The most successful people in every industry use goals as road maps to help them reach their desired destination. It’s no different for writers. If you don’t know where you want to end up—and you don’t care—you’ll arrive somewhere but not necessarily at the destination you intended.
Successful authors report that goals form the foundation of their success. But they don’t set goals and forget them like the New Year’s resolutions, as so many of us do. Instead, they review the goals regularly and evaluate their progress. They break goals into smaller action items and work on that to-do list daily.
As Pablo Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” You can create achievable goals. As you take action on your success plan, you’ll find your ideas and career manifesting before your eyes.
The key to acting on your intentions and accomplishing your goals lies in your personal investment in them. You must feel fully committed. Commitment turns your intention into daily action toward achieving goals.
How do you set achievable goals?
To make your goals more achievable and effective, follow the SMART criteria, commonly attributed to Peter Drucker and George T. Doran:
- Specific: Goals should concisely and clearly define what you plan to do.
- Measurable: Goals should be measurable so you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal.
- Attainable: Goals should be achievable yet stretch you slightly so you feel challenged.
- Realistic: Goals must represent an objective toward which you are willing and able to work.
- Timebound: Goals should be linked to a time frame that creates a sense of urgency or results in tension between your current reality and your future vision.
Identify three writing-related goals you would like to achieve, then apply SMART characteristics to your goals and review these daily or weekly. Here’s an example:
Goal 1: Begin blogging.
- Specifically I will: Write and publish a post twice per week.
- I will be able to measure whether I have achieved my goal in the following ways: I will have published a blog post twice per week.
- This goal will stretch me in the following ways: I will have to learn new technology.
- I know I can attain this goal because: I have learned new technology before and I meet my deadlines.
- This goal is realistic because: I have set aside specific time each day to learn the technology and write two posts per week.
- I will achieve this goal in the following time frame: By May 2017
Is your goal on purpose?
As you create goals, you should look at how they tie into your purpose. Goals that align with your mission increase your emotional commitment to them. Without this connection, you may never take action to achieve the goal.
If you make purpose-driven decisions about the goals you choose, the tasks you take on, and the opportunities you decide to pursue, you are more likely to remain focused and realize your ideas and career. Therefore, before you do anything—or say yes to anything—answer this question: Is this on purpose?
Discern if the goal, task, or opportunity aligns with your greater purpose—the reason you write or want a career as a writer and author. If you take action on a goal, task, or opportunity, doing so should move you closer to fulfilling your purpose.
Identify a few of your writing-related goals you feel the need to take on. Then evaluate them by asking: Is this on purpose?
Also, to the best of your ability, align your goals, tasks, and opportunities with your values. Your values are important to you, just like your purpose or mission. When you align your actions and decisions with your values, you become motivated to complete them, and it becomes easier to do so.
Are your tasks or opportunities moving you closer to your vision for your career?
Before you undertake any task or opportunity—or learn a new skill—pause and consider: will it help you make a quantum leap toward your goal, get you one step closer, keep you where you are, or impede your progress? Evaluate what tasks or opportunities you feel the need to take on, then judge them using this question: Does this move me closer to my goals—or my overall vision for my career?
Unfortunately, there are some things you might need to do to become a successful author or writer that you don’t want to do. These goals could feel like “have-tos” and “shoulds.” Are you setting some goals because you feel that you should achieve them—because they’re necessary to realize your goal or vision? If so, try to change your attitude: Decide that you want to achieve this goal because it helps you further your writing career and get you closer to the vision you have.
Don’t forget to prioritize your goals
You probably juggle multiple priorities every day, in all aspects of your life. However, you only can focus on one goal at a time, and doing so helps you achieve it. Maybe the deadline for an article assignment is fast approaching; that job becomes priority number one until it’s done.
That doesn’t mean you don’t take action toward other goals but that you spend the majority of your time completing the steps that allow you to finish your top-priority assignment.
Prioritize the goals you previously defined using the SMART characteristics. Which one do you want or have to accomplish first? That’s Priority number one. Which come second and third?
Break down your goals into two types: short-term and long-term
Short-term goals are those you want to accomplish in the next day, week, or few months. For example, maybe you want to finish a blog post or essay, send out query letters to agents, or get your website up and running.
Long-term goals are those you want to accomplish this year, next year, or even further into the future because they take longer to achieve. For example, releasing a traditionally published book usually takes more than a year. Completing a novel might take you more than twelve months if you count revisions and working with an editor. Developing a strong author platform is also a long-term goal.
With both types of goals, it’s essential “chunk down” the goal and create a smaller task list to help you make consistent progress. In other words, think of each goal like a huge rock you need to move. If you could use a sledgehammer to break off chunks of the rock so you ended up with smaller, more easily moved pieces, what would they be? Think of these chunks as small tasks or action items to include on your daily to-do list.
To help you set achievable, SMART goals and break them down into small action steps, download these free worksheets.
And for many more worksheets to guide you in the creative process, be sure to take a look at Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir.