Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions, Goals or Plans

Well, it's that time of year again. It's that time of the year when we look at the new year and say "I'm going to do something this year." That's right, we make  New Year's resolutions.

Unfortunately, we all know what happens to resolutions. why do so many resolutions turn out to be nothing more than wishful thinking? There are several reasons. However, the most significant of these is that they are imprecise, there's no way to measure them, and they do not include an action plan.

I am going to suggest that this year instead of setting a "resolution," that you set goals backed up with an action plan.

First, let me define a goal. A goal is a specific activity which is under your control to complete. Goals are behavioral in nature. Let's take a typical New Year's resolution: "I want to lose weight this year." That is not a goal. First it is imprecise. How much weight do you want to lose? Secondly, there is no idea of how long this will take. What is the timeframe for this weight loss? Finally, Is this actually under your control? Probably not. If you do the right things, it is likely to occur, but by no means certain.

The resolution doesn't fit any of these criteria. So, let's construct a goal that is measurable, has a timeframe attached to it, and is under your control.

"By June 1, I will have reduced my calorie intake by 25% and will be performing 20 min. of aerobic exercise per day."

Barring illness or physical injury, this is something that is under your control. It is also likely to produce weight loss however, the amount of weight loss will depend a great deal on your own physiology. Therefore, you could not say you would lose 20 pounds doing this. That part is out of your control.

As a writer, many years I have started out the year with the resolution, "I want to write more this year." You can see the problem with that. It is not measurable, it is imprecise, and has no action plan attached to it

Here's how I can improve on it, I creating a list of goals.

  • I will complete three novels of 50,000 words each by the end of the year.
  • I will edit those three novels into a publishable shape by the end of the year.
  • I will write a short story every other month
  • I will submit three novels and three short stories for publication this year.
Now, I have some very specific activities which I can complete. However, I need an action plan in order to do so. Each of these goals requires me to do certain things. Each goal requires me to change my behavior in certain very specific ways. Let's just take the first of these goals: the complete first drafts on three 50,000 word novels by the end of the year. My action plan might look something like this
  • I will write at least 500 words a day related to one or more of the novels.
  • I will set aside a half hour a day into 15 min. segments to write on my novel.
Finally, I need some accountability. I can do this in a number of ways. For instance, I can have a writing journal in which I record whether I hit my goal for that day or not. If not, then I need to make it up later. For instance, maybe things got so crazy I could write my 500 words. Well, the next week I can write 600 words a day and make it up. However, I would not know whether I was keeping up or falling behind, unless I had this type of measurement.

I can also get accountability from others. I can post my goals in an online writer's group. I can tell a family or a friend or I can covenant with others who want to be held accountable. However, I need some method of measuring my success.

As I'm sitting here writing this, I am thinking that this forum might be a good place for me to hold myself accountable. After the first, I will post my own goals and action plans for the year. At the beginning of each week I will post my weekly goals and action plans. At the end of the week, I will post the results. If I can find a way to set up a word meter on my site, I may even post word count daily.

Why not share some of your goals and action plans for 2011?


Katie Hines said...

My goal is to finish my current WIP. To that end, I have also joined an online critique group where I submit my writing every 5th week. That's a little scary for me, because now that means I HAVE to do the writing. My action plan? Write and semi-edit 3,000 words every month. I know it isn't a lot, but that's about it for now!

Terri said...


It doesn't matter how much. 3K a month is doable and will produce 36K a year. That's twelve good short stories or a long novella. It's an 18 month novel.

As you write, I suggest you also keep track of how many words you write on average per hour. That way you can create schedules that will generally predict your output.

For instance, typing I do about 1300 words per hour rough draft. Using voice recognition software, it's closer to 1800-2000 words. So, if my goal is 5,000 words in a set period of time that means a minimum of three hours. It can be one three hour session, two hour and a half sessions, three one hour sessions, six thirty minute sessions or twelve fifteen minute writes. In other words, writing 15 minutes per day I can kill off 10K in a month. Once I know my 15 minute base rate, I can reduce a big job to smaller bites.