In mid-December I began a series of blogs, writing exercises and writing tips centred around setting writing goals. The first two Blogs (Here and Here) covered preparation for, and the construction of, goals that have the opportunity to succeed, and this blog will explore ways to turn that opportunity into success.
You have already achieved the pre-requisites for success ~
> You laid the foundations for your goals well in advance of 1st January. Contrast in your mind the difference between your goal-setting journey during December and waking up on New Year’s Day (or New Year’s Eve) and thinking, I should decide what I want to achieve this year.
> You’ve also set SMART goals. Much has been written about this commonly used rule and there are several variations on what each letter stands for, but in the process I outlined for you they stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
> Your SMART writing goals for 2017 have been personalised through a deep exploration of your current position in relation to writing, what you want to achieve and how you might get there.
> You reinforced the power of your goals by writing a commitment to bring them to fruition.
With the New Year break and half of January behind us, this is a good time to consider the road ahead. Otherwise, this goal-setting process could become like a holiday that goes wrong because your research and planning are forgotten when you get distracted by other events (detouring to please someone else, worrying about what didn’t get done at home/work before you left, wondering if those left behind are fending for themselves etc), and you return home feeling like you haven’t had a holiday.
Some steps you could take to ensure you stay on track are ~
> Review your list of Writing Goals for 2017 and what you’ve committed to achieve in each month… and make any obvious adjustments.
> Take a closer look at January. Are you on track? Congratulations if the answer is yes! If it isn’t, identify what happened. Were you over-ambitious, or did unexpected events crop up that took precedence over your goals? If you have fallen behind schedule, you’re at the first giving-up point but it isn’t too late. Understanding how you got there will help you move forward.
> Think about what you need to do to get back on track. If there isn’t time before 31st to catch up your desired output for this month, work out what you can comfortably achieve in the next fourteen days and re-assess your plans for February/March to accommodate the remainder. This will get you back on track and hopefully there will be no need for further adjustments.
We’re all vulnerable to getting stuck at giving-up points like this early one, and need to develop strategies to bring our goals to fruition on target. Distractions and pitfalls will always be at play, and if we don’t want to slip off track we need a range of techniques to keep us safe.
Here are some suggestions you may find helpful in this quest ~
> Break down your monthly lists of tasks into more manageable weekly lists.
> Draw up an Action Plan/Schedule in days… weeks… months… for the year, and post it on a noticeboard and/or near your computer.
> Keep a running To Do List beside your computer for day-to-day activities and cross off each item when it’s completed.
> Mark off each goal as it is achieved and record it on the Achievements List you set up during December. (Blog ~ Prepare To Set Writing Goals That Can Succeed)
> Undertake regular reviews (monthly or quarterly perhaps) to help you stick to your plan/timeline. Ask yourself questions like… Am I on track? If not, where did I slip behind and what do I need to do to get back on track? Do I need to adjust my schedule or anything else to make my writing time more productive?
> Be prepared to re-assess your goals… a decision to change direction is not necessarily a failure – it may be an indication of development due to a change of priorities, information, interest, circumstances, or similar.
> Make sure any adjustments you make follow the same criteria as the other goals on your list – check that they are personalised SMART goals that have your commitment in writing.
> Keep a diary dedicated to your writing, which matches your planned work schedule. Shop around for a diary that also gives advice on the industry, competition information, dates of writing festivals and so on. This diary is likely to become you writing bible… and will keep you in the loop, prevent you from double-booking/overloading yourself and help keep writing on your agenda.
> Mark in your Writing Diary the times you set aside for writing each week. These entries become appointments with your computer; just as any other diary entry is an appointment with someone or to do something in particular. I consider these to be firm appointments and am not available for anything else at these times. This is my work time, as it would be if I was employed elsewhere, and I treat it with the same respect.
> At the end of each writing session, take the time to jot down your next task or the points you want to make next in the piece you’re writing. I do this in dot points at the end of what I’ve just written. When I return to the work, I can immediately see where I’m up to and pick up the thread without destroying the flow of the writing.
> When new writing possibilities arise during the year, add them to your Reserve List (Blog ~ Construct Writing Goals That Can Succeed)
These are suggestions only and they won’t all suit everyone. Choose those that work for you and add any others you may have in mind. The object is to find ways to keep you focused on the writing outcomes you choose for yourself. Just as you personalised the goals you set, work to personalise the steps you will take to bring those goals to fruition in a timely manner.
Never lose sight of the overall aim to be a successful writer. Regardless of the schedule you use, remember the words of the great Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, ‘If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write’.
The message is clear… write… write… write…
In closing, I would add… whatever happens, keep your work interesting (to you) and enjoy the journey!
Have you been able to stay on track during the first half of January?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section…
Next Blog ~ Writer’s Block