I like to keep a lot of different writing goals going at the same time. Last year I had eight, and this year I've tried to narrow it down to the most important five. In fact two of those goals are six month goals, so it's only four at a time, and the big goal is to fully edit the novel I wrote for NaNo last year.
It's been taking up all of my writing time for the last three months and I've made some great progress. But I went to check in with my goals I realized that I hadn't been writing any flash fiction.
So this weekend I sat my butt down in a chair with a pen and paper and wrote three pieces of flash fiction. I could feel the cogs starting up again, parts of my brain getting oiled and used for the first time in too many months. But then, it all started to click. The words flowed and I ended the day thinking, "This is what I've been missing. Writing my heart out and not worrying about an outline or the next scene or even the next chapter."
I didn't mean to get into a writer's block, I was simply too focused on a goal I considered more important for my writing career at the time. Now that I see what it was I'm glad to get out of it. Writing is in my blood, and writing every day is my meditation, and if I don't switch gears occasionally I forget that.
I'm not one for resolutions. I personally find them to be to nebulous. "Lose weight. Write more. Spend less." They're fine aspirations, but what's the plan? How is this going to be achieved?
Good goals should have a defined end point. For example during National Novel Writing Month the goal is to write 50,000 words. An experienced goal setter will give themselves milestones before the end goal, and that's exactly what NaNo does, splitting up the goal into daily milestones which can be celebrated each and every day.
Good goals should have a time frame. In NaNo a writer is attempting to write those 50,000 words in one month. I find that choosing a time frame is the hardest, and most important, part of setting goals.
Successful goals include some social accountability. On the NaNo website your total word count so far is posted under your username on every post. Everyone on the site knows if you're ahead or behind and it can encourage writers to finish their words for the day before posting.
There is one more thing one can do to make goals more likely to be successful, but I don't even do this one.
Successful goals stake money on the outcome.
Our company goals for the year? (By posting them here we'll get some social accountability!)
1) Publish a new anthology before November 2018.
2) Attend one new marketing event a quarter.
What are your goals for the year?
I have at least seven 'To Do' lists going at any one time.
First there are the big goals for the year. I personally have nine. Seven are writing related, one is to enjoy/improve the house, and the last is to go do something new and exciting once a month.
Each month I check into those goals. I figure out how my progress has been so far and if the goal still seems relevant and achievable. For 2016 I canceled one of my writing goals that then seemed irrelevant to my bigger goal of becoming an inspirational published writer. I replaced it with a similar goal, learn about the craft of writing, using Brandon Sanderson's class recordings.
I then determine what I should be doing in each goal for the upcoming month. That's the mini goal list. If I look at the big goal too often it feels unachievable. Breaking it up really helps focus.
After that I break it up again, this time into the next step of each goal. Whether it's to buy a plane ticket to go to a new state for a cultural activity, or sit my butt down on the chair and edit the next page, it gets written down on the list.
After that I get to work.
That list becomes the 'number one' important list, but it doesn't hold all of the things that need to get done in every interest in an everyday life. I keep a list of mini goals for author visibility, one for helping out with this LLC, one for the classes I'm taking, one for house upkeep which includes anything from vacuuming to patching the roof, and one for helping out writer friends. They're there, and they get done when I have time, but I know that the 'number one' list is the one I have to spend my time on if I want to succeed in big year long accomplishments.