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, motivating, achievable, realistic, and time bound—and they are some of the best goals, but they’re not fool proof. Sure they’re better than goals that don’t meet that criteria, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fail.
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.
Stop Making Excuses: Make the Writing Plan You Need
Writing without Goals
Moment of truth—ever since I finished the first draft of my work in progress, I’ve been struggling to write consistently. I still write most days, but it’s usually only for 10 or 15 minutes. I’ve identified several factors that are keeping me from writing. One of the biggest is definitely a lack of good goals and no plan.
I set some goals at the beginning of June. I had finished my rough draft and read through it making notes on what was working and what wasn’t. With the start of the new month, I made some lofty goals that I wasn’t ready to achieve. They met some of the S.M.A.R.T criteria, but not all.
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 I set myself up to fail because I had no sense of direction in how to accomplish the goals.
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 determining whether or not you’ve successfully met the goal.
(the M typically stands for Measurable, but it’s also important for a goal to be motivating)
You have to want to accomplish the goal. If you set a goal that you are not excited about, or you don’t believe you can achieve, then you won’t. You have to want to be successful.
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 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). 😉
Creating a S.M.A.R.T Writing Plan
Creating a plan that is every bit as specific, motivating, achievable, realistic, and time bound as your goals is essential for success.
For me, a smart writing plan also 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.
In June 2017, my writing goals were (1) to finish a second draft of my work in progress and (2) to focus on plot and character development.
Finishing a second draft was a bad goal for me because it wasn’t motivating or realistic. It was too lofty. I didn’t believe I had that much time and I didn’t really want to work that hard. I wasn’t motivated to do a whole pass through my novel in one month. Even as I wrote the goal, I felt like I was biting more than I could chew. More than I wanted to chew.
Focusing on plot and character development was a bad goal because it wasn’t specific. I didn’t tell myself how I was going to focus on plot or character development. Part of that could have come in the planning stage, but this goal was too vague to be useful.
Writing Goals (July 2017)
- Write for one hour, five days a week.
- While writing, I will remain distraction free.
- Don’t copyedit the second draft.
- I will write from 9am to 10am. (If I have a necessary, previous engagement scheduled at that time, I will schedule another hour the day before rather than assuming I’ll find an hour somewhere during the day.)
- In order to avoid checking Facebook or email, I will not have the internet open on my computer. I will put my phone on vibrate.
- I won’t focus on grammar mistakes, tense, or any minor grammatical errors. For me, it’s a waste of time to fix those mistakes if I don’t even know the paragraph or scene will make it into the final draft. I’m still doing a lot of rewriting and strengthening the plot. It’s too soon to copyedit.
What are your writing goals and how will your writing plan help you achieve them?
UPDATE: I was much more successful, although not perfect, because I had a plan to help me achieve my goals. I did end up writing most days. I rarely got distracted, and I didn’t copyedit. Having a plan really helped me achieve my goals.