Monday, December 22, 2014

Setting Goals

The new year is almost upon us — mere days away, in fact.  As a writer, I usually attempt to set goals and next week I will discuss mine … but right now, I want to focus on yours.

Come the midnight hour on 12/31/2014, we will cheer, kiss and toast to the New Year 2015.  Then we will blurt our intentions, calling them resolutions for the new year.

I will lose weight this year.
I will finish that novel.
I will … blah-blah-blah

Those are not goals.  They are not resolutions.  They are hollow wishes of ambiguous ideas.

I will lose weight this year.  Yeah, right.  So come 12/31/2015 and you now weight 1 pound less than you did a year ago, if you even remember what your weight was on 1/1/2015!  There is no goal.  Just a wish.  In fact, I promised myself that I would lose weight during the year.  I did.  I was able to reduce my weight by 15 pounds.  I am very proud of that fact.  Unfortunately, I have to admit complete and utter failure.  I wasn't able to maintain that loss.  So, in reality, I didn't lose weight and keep it off.

I will finish that novel.  Again.  Blah, blah, blah.  What novel?  Some ambiguous collection of words that you've so valiantly flipped in front of your friends claiming it is a book?  I heard my friend claim she was going to get serious about her writing in 2014 and finish her novel.  Did she?  No.  In fact, she barely talks to me because when we greet, I ask her about it.

If you're going to set goals, I learned to be SMART.

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time Bound

Yes, this is what you need to set goals and reach those goals.

Specific.  "finish my book" is not specific.  "Send the book to at least 5 publishers" is specific. To claim "I will lose weight" is not specific.  "I will lose 50 pounds" is a goal and specific.

Measurable. With writing, make your goal measurable. NaNoWriMo teaches this by forcing the author to write 1667 words or more each day for 30 days to finish 50K words in a month.  By setting a measurable amount, whether it be 5 pages or 2K words each day, you establish a point to reach.  As with weight loss, keep track of the pounds you lose.

Achievable.  If you're a 300 pound person, to set a goal to wear size 30 inch waist jeans is not achievable in three months. You're setting yourself up for failure.  The same holds true for writing.  You're not going to write the #1 best-selling novel in 30 days.  You could, but the odds are stacked against you.  I have a friend who thought when she finished her very first book, the first publisher she approached would "snap up" her novel and she'd be published, doing talk shows and in the limelight.  She thought this would all happen in the 3 to 5 weeks after her completion of the novel.  Needless to say, she was rudely awakened when the editing took almost 8 months to clean up the novel.  Also, her first publisher choice she sent it to rejected it.

Realistic. Writing 50K words in 30 days is a very lofty aspiration.  Some are able to attain it.  It is a possible realistic goal, but you have to realize what you will give up.  That little 30 minute chit-chat with Suzy, 3 hr shopping spree with the girls or 2 to 3 hr game with the guys won't be on your social dance card.  If you're married, have children or care for another, that is time taken away from writing.  Make your goal achievable and realistic.

Time Bound.  Time is the writer's enemy.  It is also the weight loss enemy.  It always seems there is more time than reality allows.  Set your goal to sensibly stretch the proper amount of time.  You're not going to lose 50 pounds in 1 month.  You could, but your health will be at risk.  When establishing time goals in writing, be honest with yourself and your skills and your time available.  If your social life is very time consuming, don't expect to set aside several hours, 4 or more, to write.  To set a goal of losing 50 pounds within the next 6 months is a great example of being time bound in your goal.

With the few days left of 2014 to evaluate your life and establish your goals for the coming year, now is the time to use SMART to create your new year's resolutions.  Maybe, come this time next year, you will be able to sit back and smile, your goals reached.

What are some of your goals?  Do you want to lose weight?  Quit smoking?  Eat better?  Publish a book? Write a novel?  Tell me how you envision using SMART to reach your goals.

Until next I ramble on …

PS: As a special Christmas treat, for my blog readers, I am offering a short-story to read.  Enjoy.


  1. Excellent advice as always, Bob. I have tried to make my goals "SMART," too, but the best part of the advice in this piece was "keeping track." I can't remember my weight from one year ago, but I do know it's hovered around the point it's at now for several years.

    1. My blog next week is also about goals and what I did/didn't accomplish. That is one of my issues - I "sort of" remember my weight back on 1/1/14 but...

  2. Great wisdom here as ever Bob - always try to make my goals smart, but even then I fail miserably. This year I have extended time off work so my plan is to use this time to do my life plan, do a finding purpose and meaning course, and to set some real smart goals, and crucially, plan how to achieve them. I am going to do it this year. No more messing.

    1. Sounds like you have the cat by the tail and have a plan. Good luck.

  3. Honestly, my goals are simple. To get the energy to wrap my head around things to get stuff done. I have so much I want to do, but my brain seems so full sometimes. And I won't lie. I get mentally tired. I want to edit my books, but sometimes Candy Crush on FB is so mindless it allows me to just chill out a bit. (and then I feel guilty knowing I could use that time more productively)

    1. When I have distractions, to help me - I do the following. Looking out the window? Pull the drapes - there is nothing to see out there and no peeking allowed. Social media? As much as it hurts, I disconnect the internet. Why so drastic? Because I will go to research something, see another item of interest and then start to surf. Next thing, it is 2 hrs later. Sometimes it takes drastic action to gain the goal. Of course, the biggest battle is to keep the butt in the chair (if I'm writing) or focused on the project at hand.

  4. I completely agree. I have tried to accomplish goals both with and without being SMART. The only times I've reached my goals is when I'm SMART. Great Post Bob!