Every January, we hear about people setting goals for themselves– resolutions to live better, work harder, lose weight, quit procrastinating. The list goes on and on. A key factor in whether a person will be successful in their New Year’s endeavors is how that person approaches the benchmark they’ve set. Let’s look at a few things you can do to help you reach your writing goals or your New Year’s resolutions.
1) Be realistic. If you’ve never been able to write more than 3 pages a day because of your day job, your health issues, or your family responsibilities, don’t set yourself up to fail by setting an unattainable goal of writing 10 pages a day. While you want to stretch yourself, setting the bar too high can quickly lead to frustration and make it too easy to give up. Likewise, don’t set unrealistic goals such as losing ten pounds in one weekend, reversing years of financial struggles in a few months, or learning a new language in a couple weeks. Unrealistic goals are doomed to fail.
2) Define your goals in terms of what is within your control. Too often I hear writers say their goal is to sell a book by a certain date or to reach a certain level on a bestsellers list. But as writers, we have no control over the editor who is determining what she wants to buy, nor do we have a say in what readers purchase. If we did, a lot more of us would be best-selling published authors! Instead, resolve to carefully edit your manuscript before sending it out to be sure it is your best writing. Set a goal of sending your work out to a certain number of agents or publishers where your book might fit. These goals are within your control. Likewise, don’t set a goal to change someone else (their drinking problem, their weight loss, their procrastination) or a goal that depends on someone else’s behavior or feelings to changing.
3) Set smaller, stepping-stone goals. A huge goal can loom ominously and seem too great to achieve, until you break it down into sub-goals. Does the idea of finishing two full manuscripts in a year strike terror in your heart? What if you considered the idea of writing just 2 pages a day, every day? By the end of the year you’d have over 700 manuscript pages written! That’s two books in many markets. Does losing 40 pounds seem daunting? Not as much if you realize that equates to one pound a week for forty weeks (just 9 months!) One pound a week is achievable if you approach weight loss with proven, healthy changes to diet and exercise. So break your overall goal into manageable smaller goals and be encouraged as you see the smaller goals met along the way.
4) Prioritize. If a goal is really important to you, more important than other things that are taking up your time, streamline your life so that you devote time to those tasks that mean the most. Is writing more important to you than knitting? Is reading more important than TV? Is saving money for a conference more important than buying your coffee from Starbucks? Look at how you might reorganize your life to give higher priority tasks the time they’re due.
5) Reward yourself! I’m a big believer in celebrating every accomplishment. You deserve a pat on the back for every small step along the path to your goal. Celebrations and rewards keep you positive, keep you energized and excited about moving toward that goal. Finish a chapter today? Take a hot soak in a bubble bath to reward yourself. Finally send that manuscript off (and before your deadline too!)? Treat yourself to a frozen mocha or a new pair of earrings. You’ve earned it!
Whatever it is you want to achieve, goals help give you focus, help keep you motivated and can be measuring marks of your success. So dream big, set goals to reach that dream and– as Churchill said– never, never, never give up! Happy New Year!
What are your goals this year (writing or personal) and what lifestyle changes are you making to realistically reach your goal? I’ll start…
I’ve managed to gain more weight than I’m happy with. I’ve lost it before with careful eating and regualr exercise. I hope to lose this weight in the next few months and be at a healthy weight by RWA National in July. Who’s next?