Monday, January 5, 2015

smar-T Goals

(Today we finish up reviewing SMART goals. I've added to this post because it felt undone, incomplete, not get the picture.)

T for Timely, Time-based, Tangible and Trackable.

When you create a goal, there needs to be an end point to give a clear target for you to work towards. If you don't have a Target (hey, another T word), your goal is no longer SMART--it becomes vague. Why is this? Because without an ending, you can start any time. There is no built in urgency, so why start now?

When choosing a time frame, use many of the same aspects of a SMART goal. Your time must be measurable, attainable--and realistic. It would be great to start and finish a novel by the first day of spring, but how realistic is that for most of us? Is it attainable--oh, perhaps--if I don't go to my day job, interact with family and friends, or take showers. However, it is a reasonable, stretching goal for me to say I will write one chapter a week to take to critique.

One of the more difficult aspects of the T is striking a balance between having enough time to achieve and giving yourself too much time. Planning for too much time has the same result as not setting a time frame at all. Take my weekly chapter. Doable. I've done it before--just not consistently. But what if I change my goal to say I'll do one chapter a month for critique. How much you wanna bet I wouldn't even start that chapter until the last week of the month? There's no urgency until then. And, such a goal wouldn't stretch my abilities at any time--except that one week.

(I can't believe I didn't say anything about Tangible or Trackable. So, here's a few additional thoughts...

Tangible. That means your goal is concrete, touchable. Saying I'm going to write a short story and publish it is a dream. Dreams are great and can be an excellent starting point for a goal. To make your dreams tangible, follow the SMART goal letters and set a word count in a certain time period goal. 

Trackable. That's an easy one. Those who know me understand that I push the use of a calendar or planner of some sort to keep track of words/pages written, edits, submissions, oh, just about everything writing related. Tracking your progress can also be as easy as noting the word count on your document every day. An important part of tracking the progress to the completion of your goal is accountability. Hey, maybe I should add accountability to my 'A' words. Of course you are accountable to yourself. Writing that chapter weekly for critique makes you accountable. Find an accountability partner or two. And make a daily or weekly goal to check in with them!

I've re-learned some important things in reposting these blogs about SMART goals. Let me know if you've found these helpful, or if they hit home on some point (that's me!) or if they were merely irritating. Hey, you never know...

Happy writing and even happier reading!)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

sma-R-t Goals

(welcome to day R, which today also stands for Repeat. Like I'm repeating this blog.)
Lots of Rs today: Realistic, Relevant, Reasonable, Rewarding, Results-oriented.

Much of what I said yesterday about Achievable goals is Relevant today. Your goals should fall within your personal resources, knowledge and time and should push you--your skills and knowledge--but not be so unReasonable that it breaks your writing spirit.

Having Realistic goals, doesn't mean you've made easy goals. If you aim too low, or don't frequently review your goal success and build upon it, you are sending the message to your subconscious that you aren't capable. It is difficult to reach a balance though, since making your goals too difficult is a simple set up for failure. Review your goals, over and over. Weekly is excellent, but take the time at least monthly for some serious goal review and consideration.

Continually set the bar high enough to give yourself the satisfaction of achievement.

(As I was reading this over, I Realized that I'm particularly bad at reviewing my goals on a timely and consistent basis. So I've been missing out on celebrating the small accomplishments that lead ultimately to large accomplishments--in this case, a completed story to share with the world. Which problem do you have with your goals? Do make them too easy--or too difficult to achieve?)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

sm-A-rt Goals

(Talkin' about the letter A in your smart goals today.)

Attainable, Achievable, Action -Oriented

First you create goals that are important to YOU, then you figure out the ways needed to make them happen. In writing, this means you develop the attitudes, abilities and skills needed to reach those goals. One good way to do this is to make one of your goals each year a concentration on one aspect of your writing. Maybe you need to work on transitions so the reader will easily understand how much time has passed. Or you need to work on your layer of adding the five senses. Or using action verbs instead of writing passively. 

