To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein
Want to achieve your goals in 2012? It helps to have a plan. Below I’ve outlined 10 steps I’ve learned from past experience and gathered from best practices to help you on your way.
- Create specific goals. Whether you want to write a novel, paint a mural, or redecorate your house, your goals need to be specific. “I plan to write a 120,000 word young adult fantasy about a teenage girl falling for a sparkly vampire” is more specific than “I plan to write a novel.” Not that I’m suggesting that you write that book – but you get the idea. Your goal should be specific because it’s easier to break specific goals down into objectives – the next step.
- Create objectives. It’s easier to reach a goal if you break it down into small steps. Create objectives for your goal. For a novel, you can break the writing down into sections or chapters. There will likely be more steps to your goal – background research and plotting, for example. Figure out what the steps are, and break your goal down into manageable sections. There are many tools that can help you manage your progress towards your goal – even just writing these goals and objectives down on a piece of paper or in a Word file will help. If you want to get fancy about it, there are project management tools like Microsoft Project or Basecamp that can help.
- Make your goals measurable. After you create objectives, decide how you want to measure your progress. If you’re a writer, you can assess your work in page count, word count, or number of hours spent working on your manuscript. If you’re an artist, measure yourself by time spent working on your piece, pieces completed, or whatever accounting works for you. Just so long as you use some measurement. Set a goal – such as 1000 words per day, or two hours a day – and stick to it.
- Make your goals attainable. It can take time to find out what’s reasonable for you. For example, for some writers, writing a novel in six months is no big deal. For others, one novel a year is a better pace. And figuring out how many words or pages that breaks down to depends on how much time you can devote to writing. Everyone is different. Give yourself time to find out what an optimal goal is for you. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t achieving your objectives right away. Don’t compare yourself to others, but do set goals that challenge you and let yourself grow.
- Make a commitment. All the goals in the world will lead you nowhere without commitment. Make a commitment to yourself to meet the goals that you set. If it helps you, write down your intention to meet your goals on a piece of paper and sign it.
- Tell the world. Further reinforce your commitment to your goals by announcing them to the world. Post them on Facebook, tweet them, tell your friends and family. Update your progress on toward your goals on all your social network sites. Partner up with a friend and help each other reach your goals.
- Do your research. Before you start your project, know whether or not your project fits the requirements of your field. For example, if you’re writing a novel, understand the typical word count for the genre you’d like to write in.
- Understand resistance. Resistance is that nasty little force that keeps you from reaching your goals. It’s that voice inside your head that says you’d much rather play video games or watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy than write your book or paint your picture. The bad news is that you can’t get rid of resistance. The good news is that you can manage resistance. Ignoring it does not work. Giving into it does not work. This is what does work (in my experience): acknowledge that resistance is there, that it wants you to stop, and then go on working. And watch Grey’s Anatomy only AFTER you’ve met your goal for the day.
- Reward yourself. Every time you meet an objective, give yourself a reward. Martha Beck, author of The Four Day Win, recommends that you give yourself a small reward every time you reach a small goal and a large reward every time you meet a large goal. You decide on your own small and large rewards – small rewards can be time spent reading or watching TV, an ice cream cone, a bubble bath, a walk in the park or anything else you enjoy. Large rewards could be tickets to a ballgame, the theater, that expensive book you want, or anything else that means “reward” to you. Use rewards to motivate yourself.
- Start now. Don’t put off creating your goals and objectives and making the commitment to succeed at whatever it is you want to do. The sooner you start, the sooner you will finish.
Next time I’ll use my goals and objectives for the new year to illustrate this method.
And if you are an RWASD member, don’t forget to register for the January Workshop on Writer Resolutions: Realistic Goal Setting for 2012.
What tips do you have for meeting goals and objectives? Have you set your own yet? What are your goals for the new year?