June 17, 2013

On Goals

I ♥ my day-timer. Like, whoa.
This past Wednesday when we set our Ready. Set. WRITE! goals I received a number of comments about my bulleted, no-nonsense, this-is-what-I-plan-on-doing-each-day list. I was kind of surprised by the response—that it was somehow out of the ordinary to be so organized and specific—since this seems perfectly normal to me. (Normal-ish?) Everything I was ever taught about goal-setting I used to craft my targets for this past week. (That said, I know this approach doesn't work for everybody.)

Let me digress for just a moment. The thing of it is, I love lists. Like, get a little giddy thinking about how I can turn something into an itemized list kind of junkie. The more bullets the better. It feels logical, and broken down like that, doable. There's something weirdly motivating about checking tasks off a list as I accomplish them. Who needs rewards when I can cross something off, put a giant check mark beside it, highlight it? Strange maybe, but then I never claimed to be anything but.

But back to goal-setting...

When I was a beginning teacher, I was required by my school board to create a list of yearly goals for myself, a professional document that would go on file and would be used at the end of the year as part of my evaluation. (Because being a brand spankin' new teacher and everything that comes along with that wasn't stressful enough, apparently.) We were encouraged to format our goals according to the S.M.A.R.T. system: (also known as Goal-Setting For Anal Retentive Folk Like Me :P)



SPECIFIC - This is exactly what I want to accomplish, right down to the number of words, for example.
MEASURABLE - Easy to measure the more specific you are (ex. word count targets, and so on).
ATTAINABLE - I know what I'm capable of, so I don't overshoot, and I'm less likely to fail.
RELEVANT - This is a writing intensive, right? Ergo, I aim to write and/or revise.
TIME-BOUND - Each goal is contained to a particular 24-hour day.



I guess this method kind of stuck. I continue to use it because it works for me. See, here's the thing: I'm a rationalizer of the worst variety and a pro at procrastination. If I come up with a semi-vague plan, the outcome is never what I'm hoping for and then I feel like a failure. If I have only a rough idea of what I want to accomplish rather than a specific "this is what I need to do", I end up racked with guilt for not doing more. Sounds ridiculous, but it's true. This way, if I commit myself to revising one chapter and writing a minimum of 250 words on a new project in a 24-hour day, I know it's a goal I can not only reach, but most likely exceed. Now that's a 'golden goal' if I've ever heard of one. (That's for you, Erin. And Sid. :D)

I don't mention this to say, "Hey, check me out. I'm a wiz at goal-setting." Rather, it's an approach that I've found useful and figured you might, too. If nothing else, it's a glimpse at the method in my madness, a sneak peek inside this wacky noodle of mine. (Scary, I know. O_O) It's the same reason I exercise on the treadmill for the length of a Veronica Mars episode (42 minutes without commercials) and write out a list of everything I want/need to do each day in my day-timer. (See above.) Works for me!

How about you? Do you have a go-to method for goal-setting? Feel free to share in the comments!


27 comments:

  1. I make lists for stuff I need to do in my non-writing life, but I'm nooot so good at making lists for my editing or my writing. I'm sure being more organised would only be a good thing.

    Also, you have beautiful handwriting!

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    1. I make lists for everything these days. My memory is the pits, so not only does it keep me organized and productive, it keeps me from forgetting to do things. :)

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  2. I agree! I love your handwriting! Mine is very scrawled and scratchy.

    RE goals and lists: I can make to-do lists when I'm v.stressed but otherwise I am a maverick with writing etc. When I see a SMART list (which I make rarely but with great enthusiasm) I panic, and when I panic I'm that person that freezes and is incapable of doing anything omg. So! No lists for me. I am very envious of your system, however. :)

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    1. Thank you. :)

      I have to make lists, otherwise I forget things and just waste time being unproductive. But I do realize that this isn't for everyone.

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  3. :-) I also really love your handwriting :D Neat and pretty!
    I do to-do lists at work and break them up using SMART (sometimes :P) and I've only started to do that for my writing. Actually your post from last week inspired me to be more organized in that aspect of my revision :D

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    1. Thanks, Elodie. :)

      I have to make lists or I get nothing done. Plus, my memory is the worst, so I'll just forget to do a bunch of things!

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  4. I definitely need to write down to-do lists each day, partially b/c I have the memory of a gnat and partially b/c I'd get nothing done otherwise (except maybe playing on the Internet). I have to keep it a little vague, though - write an hour vs write xx amount of words - otherwise I want to rebel. Like my high school geography teacher told my mom, I have a problem with authority, I guess that includes my own :)

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    1. My memory stinks too! Making lists is the only way I remember to do anything and the only way I manage to be productive.

      And that's kind of hilarious that you have problem with your own authority. ;-)

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  5. I've definitely used the SMART system before, especially with goals at school. And I'm a crazy obsessive list maker, too. During the semester, to-do lists are my bst friend! :)

    I'm a little less organized with my writing schedule and goals, though, and i'm trying to slowly encorporate more order and organization. I've set a weekly word count which gives me more room to shift things around on a daily basis.

