With Nanowrimo just ending and New Years behind the corner, many writers are thinking about their writing and reading goals, as well as their progress this year. I’m most present on Twitter, and have seen dozens of writers posting about goals they’ve achieved, goals they think they can still pull off by the end of 2018 and new goals they’d like to set for 2019.
I, for one, love making goals. “Why do you have so many lists and plans of… well… everything?” people who come into my bedroom often say. I don’t blame them: I have a whiteboard beside my bed divided in three sections: school, with a list of things I have to do and my weekly lesson schedule; writing, with checklists tracking my revision rounds and guest posts; and life, with a list of things I’ve achieved this year and another to-do list. Look at my desk and you’ll see post-its with reminders written on them in scribbly writing, a paper on which I write deadlines and another one hung just beside my window with more reminders. Of course, let’s not forget my homework diary, calendar and alarms I set on my phone.
Granted, lots of this is because I forget just about everything and this is a way for me to remember. But setting all these goals is also so I can see progress.
My classic three main goals are ‘do well at school’, ‘write a book’ and ‘relax’. But how do you measure this? Even with the second goal, which is a little more defined, is writing a book the end of it? What about revising, beta readers, sensitivity readers, critique partners, editors, publishing…
My point is, how do you make an actual, achievable goal? I’ve experimented with a few techniques to make and follow my goals. And being a typical checklist-fanatic, here is a checklist that you can go through when writing out your goals: not just New Year Resolutions, but aims you have in general, which can be abbreviated as S.A.M.. Hope this helps!
Going back to Nanowrimo and why it is so successful: the competition is not only simple, but also with a specific goal: one month, 50k words. Maybe that’s the reason why its so successful – with a clear goal to achieve, there isn’t space for exceptions and excuses.
For instance, here’s a popular goal around New Years, after people have suddenly realized that they’ve gained 5kg between Christmas desserts, buffets and gingerbread houses (just me?):
It is straight-forward, direct and simple, but, well… its not specific. First off, how much weight? What is the time frame? How are you going to achieve this? These are all crucial questions that can further shape your goal down the line. If someone walked in and saw it they should, without context, understand exactly what you want to do and know how you’re going to do it.
A better goal would be: In 2019, lose 1kg each month by jogging around the neighborhood every morning for one hour.
There you go! Still simple and easy to read, but much more specific. How does this help? Because in six months time when you’ll wake up in the morning with zero motivation and will see such a clear-written goal, you might just get out of bed in your half asleep daze and do it anyway.
Now, of course you want to challenge yourself when making goals: who said they had to be easy? Setting a goal which is too easy is like writing something you already tick it just so you can feel satisfied: it’s cheating yourself. However, setting something that is way unachievable can be harmful as well.
There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself. In January 2018, I decided that I, as a new writer who had never really written guest posts before, wanted to write four of them, all while going to school, passing exams, spending time with my friends and family, writing my book and somehow keeping my sanity too. However, you can go too far. I managed to write four just by force of will. If I had set ten, or even just six I would’ve felt overwhelmed, pressured, stressed and probably would’ve freaked out after having written two.
All I’m saying is, try to make it realistically possible. If you have three younger siblings that you have to help with homework each day, and are taking your a Level exams in six months… two hours of exercise each morning isn’t reasonable at all. Goals are supposed to keep you going and lift you up, not be more self – imposed stress that you put on yourself.
If you’re not sure whether your aim is realistic and achievable, you can ask someone you trust to go over your goals. They won’t be criticizing, instead they’ll give you some perspective.
Last but certainly not least, goals should be measurable. Nanowrimo is great at this: as I said in the very beginning, it gives you a specific, achievable, measurable goal. 50k in a month. Specific usually goes hand in hand with measurable. A few examples:
Unspecific, not measurable goal: Be better at writing
Specific, not measurable goal: Be better at writing literature reviews in English class
Specific, measurable goal: Be able to get above 85% on every literature review in English class
Once you can measure a goal, you can make a detailed plan to follow through and achieve it. Taking the example above, you could:
- Talk to the teacher and make a list of things they say you can improve on;
- Get the marking criteria;
- Write two practice reviews each month and grade it according to said criteria;
- If you can, ask your teacher to grade it and get feedback to raise your grade;
- At the end of each review, make a list of what did and didn’t work;
- Keep track of the percentage during the year and (hopefully) see it rise;
And who says its got to be final? If you find ways to refine your plan, then do so during the year. After all, any resolution or goal in general is to help you improve.
So, that’s it! Keep S.A.M. in mind as you make your resolutions. I wish you all the best: happy holidays, happy new year, and happy goal-making!