The new year is coming. It’s a time when you’ll hear people make sound and determined resolutions that they keep for a month or two, then forget all about. But we’re not going to do that. We’re going to be smart and not make resolutions—we’re going to set goals!
The biggest difference between a resolution and a goal is measurability. Two of the most popular resolutions I’ve heard are losing weight and quitting smoking. Great things to strive for, but saying broadly, “I’m going to lose weight,” isn’t enough.
For a goal to happen, it has to be three things: achievable, measurable, and accountable.
1. Make it Achievable
I’ve heard it said by leadership gurus that we overestimate what we can do in the short-term, but underestimate what we can do long term. Which means? We need to set both short- and long-term goals, but we need to think about them carefully.
I’d love to start posting videos on my YouTube channel once a week. Realistically, I don’t think I can make that happen. Not with all the other things I want to do next year. So, in my planning, I have to either lessen the number of videos I’m going to set as a goal per month, or lessen something else.
It has to be something you can accomplish without stressing over too much, but that moves you forward. Don’t make it so easy that it’s not effective.
2. Measure It!
This might be the most important part, at least to me. I like lists and planning and analytics. I like to see numbers move and watch charts. Measuring progress is one of my favorite parts.
All this really means is that you have to be able to track it somehow. You can say, “I’m going to write two books next year.” That’s great, but you need to decide how you’re going to do it and that’s the part that you need to keep track of. It’s not enough to put down, “Write two books.” It should be more specific and made more easily attainable, so maybe something like, “Write two books of 90,000 words each, by writing 7,500 words per month (or 1,730 words per week.)” Doesn’t that sound much less intimidating than two whole books? I think this is part of why NaNoWriMo works for a lot of people. 50,000 words in 30 days is a lot, but 1,667 words per day isn’t bad, and the tracking on the NaNo site is great for encouragement and accountability.
When I set my goals for the year, I make a chart, usually in Evernote so I can get to it from anywhere. I’ll break it into sections. One section for writing, one for social media, etc. I will name each goal, then I’ll figure out what I will do to work toward that goal. For example, I read somewhere that someone said you can’t make getting an agent or getting published a goal. I guess in some ways they’re right since you on your own can’t accomplish getting an agent. But, I partially disagree because who else is going to do it? What they’re saying is, it’s not entirely dependent on you to make it happen, whereas no one else is needed to write your two books. So maybe the goal itself can’t happen on your own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make it happen.
Maybe it’s technically a dream instead of a goal, but you can make goals to get there. You could put down something like, “To get an agent, I’m going to send out 30 query letters per month, participate in at least 1 pitch day on Twitter, and go to 1 conference where I will sign up for a pitching session.” These things are all achievable, measurable, and accountable, and will move you closer to achieving your dream.
Don’t not write it down because someone told you it’s not actually a goal. And whatever you do, make sure you write down all your goals. They don’t count otherwise. Write them down, write down which steps you’re going to take to get there, then track them every month to see where you’re at. You may need to make adjustments during the year, and this is how you’ll do it. If something major comes up (like, hey, you got that agent in the first quarter), and you can’t write two books, you might need to adjust your goal to be just one book. That’s okay!
Goal setting is meant to help you get things done, not stress you out with a list of things you can’t do.
3. You Have to be Accountable
Accountability can mean different things. There’s the most obvious, where you are accountable to someone else. Maybe it’s a spouse, a friend, a writing partner, but someone who can check in and ask where you’re at with your goals.
You can be accountable to yourself, but it’s going to take a bit more will. Some of my goals aren’t things I necessarily want to share with most people. But they’re all written down somewhere, and I have a day every month, usually on the 1st of the month to make it easy, where I sit down and measure. I add in my numbers of followers on social media, I put in my word counts, my blog posts, my editing progress. Whatever I’ve written down to track, I update. I even color code. Green for ahead of schedule, yellow for on target, and red for falling behind. This gives me a quick glimpse at how things are going.
But I know, also from watching people during NaNoWriMo, that self-accountability doesn’t work for everyone. (Is that even a thing? Maybe that’s an oxymoron, but you know what I’m getting at.) For some, accountability needs to be more personal. It needs to be someone in your life who can ask you every day or month or whatever, what your progress is. Someone who will call you on your crap when you’re making excuses and not getting it done.
You’ve set these goals for a reason. You want to achieve them. Find a way to stay motivated to do so.
Some of my goals for this year will include:
- Social media and blog-related things—everything from how many times I’ll post to how many followers I’m aiming for to what types of posts (I even have a content calendar, which is soooo necessary).
- Videos, which is a newer endeavor where I’m still learning.
- Writing, with specific words counts.
- Editing, with specific page counts and numbers of beta readers.
- Reading, through the Goodreads yearly challenge! But I’ll also list certain books and certain types of books (like read so many craft books, etc.).
- More writing, editing, and reading—this is most of what my goals are about.
- Priorities in my day and things like spend 20 minutes exercising (and no, haha, exercising isn’t one of them. I said these have to be REALISTIC!).
- Stuff that’s not writing related. I do have a life outside of writing (not really, but I pretend). I set goals for my Etsy store, too, and even for my finances.
Have you set your 2015 goals yet? What are you waiting for?