    I love what you said about golden goals...those are my favorite kind! I love accomplishing my goal and then some. :)

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    1. I found that I was wasting SO much time before. The lists not only help me remember to actually do things, but they keep me on track. :)

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  6. I'm obsessive about lists and goals in real life, but reading this post made me realize that I don't do the same thing for my writing. I enjoy the satisfaction of checking things off my list, but writing has always been such a release for me that I've never needed the additional motivation of getting to put a check mark in that box. Now I'm wondering how much more I might get done in my writing if I set goals like I do in my non-writing life. Thanks for the motivation!

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    1. That's awesome that you don't need the motivation of a to-do list to get you writing. I just found I was wasting so much time and forgetting to do things. Lists keep me sane and on track. :)

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  7. Love this! I also enjoy making lists, and it always feels good to check things off. The SMART approach makes a lot of sense!

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    1. It's funny how motivating it is to check things off, isn't it? Just another excuse to make a list. :)

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  8. Love this. I admire your willingness to outline and keep goal lists and.......okay everything I try to do but doesn't seem to work for me. LOL!!!!!!

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    1. I try to keep the goals on my list (and other items) as manageable as possible so I don't overload myself. I don't always cross off everything on my list, but what I do cross off makes me feel like I've actually accomplished something. :)

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  9. Well, you know I'm a list-aholic too. In fact, I think all my lists mated, and now there are little baby Post-it notes all over my house. This whole goal setting thing is a bit new to me when it comes to writing, but it's become necessary to keep me on track. I think it's great you're so organized about setting your goals. Better chance of succeeding then! Oh, and thanks for that mention of the golden goal! Ah, Sid. One of my favourite memories! :)

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    1. I'm useless without notes and lists. Useless. I probably wouldn't remember to do anything if I didn't leave Post-its everywhere. I used to be so good about using a day timer when I was in school, so it's nice to reclaim that habit. :)

      The golden goal is also one of my favourite memories. :)

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  10. I loved your lists - it kinda reminded me of myself. And then you brought in all that teacher-ly stuff (measurable and attainable - I hear that all the time!) and I felt like I was listening to myself! A good thing - totally. :)

    Anyway - with writing I will admit that I used to do a lot of that. And because I was always with fifty million things on my plate, I'd rarely be able to accomplish said list. So...Alison just goes for broad goals these days. Like 5K a week. But, little secret, I do still make lists of what I want to accomplish when I sit down to write. It does help me organize and strategize.

    We all find what works for us. Go with it, Jaime! I'm super impressed and love your system!

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    1. I kind of want to gag when I think of SMART goals in relation to teaching, but in real life it's actually been really helpful for me. I think because I'm a planner when it comes to writing, it's only natural for me to use lists with writing goals. I find I start to meander and accomplish nothing otherwise. Like you say, whatever works! :)

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  11. My method for goal setting is pretty relaxed, but I find that when I make my goals public (thank you, social media) I am much more likely to stick with trying to achieve them. I think that's why Ready. Set. Write! is so good for me. SInce I'm blogging about my goals and progress every week, there's pressure to put forth the extra effort. Whatever it takes, right? :-)

    Thanks for sharing the SMART method... I'll definitely keep it in mind as I consider my summer writing goals.

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    1. I think setting a word count goal for the week is pretty specific. (That's what you did, isn't it?) I may end up doing something like that during RSW too! I think you're right about making goals public and how it increases your chances of success at meeting them. Honestly, there were days this week where I really didn't feel like writing at all, but because those goals were out there, I made myself. I guess that's what it takes. :)

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  12. My hubby is a list person! And he gets so much done... maybe I should try and become one! I'm a bit chaotic and scattered, but it works for me... I think... LOL...

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  13. I love the idea of being this specific. I generally make goal-oriented lists, but you totally nailed the problem I have, which is being too vague! Then I can't tell if I'm making progress or not, and I get discouraged, and I give up. The only time I was ever more specific was when I was searching for a job and trying to make some money with freelance bookcovers. Then, I would print out a monthly calendar and write down accomplishments and goals, like that I made two sample covers in a day, or that I should send out x number of resumes. Maybe admitting this last part will make me seem really stick-in-the-mud-ish, but I even scheduled free-time and days off. Like I'd write "TAKE A BREAK" in huge letters all over Sunday so I couldn't put anything else in it. (Rest time is so important!)

    I do have one long standing writing goal, which is specific and has generally been doable in my life. It's to write 1k every day. Or to revise ten pages, if my WIP is in revisions and not first draft.

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  14. I write down lists. Not as specific as yours, but they keep me on track. My lists, calendars, and notepads are always open on my desk.

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  15. This is SO helpful! I tend to skew towards the chaotic side of the writing spectrum (I find I'm more of a "fitful bursts" rather than "steady flow" type of writer)...this is a fab look at goal-setting from another perspective.

    It's funny, in my "work" life, I'm all about tasks and checklists and itemized "this is what I need to do before I leave today" workflow...I think it's time to start applying this to my writing as well. Thanks for the brilliant idea!

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  16. If you'd like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    GTDAgenda

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.

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