Saturday, January 18, 2014

SMART Goals 2

For anyone who stopped by here to take a look on Friday, you're doing better than I am.  It's 11:20 p.m. my time, and I'm finally getting to this.  Between a grandson who was sick and didn't make it to school, but needed to be watched over, to far too many website updates and Facebook Page creating, to a daughter who asked if I'd pick up her daughter after school, to another daughter who had to attend a funeral, the day didn't work out as expected.  And I'm 3 days behind on my daily goals. *sigh*

But I'm here, and I'll share what I know about setting smart goals.  I still have a lot to learn.  Obviously.

Last week we looked into the Who, What, When, Why, How of setting goals.  Today we're going  to double up with the M and the A in SMART.  And both use two words each.

As it asks in the graphic above, How will you know when you're done?  A relative question, since a goal without end isn't a real goal.

A goal is something to work toward.  With writers, that goal can be a number of things.  The most popular are page goals and word count goals.  A goal might be to write a book, but that can often be more easily measured by the number of pages or number of words you'll need to write.  My books run between 58,000 words to 60,000 words.  Someone else's might be double that.  A novella might be a little more than half that.

The writers group I belong to offers two different chances to work toward goals.  One is short term, the other much longer.

Our short-term group is what's called BIAW or Book In A Week.  No, we don't expect to write a book in a week, but it doesn't give us incentive to write.  Although it's supposed to be a week, we extend it an extra day, so our week is actually 8 days.  (Hat tip to the Beatles.)  We do it twice a month, every month, beginning on the first Sunday through the second Sunday, then turn around and do it again on the third Sunday through the fourth.  Before it begins, those who want to participate declare by email how many pages we've set as our goal for the week.  My goal, beginning this coming Sunday, is 50 pages.  I know I can do it, but I'll have to work hard to reach it.

The second group is our yearly Word Count Challenge.  This is our third year.  In January, we declare our goal of words written during the year, and at the end of each month, we announce our monthly word total.  A spread sheet is used to keep track of each member's Goal, and both monthly and accumulated total.  The first year we tended to overreach.  Our group's yearly total goal for 2013 was 910,000 words.  The fifteen of us wrote 838,960.  We reached 92% of our goal, 1% better than the year before.  This year our group goal, a combination of all individual goals, is 1,340,001.  (That 1 is a race between two members, both published.)  Will we make it?  We'll try!

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when setting your goal.

  • Is your goal is measurable?  Without knowing the specifics, you'll be at loose ends and may not reach your goal or struggle with reaching it.  Maybe you aren't a writer, and your goal is to lose 20 pounds in a year.  Or whatever reasonable and reachable goal of pounds might be.  A yearly goal makes it easy to measure.  Or you want to be more fit.  Walking, running, exercise all need goals, too.
  • Can your goal be broken down into smaller goals?  Easy with a yearly goal.  There are twelve months in a year.  If I'm writing a 12 chapter book at approximately 60,000 words, I'll have to write 1 chapter per month/5,000 words.  You can break that down to the number of scenes or number of words.  Decide how much time you have for writing, and you'll know how many words or pages you'll need to write each day.  And you don't have to write every day.
  • Are there other priorities that come before writing?  If you're a mother with small children or a working woman, or a working woman with children, huge chunks of writing time are hard to find. (Men also have priorities, the same as women.) Some people get up an hour earlier in the morning, some stay up an hour or two later.  Some people write during their lunchtime.  Some write during baby/child's naptime.  When is your best time?
  • Will it be possible to work on your goals during holidays and/or vacations?  My daughters are grown, but holidays still roll around each year.  I've written during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, summers full of grandchildren, and helping other family members with their own goals and schedules.  I do get more done on weekends, but for some people, this isn't always the best time to hole away.  Be sure to factor in the things you know in advance that will take time away from your goal.  Work around those time.  It may take a little less sleep, less television or movies, or something else, but it comes down to priorities.  Family is always first priority.
  • What happens if sickness intrudes and messes up the goals?  It happens to the healthiest of us.  If it does, and you fall behind on your short-term goals, don't beat yourself up.  When you feel up to it, work a little on your goal, but don't wear yourself out and end up being sick longer.  That's counter-productive.  If you have to make up some time on your goal, do it in small stages.  An extra page here and there will soon have you back on your goal schedule.  The same goes for most everything else.  But don't give up food if you're dieting!!
Give yourself enough time to set reasonable goals.  Rushing into it without giving thought to your lifestyle, demands of others, and the inevitable things that intrude, will only cause you to give up.  That's not what working toward!  When that book, or diet, or exercise routine or whatever your goal is all about is reached, you're done!  And then you can turn around and do it again. ☺

