Monday, August 29, 2011

The HOW That Got Forgotten

I'm not going to tout the benefits of the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. Whether you call it by this name or not, I think most of us have it engrained into us to some extent.

We know not to set a goal like, "Write more." We set goals like "Write ___ number of words a day/week," or "Write for ___ amount of time every day."

We don't say, "Finish drafting soon," We say "Finish drafting by ____ date."

We don't say, "Blog a lot," we say "Blog ___ days a week."

We don't say "Write ten chapters a day until book is finished," we set a goal that is actually attainable. (And if writing ten chapters a day is what you consider attainable, HOLY COW. I want you to say so in the comments so I can give you props.)

A writing friend and I have agreed to share our writing goals with each other, and have weekly meetings over the phone to report our progress on our goals and to help each other over struggles, so I've been thinking a lot about goals lately.

And there's one thing S.M.A.R.T. doesn't cover: HOW.

You can make a list of the most fabulous, attainable, specific, measurable, relevant, time bond goals possible for you and what you want to accomplish. However, that list means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING if you don't also figure out a way to make that happen.


So let's say you haven't been writing, and you make a goal to write for an hour every day. That's S.M.A.R.T.! But obviously the mere making of the goal isn't going to cause it to happen. That time has to come from somewhere, so you've got to decide what you're going to sacrifice. A common answer is sleep. But what if all your life responsibilities already have you living off the minimum? You find something else. You look at the things that have a lower priority to you and sacrifice those. If there is nothing that can be sacrificed all the time, make a rotation. Nothing will feel too neglected if it only gets neglected one week out of every four. :)

The point is, you need to have a plan of what is going to change in your life to make the goals you set possible. Or that goal that you made the S.M.A.R.T. way, and wrote down so that it counted as a real goal? It might as well go in here:

And we don't want to do that! Look at what a pained expression he has on his face.


Abby Fowers said...

I love this. Goals are so important but we really do have to figure out HOW! It's not always easy and I'm sure most of us are living of the minimum amount of sleep. I love how you and a friends are sharing goals and doing weekly phone meetings. It puts the pressure on to be accountable. Totally awesome idea.

Isis Rushdan said...

Measurable goals are vital to success. Doing challenges like Row80 or joing a group like GIAM where writers are accountable is very helpful.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

What a great idea to exchange goals with a friend. That would make me work even harder. I may have to try it...
It's so hard to keep a goal, but sharing it with someone would help. And kick your butt into gear. Good luck! :D

Jenny S. Morris said...

OK, must go off and make S.M.A.R.T. goals and figure out how to rearrange my schedule to achieve them.

Great idea to share your goal with a friend. Good luck!

Bethany Crandell said...

Smarty pants, you!
Setting realistic goals seems so obvious, but it's much easier said than done. Good on you for having someone to check in with and keep you accountable.

Kristine said...

I needed this today! Thank you!

David P. King said...

Loving this post, Peggy!

It doesn't matter who you are or what you do. The goal oriented are the types who get things done. Glad to see that you and so many of your visitors feel the same. :)

Lan said...

I am definitely one of those people that lists "write 10 chapters" a day as their goal and then does absolutely nothing. So I can think S.M.A.R.T but I lack any kind of follow through. It's so true that you have to sacrifice something in order to gain the time to write. In my case, I think I do a heck of a lot of blog stalking when I could actually be writing :)

Shilpa Mudiganti said...

Absolutely...and right now, I am slacking on mine! :(

Jeff King said...

I suck at goals… I do what I do because I love to do it. No need to make goals there. I often make goals in things I hate to do or in things I am dreading to do.
Very inspiring though, thx for the tip.

Alleged Author said...

We do S.M.A.R.T. goals at our school. Cool to see it out here in the blogosphere!

Carrie Butler said...

Aww, man! Don't talk about sacrificing sleep when I'm up editing at 2:08 AM. :P

Great points, Peggy!

lindy said...

It seems lots of writers use S.M.A.R.T.-whether they're familiar with the acronym or not. I've visited countless blogs where the writer has clear set goals and some even list how they plan to achieve them. I've never set any actual goals for myself, guess it may be time! Smart post, Peggy. :P

Melissa Cunningham said...

Great post! I love setting goals. I love completing them even more! LOL

Bkloss said...

Awesome post, as always! :) I love your little S.M.A.R.T. And "how" is a tough word when it comes to goals. We all get the same 24 hours, and most times something has to give. For me, it's a social life. And rest.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Abby-- You're right-- it's definitely not easy to find the HOW. And yes, having the pressure to be accountable makes all the difference in the world. :)

Isis-- I haven't heard of those before. Thanks for the great resources!

Chantele-- I think it definitely helps! You should try it!

Jenny-- Best of luck in your goals!

Bethany-- Totally easier said than done!

Kristine-- You're welcome. Now go set some goals, you slacker, you. ;)

David-- You're right. Goal setting is where it is at! I think things rarely happen when goals aren't involved.

Lan-- Hahaha! Ten chapters a day-- that's AWESOME! Way to think big.

Shilpa-- Best of luck getting over the slacking! :)

Jeff-- I don't have to have writing goals so much when I'm drafting because it is so much fun! When I'm on the tenth round of revisions, though, I need it a bit more. :)

Alleged-- Awesome! It really should be everywhere.

Carrie-- Your comment made me laugh out loud! Good on you for still editing at 2am.

Lindy-- I think that if you're a goal setter by nature, you've probably figured out the S.M.A.R.T. method even if you've actually never heard of it before. And I think writers tend to be goal setters. How else could we stay motivated through projects that can take years? I bet you've made a lot of goals, even if you haven't written them down.

Melissa-- Ahhh. Completing them. Euphoria. Makes all the hard work worth it.

Barbara-- HOW is tough! Especially when things have to give to make it work.

Lani Wendt Young said...

This is exactly the approach that my husband keeps telling me i need to apply with my fitness goals. I set these unrealistic way out there goals and then kill myself trying to attain them. And then i need to eat more donuts to feel beter about it.
Sorry, I know your post was about writing goals but i got sidetracked! My problem has always been fitting in the REST of my life with the writing. I write too much and too often. And ignore things like...feeding that screaming child, paying that electricity bill, hanging up that laundry. Maybe i need to apply the SMART goal thing to sortingn out the rest of my life!