The Goal-den Rule
I’m the first to admit that I am a professional procrastinator. I’ve gotten better over the years, but there is just a part of me that often waits until the last-minute to do something. Whether it be cleaning the garage, writing an essay, or some other project, pushing a nearby deadline has always been more motivating than working on something that’s not due for a month. Or worse yet, a project that has no inherent due date at all (see garage example, above).
When I set out to write my first novel (my background is in short story writing), I knew that I would have to be in it for the long haul if I wanted to finish. And being familiar with that part of me that is most motivated by a short-term deadline, I went about setting up a plan for myself.
Arguably, the most common way to measure writing progress is by means of word count. Time is another. Once I got down to putting pen to paper, I set a goal for myself to write 500 words per day, which I thought to be obtainable at the time. After some weeks, I had only met my goal a handful of times. Frustrated, I turned to my trusty assistant for advice – the internet.
My assistant led me to a recommendation from James Scott Bell, who advocates a weekly word goal over a daily one. I loved it! For a weekend writer like myself, it is easier to get more writing in during certain parts of the week than others. And it’s typical for me to end some weekdays with a big, round, zero word count.
Along with Mr. Bell’s advice, I found information about SMART goal setting, an acronym that serves as a sort of goal setting template. It turned out that I had the SM down, but not the ART. My original goal wasn’t Achievable, Realistic (for me), nor Timed.
I added these elements, figuring out my weekly word count by working backwards from the time I wanted to have a certain amount of words done (i.e. complete the novel), and Blam!
I was doing it. Better yet, I wasn’t waiting to do it (okay, maybe I am a little in taking the time to write this post, but you see my point). Fact is, there was an innate part of me that acted naturally, knowing that there was a deadline just around the corner, that incented me to act. I felt empowered, rejuvenated even, knowing that I had the tools at my disposable to set up a writing plan and complete my manuscript.
Setting a goal for yourself is very important, whether it be in your writing or any type of project you take on in life (that pesky garage comes to mind again). Mix that with a focus and determination, and the sky’s the limit.
What is one project, right now, that you need to set (or improve) a goal for?