Why You Should Trade in New Year’s Resolutions and Set Goals Instead

One year ago, my best friend and I sat down and set goals for the year.  She and I have spent the last three years or so encouraging and supporting each other toward our goals.  I remember right around the time that she and I got serious about our work, a friend in our community posted publicly that “New Year’s Resolutions were worthless.”  I grumbled defensively to myself, but in some ways now, I agree.  It is one thing to write down a bunch of resolutions, it is entirely another to set achievable goals for the year.  

Back to the goal setting.  A year ago, at the end of 2015, my best friend and I made our set of goals.  We separated them into different categories: Main Goals, Emotional/Spiritual Goals, Secondary Goals, and Tertiary goals.

There are two things you should focus on when setting a goal, it is best to ensure that it is both measurable and achievable.  While saying things like “I want to be a better writer” is all well and good, unless you outline how you’re going to progress toward that goal, it isn’t very measurable.

Our Main Goals were the most important for us to achieve.  Mine were things like “Write 500 words a day.” and “Write at least 1 short story a month.”  I also wanted to win NaNoWriMo again, and even though I did not accomplish all these goals, I still made a lot of progress.

My Secondary goals included things like “Blog on a regular basis” and “Find regular freelancing gigs.”  This year, my blog has grown a lot and that’s allowed me to connect with other creative people, both other writers and artists.  Their influenced has helped me to get closer to what I want out of life.

Tertiary Goals were things we wanted to work on, but may not get to in the long run.  My main goal in this category was to “Learn more about Graphic Design” which I did some of, but it certainly was not my focus in 2016.

When my friend and I met to talk about our progress, we were both a bit astonished.  My goal was never perfectionism, though I did not meet some of my goals, I made progress toward becoming the person I want to be.  We had both grown a lot over the last year.  If we had not set these goals, kept each other responsible for them, we would not have been able to see how much growth had occurred in the past year.

When I set goals this year, I added one more thing.  A theme for the year.  For 2017, my theme is Authenticity.  Though 2016 was a rather rough year in a lot of ways, but one thing I learned during it, was that I was much happier when I was authentic.  So this year, I will continue to focus on trying to be authentic and being the best version of myself I can be.

What about you?  Do you set yearly goals?  Do you have New Year’s Resolutions?

 

 

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A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline

I am not great about setting goals.  I mean, I do set them, but I am the kind of person that will easily be distracted from the things I am pursuing.  The thing is, without a goal a dream is just that, something intangible and not achievable.  The goal is the thing that gives you a map to work towards, a way to get to that dream.

I’ve met lots of writers who have said something to the effect of “I could have a story published if only I had all the time you have.” or “I could have a story published if only I didn’t have other obligations.”

I do not have a 9 to 5 job, but I don’t lack for distracting obligations that would love to keep me away from the writing desk.  Writing gets done thanks to dedication and goals, not thanks to a wealth of time (though that may help).  Many hugely successful writers were not able to sit at their desks all day, but they still managed to write and finish their stories.  This is because of dreams, deadlines, and dedication.

If you aren’t sure how to start or what kind of goals a writer should set and how to go about being successful at them, here are some tips for you.

Set a daily word count goal

It doesn’t have to be an ambitious goal like 1000-3000 words a day, it can be something small like 200-500 words a day.  It adds up quickly if you stick to doing it each day.  In a week, 200 words a day will equal 1,400 words.  500 words a day will equal 3,500.  You do not have to set goals that are hard to achieve in order to be successful.  Set a goal that you know you can accomplish and then see if you write more and need to set your bar a bit higher.  There are lots of word trackers out there, but my favorites are from Svenja Gosen, who has several available here.

Treat writing like a job

Don’t get me wrong, writing should still be fun, but if you treat your writing like you are a professional, you will get very different results than your friends that treat it like a hobby.  I still write for fun, but I also have set hours each day during the week that I devote to my “Job.”  I show up on time and I do my work.  For some, this will mean writing for 30 minutes each night, uninterrupted and not distracted.  For others it will mean spending a few hours doing writing sprints each day, working toward their goals.