Now for the second M.
Is your goal emotionally charged?  Are you motivated enough to spend the time needed to reach your goal? 
  1. Do you want to reach this goal bad enough to give up something else you love, once in a while?  Yes, that hot fudge sundae is calling you to take a spin to Sonic, but think of that weight-loss goal.
  2. Do you have the energy to carry out the goal?  Training for a race can be grueling.  Staying up late or getting up early to do whatever it's going to take to reach that goal must be done in moderation that will keep you going, not lead you to giving up.  Goals can be adjusted.  Missed goal-working time can be made up.  But if you find you're not getting enough rest, and you're falling asleep at work or during your favorite TV show or your son's soccer game or daughter's dance recital, it's time to adjust the goal-work that's causing it.
Last but not least, we're to the two As.  All of the letters in SMART are needed for setting your goals.  Don't skimp, don't skip.  Think it through.
Is your goal realistic?  We took a look at this last week with Will it Work?  Let's face it.  Most of us aren't going to run in the Boston Marathon our first time out.  The majority of writers will not sell their first book.  We aren't going to be an Olympian in only a few short months.  Or probably in a year.  But there are a lot of things that can be done in a year.  If you can break down a yearly goal into small chunks and bites of time or practice or training or whatever, it should be attainable.  Your goal shouldn't take up every moment of your life, but it should be a priority.  If you feel it's taking too much time away from other things, adjust your goal to fit you and your life.

We're all held accountable for nearly everything we do.  It starts when we're young.  Remember chores and chore charts when you were growing up?  Mom or Dad made up the list, and we were accountable for getting them done.  Now that we're grown up, we're still our boss, or spouse, our friends, even our children.

Can your goal be tracked?  This is a big one.  When it comes to goals, falling back on those chore charts might not be such a bad thing.  There are hundred, if not thousands or millions of ways to track goals.  I use spreadsheets.  And calendars.  Right now, I know I have to write 1 scene a day.  Why a scene?  It has a beginning and an end.  My calendar tells me what I need to be working on, what my goal for the day will be.  My spreadsheets help me keep track of how many pages and words I've written in a day, a week, a month.  They tell me how far I've gone and how far I have to get to the end.  My editor isn't going to accept a 40,000 words book.  I'm going to need a lot more than that.  I'll admit that it can be exhilarating, the closer I get to reaching my goal.  Those last two chapters, those last few scenes, almost write themselves.  I want to reach that goal, and by tracking my progress, I know I can make it or at least how hard I'll have to work to reach it.

There are all kinds of tracking programs and spreadsheets on the Internet for anything you might imagine.  Use one of them or make your own, as I do.  The one thing you have to remember is to KEEP TRACK each day as you work on your goal.  Find the best way to be accountable.

If you have a friend or family member who you can count on to keep you accountable (Did you write today?  Did you walk that two miles?), it's a lot easier to stay on track.  And be sure it's a friend who wants to see you succeed, not one who will lure you away from your goals. :)  Buddy-up with a friend, if h/she is working on a similar goal.  Encouragement from others can go a long, long way.

And you thought setting goals would be easy?  Nothing is easy.  But the rewards are magnificent!

Next week we'll work on the Rs=Relevant and Responsible.  Yes, more thinking and planning.  Before you know it, you'll be setting goals for all kinds of things.  And reaching them!
It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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