to work with different personality types during a project. Regardless, becoming more conscientious helps us all in both the short and long term.

Obviously, conscientiousness is a key component of student success. Here’s the most interesting part: one’s level of conscientiousness doesn’t only help them as a student, but if they became a teacher or administrator as well.

A conscientious student will complete assignments on time. A conscientious teacher is more likely to be a good team player with the members of their department. And a conscientious principal will be more organized in managing the school’s goals and obligations in relation to other schools.

The easiest way for students to become more conscientious for the next school year is to pick something not school related and try to build conscientiousness in that area. For instance, if your student is an athlete, when they practice at home, instead of trying to fit in time to do it when they have spare time, they can set a practice schedule of 30-minute time blocks. When students practice being conscientious in non school-related endeavors, it gradually carries over to other areas of their life.

Summer break is here, but that doesn’t mean we should stop improving. You don’t have to have your student in one of our TMT summer sessions to reap the benefits of a break from school to improve other skills.

So as summer progresses, let’s focus on being organized and thoughtful. Summer is the perfect time to take our first small steps toward living conscientiously.

Ernest Fannings is director of Top Math Tutoring.