We all need to value the importance of goal setting. This simple technique can help, encourage, motivate and support us to produce high quality regular results. Here, I outline ten steps to get you started on the goal setting path.
1 Why we need to set goals
Goals keep us motivated, it offers us structure, plus it forces us to be disciplined and organised. We can actually finish projects instead of having lots of ideas hanging about cluttering up our hard drives, our minds and our notebooks!
It doesn't matter if your first idea isn't very good – we can go back to it at a later date. The important thing is that you've stuck to your goal of seeing an idea through - eg carrying out research and starting a first draft of that article, story, play or novel.
2 Decide what your goal is
It should be something you really, really want to do. Last year (2014) I decided that I wanted to attempt a chick- lit novel. I gave myself a rough time limit of a year to start it, finish it, edit it and sub it. However, I still have small daily goals too eg: to start the first of a fresh batch of magazine stories, because my other goal is to see my fiction published in more magazines.
3 Goals prevent the 'blank screen' scenario
Every day, when I sit down at the computer, I have pretty good idea what my goals are and what I can realistically achieve in my time limit. If you find yourself facing a blank screen, ask yourself questions. Eg: How do I begin my journey of launching my own blog?
The first step on that journey is to make a list of new interesting blogs. Then read them and take notes.
Grab a pen and paper, write your goal down and place this note on your desk.
It doesn't matter if there's just one small item on the list.
The next day, you can crack on with that project straight away – no more time wasted staring at blank screens - in your mind or at the PC. If you adopt this method, you'll never get stuck, because your goal is already there facing you.
4 Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals
You can set goals for every day, every month or every year. If this sounds too much like hard work, that's because it is!
Professional writers, novelists and freelancers actively choose to work in their own specific areas of employment.
If they don't work, they don't eat and they can't pay their bills either.
My one big goal for this year (2015) is to finish my chick-lit novel. My goal after that is to edit it and adjust accordingly. Then - and only when I feel ready - I'll sub it to agents and publishers.
If it's 'no' from everyone, I won't hide myself away and sob in a dark room (Well, perhaps I will, but just for a few hours!)
I have other long- term projects I can work on. Starting and finishing at least one of these projects and submitting it, is one of my goals for 2016.
5 Have more than one goal
There's nothing wrong with having several goals. In fact, I would actively encourage it. I know of people who can only work on one project at a time – others, like me, relish the variety of different projects. However, I would say complete one project before you start work on another, because your mind set may change with each piece project.
6 How to Keep Motivated
You shouldn't have any problem keeping motivated if you have set your goals clearly. If you've run out of goals, simply set some more!
Reflect on your past success and think 'I did it then, so I can do it again now,' or tell yourself 'There's no reason at all why I can't produce my own high quality story and sell it to the highest paying magazine.'
You really need to push yourself. Grab any opportunity you can, because any kind of experience soon adds up!
7 Goals must be realistic and achievable
I feel that my goal of producing a commercial chick-lit novel is both because:
a) I've had several stories published in national UK magazines
b) I enjoy reading the chick-lit genre very much
c) I've had practical working experience of my MC's occupation and
d) Hopefully, my novel will fit nicely alongside certain author's work on the shelf in the book shop.
Remember, ideally, your goals should be realistic and achievable. If they're not, think about how you'd get from get from A to B.
For instance, if you wanted to write a political thriller (I realise that your goal may be something completely different, but please bear with me) and you've spent twenty years working on a farm, I'd research the details of your idea first.
Interview as many politicians as you can. Don't simply make it up and think it's going to be okay. It won't.
Talk to your friends about your project and listen to their suggestions.
8 Struggling? Set yourself a different goal
If you're struggling to start or complete your goal, it's perfectly okay to put it on the back burner for a while. Perhaps it's not the right time for it, or perhaps it's a big project and you don't feel ready. Maybe you need capital to launch your product, and there's a lack of spare funds.
It's a waste of time and energy to force yourself into something, so write down your idea and save it on a document on your computer (because you might want to return to it one day - that's another goal for the future) and switch your focus to a different goal instead.
9 Give yourself a reward
You need to know one very important aspect of goal setting. It involves treats. Lots of them, in fact!
Reached the project basics? Fix yourself a coffee – oh and have a biscuit too. Researched a pricing range? Treat yourself to a hot chocolate and a small cake!
Now I'm not suggesting that you stuff yourself silly with sugary sweet stuff all day, but there's nothing wrong with rewarding with yourself after you've worked hard.
If snacking ain't your thing, vow to get your nails/ hair done or buy that new book by your favourite author. You could ask your partner to prepare the evening meal or request a massage to ease your aching shoulders.
Little treats like this gives us something to look forward to when we're in the midst of despair.
10 Keep going with those goals!
Regard goal setting as standard for your working life. It's kept me on the straight and narrow.
When I was an amateur unemployed writer, my goal for the next day was to visit the local library, log onto a computer, type my work up from my longhand and save it to a floppy disc. The disc was stuffed full short stories.
The fact that I wasn't a published paid writer didn't deter me one little bit.
I didn't listen to others who put me off achieving my goal - and neither should you.
The reason why I felt my goal was a realistic and achievable one was because I'd had my work assessed by an agency who'd said my material was 'spot on' for the magazine market.
I had set my goal and I did everything within my power to achieve it.
And finally, I did it.
My fiction was published in a national magazine and I actually got paid! I was so proud. I've since gone on to repeat this success.
People with no goals simply drift along with no real purpose in life. Misery can breed very quickly if we have nothing to aim for.
So go on - set those goals today!
S.BEE is my writing name. My proper name is Sharon Boothroyd.
Since 2010, I've had a wide range of letters,opinion pieces, poems and stories published in national UK magazines. As well as running my own online writing group, I edit and co- own a small non- profit e-magazine. www.kishboo.co.uk
My own site is: www.sbee.orgfree.com