Each goal should stretch you. If you've consistently written 100 words a day this past year (theme alert) then your stretching goal could be 125 or 150 words a day. Then each day when you meet that goal, you give yourself a mental pat on the back and the encouragement to do the same thing tomorrow.

But if you've been writing 100 words a day then decide your goal needs to be 1000 words a day--you may be reaching too far. If your goal seems out of reach, will you really commit to it? Your subconscious will constantly remind you that the goal is out of reach (hmm rather like our internal editors, huh) and those reminders will undermine your goal by keeping you from doing your best.

If you do want to build to 1000 words a day, make smaller goals. Perhaps you will writer 150 words a day for two weeks. Once you discover you can do that easily, reevaluate your goals and set a new goal for 250 words a day for two weeks. Success will build upon success and keep you motivated.

As with so many things we put on our goal lists-- decluttering, losing weight, reading a certain number of books--building our writing career is best taken in small, manageable steps. Once you're used to taking those steps, you'll be amazed at how much faster you find yourself moving forward!

(I can't help it. I just had to add a little music for today. From one of my favorite and most inspiring movies. Enjoy.)


Friday, January 2, 2015

s-M-art Goals

(Good morning and welcome to the M of SMART goals.)

M stands for measurable, meaningful and motivational.

"If you can't measure it--you can't manage it."

In order to measure a goal you need to know if what you set out to accomplish is obtainable, as well as how far away the completion is. Otherwise, how will you know when the goal has been achieved?

One of the pitfalls of goal setting is making your goal too vague. For instance, your goal states 'I want to finish the damn book'. Sounds overwhelming doesn't it? When is the book considered finished? How will you see the changes that occur, the progress you make on a FTDB challenge?

Establish concrete criteria to measure your progress. How about something like... 'I will write X words a day (sense a theme here?) to complete a chapter each week to take to critique.' You can measure this easily by the words you write. This is a meaningful goal--you're working on your career. Motivational? Of course. When you measure your progress, it's easier to stay on track to reach your target completions. And, don't you feel good when you review your goal and see you wrote that weekly chapter? That excitement and exhilaration can and will carry you forward into the next week. And the one beyond that. 

(To infinity and beyond!--not to put too fine a point on it! Couldn't resist making a couple of movie references. Guess which movies.)

Before you know it, you've reached your major goal!

How cool is that? 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

S-mart Goals

(The first post spelling out SMART. The question of the day for writer friends is this--did you have a goal to complete a book in 2011? I know that's taking us back a few years, but surely you remember. Was it a SMART goal? Did you meet that goal? Here we go... the letter S.)

The S of SMART goals stands for specific, significant, stretching.

Your specific goals should be well-defined, straight forward and emphasize what you want to accomplish. It's where you want to focus your efforts.

Specific is the What, Why, and How of your goal.

What: easy--what are you going to do? Use action words. Hmm, that's rather like showing rather than telling, isn't it?
Why: why is this goal important to you?
How how are you going to accomplish the goal. Here is where you really need to be specific by giving a time frame. Having a 'finish by' date helps further along in the SMART goal process, so you might as well be ready for it.

As an example--instead of making your goal to finish a book in 2011 (which only really generally gives a hint of what you want to do and by when...) a SMART goal might say something like : I will write X number of words a day (Hey! That sounds familiar!) to complete name of manuscript by this date.

Significant? That's pretty simple, too. If your goal wasn't significant to you, you probably wouldn't be thinking about it.

Stretching? Don't make your goal too easy. If you normally write, oh, say, 100 words a day--stretch to 150 words a day. Stretching isn't always easy (in either the mental or physical sense). Maybe you'll be a little sore, but the end results will be well worth the stretch.

So have a good stretch and start thinking seriously about your SMART goals.

(Oh, and today---Happy New Year 2015!)