I am a bit of a planning nut, so I tend to have daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals. Goals are fantastic and necessary if you want to work toward achieving something you have never done before. A few people do magically stumble into the career or life of their dreams, but they are the exception, not the rule. Your goals don’t have to be perfect starting out, nor do they have to be as thorough as mine tend to be.
Here’s the thing though, goals are just sentences on a piece of paper or glyphs on a google doc without a plan to work toward them. So let’s break both concepts down and look at what makes a good goal and what makes a great plan.
How To Write Good Goals
There are a few tried and true aspects you need to have a good goal. Here are the basics:
- Be Specific – Don’t be vague. Being vague about your goals tends to make them more difficult to work toward. While it’s tempting to say “I want to be a writer” and put that as your goal, it is very general and not very motivational. A goal like “I want to publish two short stories this year” gives you specific information about what you would like to achieve.
- Make Your Goal Measurable – For a goal to be measurable, there needs to be evidence you have done something once you achieve it. Again, “I want to be a writer” is sort of a flimsy goal because there is no way to measure progress when the goal is so general. If your goal is about publishing two short stories, as mentioned above, if you get one or two stores published, you have a clear, measurable way to look at your progress.
- Make It Attainable – If you set impossible goals, you are sabotaging your motivation. Making goals that are attainable is going to help you build on the momentum you get as you start achieving the goals you’ve set. “I want to be a famous writer” might be unattainable in the short-term. “I want to steadily self-publish two shorts and 1 novel per year.” is something that you can do if you put your nose to the grindstone and keep working.
- Make It Time-Bound – You need a deadline. Sometimes deadlines still pass you by, but having a clear time limit can be a great way to hold yourself accountable for the goals you have set. This is why I make daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals. It gives me clear time constraints on the different projects I’m working on.
How To Make A Plan To Achieve Them
If a goal is a thing you want, then the plan is the nuts and bolts of how you get it. I find that the best way to avoid overwhelming yourself with a big plan is to break it all down into smaller steps.
When I taught special education, we often used a thing called “Task Analysis” to help students learn new and complicated skills. We would do this by breaking the task or skill down into smaller steps and then we would teach those smaller steps to the student. Once they knew the smaller steps, they could chain them together and accomplish the more complicated skill.
I use this sort of method all the time when I approach plans. To make a good plan, you break the goal down into various small steps, steps that feel a lot easier to accomplish than the goal as a whole.
Here is an example of a recent way I used this method to make a plan:
One of my current goals is to publish a short story I wrote on Amazon. It was a story that was accepted into an anthology but the publishing contract fell through. Rather than let it sit on my computer, I decided I wanted to self-publish it. The writing and editing are already done, but for example’s sake, we’ll pretend like I’m starting from scratch.
My plan might look something like this:
- Write a short story (6-10k words)
- Write the Draft of the story
- Self-Edit the Draft
- Have a friend or friends proofread and give feedback
- Polish the final draft
- Get the story ready for publication
- Figure out how to format the story for e-publishing (or commission someone to format it)
- Commission or make a cover for the story
- Publish the Story
Now, the steps in between may have other sub-steps that require learning or research on my part, but this is an actionable plan with clear steps to help me work toward my goal.
When working toward your dreams, you’ll want to set goals and then make plans to work toward them. I hope this little break down helps give you a better idea of how you can do both and do them well.