Like many others, I use the start of the new year to reflect on what I have achieved last year, and what I now want to achieve this year, particularly when it comes to writing.
I believe having goals written down, so they are tangible, in-front-of-your-face, preferably somewhere where you can look at them often, makes a big difference in your effort to realise those goals. It makes you remember them. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of your life that they can easily slip your mind otherwise. And who’s going to call you out on it if you do? You’re only accountable to yourself.
I’m currently going through some goal-setting at the moment – I definitely got off-track towards the end of last year, and am now working on getting some new methods in place.
Choose Goals That Inspire You
This may seem obvious, but sometimes we set goals that we think we should be doing, rather than what we want to do. For example, I might want to become a published writer, so I set a goal of submitting three stories a month to literary journals. But what if I don’t actually like short story writing? Or literary journals? What if I rather focus on screen writing or a fantasy novel, but am doing this because I think that’s what I have to do? If that’s the case then that goal of three short stories a month is going to feel like a mountain to me. Make sure reading your goal makes you excited about it!
Break Up Your Goal/s Into Smaller Goals
‘Publish my first novel’ is a bloody daunting goal to have. For the big goals, you really need to make a plan and work towards them. Break it up into smaller, more manageable steps, and I find it helps to set yourself timelines as well to ensure things are kept moving. For example, novel writing – maybe you start with allowing yourself three months to brainstorm, and in that time take some writing classes. Or you decide you want to have started writing it by November, so you can use NaNoWriMo to work on your draft. A good tip here is to work backwards from your end goal – that will make the steps you need to take a lot clearer.
Set Time Aside To Review Goals
This is where you keep yourself accountable. Set a regular time – say once a month – to look over your goals and plans, and see if you’re on track. Maybe you realise you’re not and need to get back on track, or maybe you realise that this goal that seemed so important a few months ago suddenly isn’t anymore. We are always changing, and self-awareness is such a good quality to have. And if you’re not where you want to be, don’t get down about it – maybe you just have to adjust your plan, break steps down even further, so they’re achievable; perhaps 3000 words a week becomes 2000, and that’s enough to make you feel good about your goal again.
As I keep having to learn many times, unfortunately we can’t do it all. Sometimes goals will clash, and you simply won’t be able to dedicate an equal amount of time to them all. For example, maybe you’ve started a writing blog, but you also have a children’s manuscript to finish, but there’s that brainstorm of a fantasy novel you started a while back… (yes these are real examples, for anyone wondering). This is when you need to prioritise your goals. Decide what’s most important to you, but also what’s realistic – maybe you have a smaller goal that you can accomplish sooner, and then move on to the bigger one after that. Or maybe one goal is actually helping you learn what you need to know for the goal you’re really excited about. The vital thing is to not try and do it all at once, and do things half-heartedly as a result.
Finally, I'd like to leave you with a quote:
It always seems impossible until it's done.
– Nelson Mandela