On goals

It’s coming up on the end of the year, and I’m noticing people posting about how they’ve done this year or making plans for next year. (I’ve got a wrap-up post of my own that’ll go up Saturday, so I’m not immune.) If you need help in thinking about goals, I suggest you take a look at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Annually, he does a series of posts on goals, how to set them, and how to make sure they’re realistic. Right now, only the first one is up for this year, New World of Publishing: Failure is an Option. Quitting is Not. Here’s the meat of the post (in my opinion):

Check through all your goals for 2012 and make sure they ONLY concern your work level that is in your control.

Nothing more.

No action from another party can be involved, otherwise it is not realistic.

He’s also got a lot in there on failure (hence the title of the post), and how it’s going to happen. Anything that’s out of your control (which, as a writer, includes a publisher picking up your title or readers buying your work) is subject to failure. But you only fail completely if you give up. Definitely worth a read.

So . . . looking at posts like this, I get in the mood to think about all I’d love to accomplish next year. I could probably write a huge list. I usually do, including lists of books I want to finish, new projects I want to do, and on and on. This year, however, I’ve already set my new goals, and I’m keeping them simple, as I already mentioned.

  1. Finish something every week. This can be a novel, a short story, a haiku, a drabble, or a paying project for work. Paying work often leaves me exhausted and not wanting to do much if any writing, so taking that into consideration keeps me from beating myself up. Still, it’s a concrete weekly goal. Do something!
  2. Get something up for sale every month. By only asking myself to get one new thing up per month, that gives me time to make sure I have covers, and when a month is filled with family or with paying work or unexpected turbulence, it still gives me a chance of success.

Why am I posting today? To remind myself that I don’t need a huge to-do list. Just following through on these two goals is sufficient, and it should be instructive to look back next year and see just what 52 things I’ve managed to finish. It’s even conceivable that, say, the week I decide to finish sewing up my son’s quilt that that will be my finished project for the week. I don’t know, but it should be a lovely adventure to find out.

What about you? What goals are you planning to work toward in the next year?

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14 Comments

  1. Good thoughts, Erin. I’ll have my goals for the year post going up soon too, and you make some good points. Thanks for the thoughts you gave me!

    • Thanks, Val. Glad to add to the thought process. ๐Ÿ˜€ I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. I’m working on that now. I have a long list of things to accomplish, but those aren’t quite the same as goals. It’s easy to get the two confused.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep things in the realm of what I can actually control. I think that will be important for my deliberations.

    • Thanks for commenting. So what do you see as the difference between goals and things to be accomplished?

      Good luck with your goals, and glad the reminder about keeping them within your control helps.

      • In the context of goals, the things to be accomplished are the smaller steps that make up what has to be done to accomplish the goals.

        One of the other common reminders for goals is to make them specific and measurable, which may result in them reading more like the things to be accomplished list.

        • Goals = projects, accomplishments = next tasks? An interesting distinction, but not in keeping with the way I commonly use the term — surviving grad school was an accomplishment, but certainly not a single step. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. That certainly sounds much saner, healthier, and happier than the usual overloaded lists that try to predict with certainty what should be worked on next July. I hope it works as well as it seems like it should.

    I’m trying to cast mine in a similar mold, but I keep tripping over the Puritan work ethic and “but I’m not working hard enough!”

    • I hope it works, too. It’s going to be quite the experiment. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hugs on the voice that says you’re not working hard enough. I get that, too, but on the other hand, I’m not convinced I can look back at this year and point to 52 distinct things as finished, so if I actually manage this, or even come close? Definitely working!

      Good luck with your goals!

      • The “working harder” thing usually backfires anyway when my brain revolts or I get sick and fall behind. Then I start to think I’m so far behind it’s no use even trying to do anything. Which is self-defeating, of course, but an easy trap to fall into.

        • Totally an easy trap to fall into! Hugs, and good luck finding a way around it.

          There was a quote in the comments section of DWS’s post, something to the effect of the faster you try to get things to happen, the less you succeed, or some such. I think that’s something I’ll have to remind myself of as well.

  4. I’ve certainly added another goal to my list: work my way through Dean’s blog archives. The post you linked to was certainly a slap in the face with a wet fish to wake me up from a post christmas indulgence coma! Just what I needed.

    • Glad it helped! If you read his Killing the Sacred Cows series, start with the revised versions he’s been posting mire recently — his thinking has changed a lot over the past couple of years. Also, I highly recommend his wife’s Business Rusch columns, posted on Thursdays on her Website.

  5. The post made me rethink my goals for next year. I used to be all about getting numbers down on paper and aiming for them – when those numbers are all out of my control.

    So I’ve changed up what I plan to do this year. Like you, my goals are simple. Much simpler than last year which were too complicated and too related to things outside of my control.

    I think I’ll go put my goals up on my blog right now…

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