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It’s one thing to set goals. It’s another thing entirely to accomplish them. Even the best goals can be hard to achieve. We’ve all heard of S.M.A.R.T goals—goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound—and they are some of the best goals, but they’re not fool proof. And they might not be the right goal for you. Sure they’re better than no goal, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fail.
Having a plan to go with your goals is a huge step.
Today I’m going to help you determine what goals are right for you and how to make a good plan for your goals. Let’s dive right in!
How to Set Writing Goals and Make Plans that Work
Writing without Goals
Moment of truth—when I’m struggling to write consistently there is always a reason. Over the years I’ve identified several factors that can keeping me from writing. One of the biggest is definitely a lack of good goals and no plan.
I’ve always been a goal setter, but I’ve set some pretty crappy goals that basically set me up for failure. Some of them were too lofty for the season of life I was in. Others were goals I thought were expected of me rather than what I actually wanted. And some goals simply weren’t specific enough.
And because I had no plan, the goals were as good as worthless to me. I put zero thought into how I was going to accomplish these goals. I didn’t break them up into manageable weekly or daily goals. I had the goals, but because they weren’t thought out and I had no plan I was sure to fail because I had no sense of direction in how to accomplish the goals.
There may be a few people who do fine without goals and plans, but odds are you will benefit from some sort of goal. So let’s discus a few of your options.
Push Goals and Comfort Goals
Before you hash out the specifics of a goal, it’s best to decide if you want a goal that will challenge you or a goal that will be a bit of an easy win and give you confidence to keep going. Ultimately you will want to set goals that challenge you, but there is nothing wrong with starting small and working towards more difficult goals. If an easy to accomplish goal is all you feel ready for at the moment, that is better than nothing.
Push goals are just that. They push you to expect more of yourself. These are the goals you will get the most out of in the long run. A good push goal will help you stretch your abilities and realize you are capable of more than you may currently be achieving. A push goal will require you to work very hard to achieve it.
You don’t want to set too high of expectations for yourself. A push goal will do no good if it overwhelms you. But a goal you might fail can have benefits. Learning to overcome failure is a good skill to have. Failure lives in the same neighborhood as success. If you never let yourself fail you may be missing out on your full potential.
A comfort goal is an easy goal you know you can accomplish. It’s a small step up from where you currently are. It’s a simple goal that will help you make progress and give you the confidence boost you need to work towards setting push goals.
Comfort goals are great if you are just getting started, in a busy season of life, or aren’t ready to challenge yourself with a push goal. Just be sure not to use them as a crutch. If you only set comfort goals, you will fall short of your full potential. Writing won’t be as enriching if it never challenges you. And if you continue to only make slow progress you may get frustrated and quit all together.
3 Methods to Create Goals that Work
1. Creating S.M.A.R.T Writing Goals
Since S.M.A.R.T goals are some of the best goals to create, the criteria is worth a quick review.
The more detailed the goal is, the easier it will be to accomplish. If you set a goal that is too vague, you will have a hard time knowing what you are really trying to achieve.
A goal needs to be measurable in order for you to determine whether or not you’ve successfully met the goal. A goal to write a lot isn’t a good goal because you can’t measure “a lot.” A goal to write an hour a day, is much better because you can measure that.
Your goal needs to be possible. It has to be something you can control. I once set a goal to learn Spanish well enough that I’d have dreams in Spanish. While this goal was possible, it wasn’t in my control. I could learn fluent Spanish, and speak like a native without ever dreaming in Spanish. There was no way for me to control whether or not I would achieve the goal.
It’s a good idea to have goals that will push you and challenge you, but they need to be realistic. You will set yourself up for failure if you make your goals unrealistic. You know your life and what you can accomplish. Keep your goals realistic to what you can handle. If you’re struggling to meet your goals, take a step back. Set simpler, smaller goals. If you’ve been successful, try taking on a bit more of a challenge.
T: Time bound
Basically, the goal needs to have a deadline. Set a date when the goal will be accomplished. If you don’t give yourself an end date, you won’t be as motivated to meet the goal. Without a deadline, a goal that could be achieved in a month, might take a year (if you’re anything like me).
2. Creating D.U.M.B Writing Goals
D: Dream or Destiny-Driven
This is a more inspiring approach. Make sure your goal helps you achieve your dream. If you feel destined to do something, make sure you set goals that help you on your way.
Like dream, driven, a good goal uplifts you. It should be so exciting that you can’t wait to start. This will keep you going when it seems easier to quit. The more excited you are, the more likely you will be to succeed.
Set goals that can be achieved with certain routines, habits, and methods. This will help you when you make your plan.
Your goals should match current behaviors and resonate with your personality. Set goals that help you become who you want to be, not who you think you are supposed to be.
Learn more about the benefits of DUMB writing goals.
3. Creating D.R.E.A.M Writing Goals
For me, I needed goals that pulled criteria from SMART and DUMB goals. So I created DREAM goals and they have been very helpful for me. I love the detail and thoughtfulness of SMART goals. I need that focus to keep me on track. However, they are kind of drab goals, and I liked the idea of having goals be inspiring and more motivating.
Having a detailed goal with a deadline is a good way to stay focused and know exactly what you are trying to achieve.
A goal that is too lofty, or overwhelming will not get you very far.
Having an exciting goal will keep you motivated and give you a reason to work hard to see it through.
Setting a goal that isn’t in your control or for whatever reason is impossible to achieve is not a good goal.
Tying your goals to routines and habits will make it easier for you to plan them into your daily life. You will be more likely to achieve a goal you can create a routine for.
Sometimes, setting goals isn’t enough.
Sometimes even the best goals need something more.
Even the best goal is incomplete without a plan to achieve the goal.
Setting a good goal is only half of the picture. A good plan completes a good goal.
Creating a Writing Plan that Works
You will want your writing plan to follow whichever method for creating writing goals you have chosen to use.
For me, a successful writing plan breaks up my end goals into weekly and daily tasks. This becomes my step-by-step plan. What do I need to do each day and each week to meet this goal by its deadline? A part of my plan also includes when I am going to accomplish these tasks. If they are not scheduled into my day, I tend to schedule my time with other activities.
Goals, along with the plan to accomplish them, need to be written down. A goal or plan that isn’t written down is nothing more than a wish. Not only do I write down my goals and my plans, but I like to keep it somewhere I can see while I write.
Accountability can be another big part of a good writing plan. It’s always helpful for me to tell somebody my goals. It makes me feel more motivated to accomplish them if I have to report on how well I did. But this strategy may not work for everyone.
At the end of the day, your writing goals and your writing plan need to be what works best for you.