Give yourself a deadline

Make a deadline and do your best to stick to it.  Tell others about your deadline, so that they can help hold you accountable to it.  Your deadlines may shift, mine almost always do.  If you write shorter fiction, find places to submit that have deadlines that you can’t wiggle around.

Be accountable to someone

This can be a writer’s group, a group of friends, or just someone on the internet.  Just make sure it’s someone who knows what you are working on and will expect you to finish it.  You should do the same for them.  I have a group of women (including my best friend) that I email when I want to do writing/work sprints, most of them are working on their PhDs.  We might be doing different work, but we are excellent at making each other accountable and cheering each other.  Writing can be lonely work, and sometimes a good “Hooray” or a good kick in the pants can be just what you need.

Don’t dabble – Tips To Stay Committed To Your Writing

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite authors for self-help, Gabrielle Bernstein, posted a video about staying on course for what you want.  At the bottom of her post, she had the option to tweet about it and the tweet basically said: “Stay committed, don’t dabble.”  This concept is something I’ve talked a lot about with those in my little circle of productivity, the group of women that I email and do writing sprints with.  The truth is, I used to dabble a lot.

This was both in and out of writing.  I’d start a book, or write in online communities and happily proclaim I was a writer, despite the fact that I had no goals with my writing and I rarely finished anything.  I dabbled in writing.  There were no stakes with my writing, I did not take it seriously.  I dabbled in other things too, which took my time and attention away from the writing I did.  Part of this was due to the fact that I struggled to say “No” to people.  If someone wanted my time, attention and help, I would bend over backward and put my own projects aside for months on end.  There are times I still say “Yes” when I should say “No.”

This leads us to what I really wanted to talk about, how to stay committed and avoid dabbling, for writers and artists.

1. Learn when to say “No.”

Successful people know when to say “No.”  They have learned to say it with conviction.  I do my best to think very consciously when people ask me to work on projects with them. I often get asked to proofread things for friends, or to help them with their own projects.  I will say “Yes” only if there is a reciprocal relationship when it comes to helping with these friends, or if I believe editing their project will help me become a better writer.  It sounds harsh, but it also isn’t fair for them to expect me to beta/edit chapters upon chapters without some kind of give/take.  I also will take on a project here or there that I just really have an interest in.  Some of my friends are brilliant writers and I aspire to be more like them, so helping them would also warrant a “Yes.”

2.  Practice makes perfect.  Take your practicing seriously.

If I had a dime for every time someone said, “Oh, I like to write.  I could be a writer just like you if I had all the free time you have.”  Though I may have a flexible schedule that allows me to devote a lot of time to writing, that would mean nothing if I was not devoted to the practice.  I write nearly every day.  I manage my own schedule and I stay committed to the work I want to do.  I read books, I write, I read more books and I work to improve my writing.  Publishing credits are not something a magical fairy bestows on you and leaves under your pillow as you sleep.  You get the by writing often, sharing your work with others for eyed back, learning how to be a better writer, and then sending that work out into the world.  If you have a day job, commit to a word goal or an amount of time you will write each night.  There are writers who got published with small word count goals like 200-500 words a day.  If you write every day, those words add up quickly to short stories and novels.

3. Set goals and deadlines.

Every short story I’ve submitted has a deadline of some sort.   Usually, it’s a date by which you must submit your story.  You can set your own deadlines and I suggest having them somewhere they are easily visible.  I usually post my long-term goals up on my wall and keep daily and weekly goals in my bullet journal.  Deadlines give you something to work towards and they encourage you to finish your projects.

4. Finish what you started.

This does not go for every project and you will get to a point where you can identify when it is time to set a project aside and work on something else.  That being said, you still need to finish things.  I have not been great about finishing some of the novels I’ve worked on, but I’ve finished many short stories and comic scripts, even if they all did not make it to publication.  If a writer has 100 unfinished short stories, they aren’t likely going to be able to find a place to publish them, but if you keep finishing projects you can find a way to get them out to the world, either by finding a traditional publisher or through self-publishing.  If nothing is finished, there’s nothing to publish.
If writing is truly something you want to do, stay committed.  Don’t dabble.  If you keep at it, I am sure you will find a way to get what you want to say out to the world