Just two weeks remain to 2014, which makes now an excellent time to pause and think about the year coming to an end. How was your year? Did you meet the goals you set for yourself? Are you pleased with your writing progress? Where did you exceed your plans and where did you fall short?
I’m not big on resolutions because all too often they seem like vague wishes for things with very little planning behind them. Oh, not always. People who want to lose weight know they should watch their intake and exercise. Writers who want to publish understand it’s important to finish a manuscript, revise, submit. But there’s often a disconnect between the daydream and the planning part of achieving those resolutions. It’s easy to lose track of the plan unless you actually determine what you will do, how your actions will change in order to make your ultimate goal come to pass.
So as I said, now is a great time to look back, just for a moment, to see what went well and what didn’t go so well in the last twelve months. And then think about why. What steps did you take that allowed you to meet your goals, and what distractions or problems cropped up that railroaded those you failed to achieve. What could you have done better? Understanding the hows and whys, your motivations behind your actions, will help you to set new goals for the year ahead, and also determine how best to approach them.
Keep the successes and the goofs in mind as you figure out where you go next.
A few tips for goal setting for 2015:
1. Set goals outside your comfort zone, that force you to reach. They should be achievable, but not so easy that they fail to challenge you or allow you to slack off because you can handle them in a rush at the end of the year.
2. Make sure you set goals that you really want to achieve, not just things you think you should do, or that sound good if someone asks about your resolutions. Tackle things that matter, because your emotional investment will serve to motivate you.
3. Break your goals down into measurable components and/or actions. What steps do you need to achieve to meet your goal? How much time will each step or action require? Schedule regular check-ins for yourself over the course of the year (or however long your goal will take) to make sure you’re on track.
4. Determine what’s at stake. What do you stand to gain if you meet your goal? What will you lose if you don’t? Know the value of your actions long term, because that will help you resist the temptation to procrastinate in the short term. Post the stakes somewhere you will see them often enough to keep your focus.
5. Try setting some shorter-term goals and some big picture goals. Having a few goals of the year that you can finish by March or May will bolster you over the course of the year, and encourage you as you work on the longer term projects.
No matter what stage you are at in your writing career, there are always new goals to set, new hurdles to tackle. A writer can always improve their craft, hone their story-telling skills, or master a new facet of self-promotion. Other goals can include publishing a short story, getting an agent, signing a book deal, hitting a certain mile-marker for sales figures. Or you might approach tasks that are more straightforward, such as redesigning an author site or starting a newsletter. Think about what you’ve been doing, then consider how you can improve upon it. Mix and match your goals to meet your current needs. Don’t beat yourself up over things that haven’t gone well; instead allow yourself to plan out a new strategy for the year to come, and get excited about putting it into action. Good luck!