Gearing Down & Building Up

gearsIt’s that time of year. As the old year fades away, we spend time making resolutions, creating New Year’s intentions, or setting goals. I’m big on goal-setting with the added detail of creating action steps toward reaching those goals. At first it seems like more work, especially when those action steps seem to lengthen the to-do list, but the end benefit is a sense of satisfaction in seeing the steps toward a goal accomplished. I like the gratification of crossing an item off my to-do list (or when I click the “done” button on my List App).

In addition to the goal-setting, I spend time in June and in December assessing progress on those goals. One method for tracking progress has become a holiday tradition. Something similar may help you in  setting writing goals for the new year.

fullsizeoutput_daYears ago, I was given a blank book ornament as a gift. With my love of journal writing, I turned it into a holiday journal. Each year when I decorate the Christmas tree, I make an entry that includes a list of favorites: new authors found that year, current favorite TV shows, movies I’ve enjoyed throughout the year, hobbies I’ve taken up or enjoyed. Then, when I take down the tree and pack away ornaments, the last is the journal ornament. Before returning it to the storage box, I record a New Year’s entry that includes a few goals and intentions for the coming year. It’s eye-opening to read old entries—both the “favorites” at the end of each year, and the “goals” at the beginning of each year.

Reading through old entries is a fun way to conclude the year. Sometimes the favorites list are books or programs long forgotten. A few have prompted new writing projects. Sometimes the goals lists from the beginning of each year repeat, year after year, often simply in different wording. When this happens, it provides a greater push to find the action steps needed to accomplish that goal.

So tonight I’ll be gearing down the old year, re-reading past entries in that journal ornament, and then thinking about my goals for the new year.

Wishing you all a wonderful and productive new year!

Set Goals for Good Intentions

The new year is upon us. Have you set your resolutions yet? I hate resolutions. Declaring your purpose for the new year doesn’t make it happen. I resolve to lose weight, exercise more, and get more done, but without a plan my enthusiasm waivers and I find myself drowning in my own resolve.

About a decade ago affirmations and intentions were the latest thing at the new year. Both are more positive. You state that you will do something like trim down, incorporate diet and exercise into a healthier lifestyle, and organize to achieve more. While positive and presented with the mood that we all have the power to make these intentions happen, again, enthusiasm waivers and the positive crumbles into negative inaction. Before long I’m beating myself up for blatant laziness. Not exactly positive and affirming. So, I like to focus on goals. Some creative people freeze up at the thought of setting goals. It’s so . . . business oriented. If you fall into this category, think of goals as stepping stones toward achieving your dream.

Like task management, goals take the bigger picture and break it into manageable pieces. Each smaller task or goal leads to accomplishing the bigger task. Many of us do this without realizing it—during the holidays, for instance. In order to get those holiday cards in the mail, there are steps involved. You need to create the list of people you’ll send them to, make labels (or address the envelopes), write notes and/or sign each card, stuff the envelopes, stamp, and drop at the post office. Each step might be done in 5- to 15-minute segments as your schedule allows. In the end, the cards are in the mail and on their way.

Goal-setting is the same. Set a goal, a time frame for achieving it, and then create action steps (or small goals that lead the to larger goal). Use S-A-M as a guideline. The goal should be specific. Select a target and set a deadline such as trimming 2 inches off your waist by summer, losing 15 pounds, or sending out 20 manuscripts by December. It should be achievable. This means you need to make it happen; you cannot rely on what someone else does as a step in the process (such as an editor accepting just 1 manuscript to launch your career). You need to find an exercise you enjoy doing if you are going to trim 2 inches off your waist. You will need to write a manuscript in order to reach that goal of submitting 20.  Finally, your goal needs to be measurable. Notice that these three goals include a specific number. This helps you track your progress as the year progresses.

I had a writing friend who decided to set of goal of receiving 10 rejections in a year. She was working to fit writing into a busy life as a mother, wife, and office manager. She had heard me speak and a comment I made about taking the plunge and getting over the fear of submitting really struck her. She knew that manuscripts left in a drawer would never become books. Setting a goal to get rejected took away her fear of rejection. It is part of a writer’s life after all. Her goal was specific and measurable. She knew she had to send out a MS a month to reach that goal. That was achievable given her busy life.

When the first MS was returned, the sting of rejection wasn’t so bad. She sent it out again. And again. She had nearly reached her goal by summer when she received an acceptance. Then a second. Now she was forced to write new material in order to reach her goal. She did. But she also had credits to list when sending out those new MSS. By the next year, she was ready to “play it again, SAM” in setting new goals. No floundering in good intentions or vague resolutions. Just specific, achievable, and measurable goals with action steps toward reaching them.

Here’s wishing you all a happy and productive 2012!