Friday, May 11, 2012

Goal Setting: Tips and Resources

Last week I talked about the importance of setting goals and occasionally reviewing them. Here are some resources to help you identify the specific steps you need to take to reach your overall goals.

Susan Uhlig, author of dozens of magazine stories and articles and a teacher through the Institute of Children's Literature, reviewed her 2010 goals on her website and explored what worked or didn't, and why, with advice for other goal setters. Here's an excerpt:

Some writers have word or page count goals per day. Others have a goal of finishing a chapter in a certain amount of time. Illustrators might have a number of paintings or sketches to accomplish in a certain time. What matters is to have what in the business world of project management is called a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. A goal such as "get an agent" isn't really under your control. A goal of "submit so many queries to agents by this date" is under your control and measurable.

Read her entire post on her website.

Amy Houts has a helpful article called "Lists That Motivate!" on the Institute of Children's Literature website. It's targeted at Institute students, but contains an excellent example of breaking large goals into specific small steps.

Here’s one tip I really like: Be specific—don’t just write, for example, “Complete assignment.” Break the assignment down into specific steps. For any of the writing courses, these steps would include: reading the course manual, working through the exercises, scanning the related reading, and studying your textbooks. Once that’s completed, you can begin writing the first draft, editing, revising, and proofreading. 

I like this because it helps you stay realistic. If your goal is “I’m going to write that sci-fi story this weekend!”, you may be disappointed and frustrated when you work really hard at it but still fail. But if you break it down into steps, you may realize that by the time you research, brainstorm, and outline, you’ll have filled up your available free time. Then you can set a more realistic goal for this weekend and the next one.

EXERCISE: Goal Setting 

•    What is my primary writing goal?
•    What are my secondary writing goals?
•    How can these goals work together? Do they contradict each other at all? Do they interfere with other career, family or personal goals?
•    What steps do I need to take? Do I need to work on specific craft techniques, time management, market research, or submissions?
•    Which steps come first? How can I schedule the steps to reach my goals?

Click on the “goal setting” link in the right-hand column for more on this topic.

Have certain goals setting exercises work for you? Do you have any advice to share?

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