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Setting Goals (Plus a FREE goal planning worksheet!)

Back at the beginning of January, I talked a bit about my New Year's resolutions. I make resolutions at the beginning of every new year and I have for as long as I can remember, but for the life of me, I can't remember if I've ever had a NYR list this looong. I counted and I have, collectively, more than ten specific things on my list.

TEN.

Fifteen if I count the littler pieces, like the various manuscripts I plan to draft or the various ways I might be able to "expand on my creative potential".

To prevent that drowning-in-nothing, freefall, complete and total panic, RUUUUUUN! feeling, I sat down, thought about the steps I would need to take to meet those goals, and put together a handy goal planning worksheet for myself to help keep organized and well on track since Life just loves to throw me curve balls while squeezing lemons in my eyes.

Before I get started breaking down two of my goals, would y'all like a peek at this life-saving worksheet? (Well, life-saving for me, anyway...)

You'll notice it's not too colorful, not too fancy, nothing like that. There's two reasons for that. 1) I don't like all that ultra-distracting nonsense. I find myself stopping to look at the pretty colors far too often. 2) I'm no graphic designer. I have no idea how to do that stuff and make it look good haha!

Grab a pen or a pencil and let's get going!

Step 1: Identify Your Goal

What do you want to achieve? Start a savings account? Become more organized during the year? Write a book? Whatever it is, no matter how vague, write it down here.

The two goals I chose are:

  • Strengthen my blog and expand its reach to find the writers (and readers!) who would benefit
  • Draft 2 more manuscripts

You'll notice that my first goal is quite a bit more specific than my second. For now, that's okay. I'll get more specific in the next two steps.

Step 2: Is Your Goal S.M.A.R.T.?

I blame my collegiate equestrian team coach for this one. (Damn you, Coach!) Ever since he first taught us about this nifty method, I've used it for just about every goal I've made. With this Move from Hell still underway, all my college stuff is packed, so I didn't have his paperwork to refer back to, which left me scouring the internet. Naturally, everybody has a different take on what the acronym actually stands for. So, I kinda mashed a few things together.

  • S - Specific: Is your goal specific? If not, specify it here. Dig down deep for what you really want to achieve.
  • M - Measurable: What defines "success" for you? How will you know that you've met your goal?
  • A - Attainable: How can you do this? (More on this in the next step, so it's okay if this is a little vague.)
  • R - Relevant: Does this fit in with your big-picture plans?
  • T - Time-bound: What is a realistic time frame for you to accomplish this in?

To give you a couple examples, here's how I broke S.M.A.R.T. down for my two goals.

Goal 1: Strengthen & expand

  • S - This goal was already pretty specific, so I just repeated some information in this box.
  • M - Increase my follower numbers.
  • A - I'll reach this goal using blog-focused methods comprised of simple yet challenging steps. (AKA, see Step 3).
  • R - This goal is relevant to my other writing projects and definitely something I am able to do at present.
  • T - A goal like this doesn't really have a "finish line" exactly, so I'm just going to keep tabs on my numbers, check them at the end of every month, and count each new follow as a victory.

Goal 2: Draft 2 more manuscripts

  • S - Draft 2 full-length novel manuscripts that are unrelated to my Generations series. (There, that's a little more specific.)
  • M - Each MS will be between 70,000 and 90,000 words upon completion of the first draft.
  • A - 2-3 months will be dedicated to drafting these projects with each month's word count goal between 25,000 and 30,000.
  • R - These manuscripts will align more with this blog than my passion project, my Generations series, and will be more easily accomplished considering my skill set.
  • T - A goal like this can easily have a deadline: December 31, 2016.

Step 3: How Will You Achieve Your Goal?

This is where you'll break your goal down into manageable, bite-size pieces. Having a rough idea of your plan is great for the A in S.M.A.R.T., but this is where you get into the nitty-gritty. Essentially, this is where you really figure out just how you're going to achieve this goal. What actionable steps can you take six months from now? Six weeks? Today?

Goal 1: Strengthen & expand

  • A) Post book reviews as often as possible, on Fridays, reviewing books relevant to my interests and to the subject matter of the books I plan to write.
  • B) Learn to stick to my schedule better. (God I'm awful at this...)
  • C) Plan posts in advance and offer freebies occasionally.
  • D) Comment on other blogs!
  • E) Add a new posting category for fellow horse people to help cater to my (future) readership more.

Goal 2: Draft 2 more MSs

  • A) Spend one month world-building per manuscript.
  • B) The following 2-3 months will be writing months.
  • C) I will write 25,000-30,000 words per month until I complete my first draft.
  • D) I will only research more information when absolutely necessary.

Thankfully, my goals both have pretty concrete, actionable steps that I can take to achieve them. If your goal is more fluid or you just can't come up with a whole lot of actionable steps, that's okay. Sometimes these things take time, and sometimes there really aren't that many options. (Which sucks.)

Step 4: Be Prepared!

Here's something that really sets my goal planning worksheet apart from the rest of the ones I found online. What might get in the way of you achieving your goal? Here, you'll develop an action plan to tackle those road blocks. I'm really good at foreseeing the problems in a goal (I like to think that's a skill I've carefully cultivated over the years, plus the whole Life throwing curve balls & squeezing lemons thing) so this was an absolute necessity for me to have. In the box on the left, think about all the problems that might arise later on down the road. In the box on the right, write down how you'll keep those road blocks from stopping you!

Here's how I did it.

Goal 1: Strengthen & expand

  1. Blogger's block (ick!) - Keep a list of ideas for possible blog posts in a journal so I always have a backup plan.
  2. Time constraints (the real reason for my shit ability to keep to a schedule) - Plan posts in advance and when I'm able to, write them in advance as well.

Goal 2: Draft 2 more MSs

  1. Writer's block - Keep a rough outline and a Pinterest board to refer back to when I need a little inspiration.
  2. Time constraints - Sometimes this can't be helped, so I won't beat myself up or give up if I don't meet my daily word count goal of 1,000 words. Better yet, when I can, I'll write more than my daily goal so that I can catch up (or get ahead!).
  3. Plot bunnies - I'll keep my journal handy, write down my ideas, and refer back to them later (like after I finish).

Step 5: Party Time!

Now for the best part of this process: How will you celebrate when you achieve your goal? Whether it's a day at the spa, a trip you've been wanting to take, or just a few extra minutes to yourself in the morning, setting aside a specific way to reward yourself is a great incentive in addition to just "Whoo, I achieved my goal!" Or, it is for me, anyway.

Voila! At this point, if you've taken these steps above, you've got a solid plan on how to achieve those fabulous goals of yours. After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish. If you do download and use my little freebie, be sure to let me know how it goes! What goals you set, how you implemented them, what your party time incentive is, that sort of stuff. I'm considering making this freebie thing an actual thing on this blog, so any feedback y'all feel like passing on is greatly appreciated, as well.

Good luck!