Another year’s end means another goal-setting sesh. But if your new year’s goals never seem to pay off, that cycle can get discouraging. (Full disclosure: I’m a Questioner, so I, too think picking an arbitrary date to set goals is a little weird. But? I also love the new year’s energy. So I embrace it, ha!) Here’s how to set writing goals that work:
A “Goal” Doesn’t Get You There
You don’t need another goal. Duh. You have lots of those! Like: become a rich and famous writer, sail the Mediterranean with a guy named Paolo (Actually, Paolo is sort of high maintenance. Instead, may I suggest a terrier that doesn’t get seasick…?), and once–just once–to be able to drive through town with only green lights.
Those are goals…
…and they’re basically wishes.
You don’t need more goals–you need a PLAN!
Sit down and step out your big goals on paper! But first–read on 👇
Figure Out Whether What You Want Is What You Want
Make sure the goals you do have are your own, and not just what you think is “the right way” to live.
Do you have a deep desire to have your books lined up on shelves in a bookstore? Or is it just as cool if you sell them online?
Do you want to travel and speak in public about your work? Or would you rather upload videos of your thoughts to YouTube?
Do you want to write a book for yourself or to help others? (Yes, of course, it can be both. But if you had to pick one over the other, which would you choose?)
Asking these and other specific questions now can save you a lot of time (and stress) in the future. As it turns out, a *lot* of people are moving through life, doing the next right thing, without actually considering if the next thing is the best thing. I don’t want that to be you, so take yourself out for coffee soon and make a huge list of options. It will make you feel like a teenager again–in a good way.
Make a Stop Doing List
Now that you’re being honest with yourself, you have a bit of an alter-ego, yes?
There’s you, and there’s Future You.
Think of the things that your newly-discovered friend, Future You, does every day.
Now think about the things that Future You *doesn’t* do, because they’re just too darn busy being awesome.
Ruh-roh. You and I are going to have to list some things that we need to stop doing. Top of my list? Grocery shopping. I actually stopped doing it before the pandemic, but got sucked back in because–well, long story. Who cares–the point is, I got sucked back in to that soulless maze of fluorescent lights, bleeping registers, and confused fellow travelers.
You know what?
Someone else can make three laps around the store looking for the pickled ginger–that doesn’t have to be me! But the one who writes my ideas into stories? That’s all me, darling.
The way you get from Present You to Future You is not just learning new skills and habits. Sometimes it’s forgetting bad habits and fading out routines that are too busy. Being busy feels great, because it must mean we’re productive. But the productivity gurus say just the opposite: we’re all doing too much of the things that don’t really matter.
So make a stop-doing list, and then create a strategy for actually HOW to stop doing those things. You don’t have to take a wrecking ball to your life, just set a deadline for six months from now, and be intentional about your actions until then. Because you know what? Six months will be here in about, oh, six months, whether you do anything different or not. Even small changes can add up to big results, and happy pride when you reach your deadline.
NOW YOU: Have you ever set a writing goal that flopped? Which of the steps above would make the difference?