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What's your take on goals and goal setting?

I'm looking forward to this Saturday (January 14th), when I'll be attending my first GSHW meeting of the year. It's at 2 Jean Walling Civic Center East Brunswick, NJ 08816-3529. Kick-off's at 11:00am, with the main session starting at noon. If you'd like to come along, I'd love to see you there.
 
This month's subject is: Goal setting for writers: Planning to Make Your Writing Dream a Reality, run by Gary Frank and Jennfer Persson.

I'm a big fan of goal setting. I get a lot more done (with a lot less stress) if I break my ambitions down into long, medium and short term goals. Big, scary goals, like 'Write two, submission-ready, novels in a year', or 'Take part in fifty author events (including at least twenty solo ones)' seem much more achievable once you break them down into bite-sized pieces.

Long-term goals eg: 'What I want to achieve in the next 12 months' are important, so are medium-term ones but I've found it's the short-term, daily ones which make the difference between success and failure.

I break my writerly work week into five chunks, Monday thru Friday. I give myself the weekends to catch up, move further ahead, or simply relax, depending on how I feel at the time. I could divide the week's work into seven parts, but if I feel I have to do something every day, I get fed up with it. And when I inevitably miss a goal, I feel bad. Weekends are my 'recharge' time. They help me keep motivated over the long haul.

Goal-setting can prove immensly helpful, but it can prove tricksy too. It's good to set yourself a grand, long-term goal, but for me, I've found it pays to make absolutely sure the short and mid-term goals are sensible ones. It's great fun to while away the hours, mapping out the year's schedule by the month, week, day and hour, but if you're not careful, you can lose sight of the important things, like actually working towards whatever goal you set yourself.

Another potential mistake is to set yourself unrealistic goals. It feels great to decide you'll write 10,000 words a day, every day for a year, but it's such a big goal, you automatically give yourself an excuse for not achieving it, and I don't know about you, but I find excuses awfully tempting.



How about you?

What's your take on goals and goal setting?


Poll #1810229 What's your take on goal setting?

Do you set yourself written long and short-term goals?

Yes
12(48.0%)
Sometimes
7(28.0%)
Never
5(20.0%)
Something else, which I'll explain in the comments
1(4.0%)

If you set goals, how often do you review them?

Daily
4(17.4%)
Weekly
6(26.1%)
Rarely
10(43.5%)
You're supposed to review them?
3(13.0%)

Does goal setting inspire you?

For a while after setting them, I achieve more.
7(29.2%)
Not sure
3(12.5%)
No
4(16.7%)
Something else, which I'll explain in the comments
10(41.7%)


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Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
lyonesse
Jan. 12th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
i sometimes have writing commitments (like my medical-textbook chapter), but i differentiate those from being-a-writer processes. my writing-as-art is a process i try to support, but i find goal-setting is not supportive for me; noting my accomplishments works better.

(i *did* have good luck with "nano-unwri-mo", where i set a goal to remove a certain # of words from a draft, and did that. but that's very atypical, so i'm still saying "never" as a rule :)
jongibbs
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Renata :)
temporus
Jan. 12th, 2012 03:57 pm (UTC)
I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of terrible about goal setting. Which unfortunately means, that I'm even worse about reviewing my goals. So, does it work for me? Not really. I could probably use some work on this front.

See you there Jon.
msstacy13
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
If you've accomplished things without setting goals,
don't mess with success.
:)
(no subject) - temporus - Jan. 12th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 12th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
wendigomountain
Jan. 12th, 2012 03:57 pm (UTC)
Goals are pretty important, otherwise we just kind of blow around in the wind like an old shopping bag (which is very beautiful to watch, according to the 1999 movie "American Beauty"), but with writing and trying to get things published, just about the only goal a writer can control is how much and how often they write. They really can't control things like "I will sell a story a month" or even "I will write one story a week." Because we all know that short stories aren't written, they are re-written. I have stories I "finished" six years ago that haven't sold and I find myself tinkering with them once in awhile.

Even "I will write a novel this year" is subjective, because that sort of goal can just lead to disappointment. Sure, I might have novel ideas, scenes lined out, and a basic rough outline in mind, but sometimes it takes on its own life and where it winds up isn't necessarily where (or when) I planned. Or should it.
msstacy13
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
That's where the part about "realistic" figures in...

Also, I make a distinction between
"completed" work and
"finshed" work...

That's similar to my insistence that every thing I write
is a final draft.
I may write a more final draft of it later, mind you...
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 12th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wendigomountain - Jan. 12th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
msstacy13
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:11 pm (UTC)
As I've said before,
the best thing about aiming high
is that you've still accomplished quite a lot
even if you fall short.
jongibbs
Jan. 12th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
Unless you aim too high, in which case you end up falling over backwards, which is never much fun :(
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Jan. 12th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
msstacy13
Jan. 12th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
And another of my goals is to make this a record year for the Girl Scouts
http://www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_cookies/cookie_faqs.asp#howcanipurchase
gyhaney
Jan. 12th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
I've made it a goal to make goals about my writing, but I haven't followed through - not this year, anyways. Finished the novel last November with the help of goals, but haven't gotten back into the swing of things.

A new baby in the house will do that though! Still I gotta get back on my goals and schedules. Your post was a gentle reminder. Thanks Jon!
jongibbs
Jan. 12th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
Congrats on the new baby, the best goal disrupter known to mankind :)
phoenixfirewolf
Jan. 12th, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
Setting Goals and making lists and using my white board are the only things that are keeping me on track for this insane schedule I've set myself. I'd lose my mind without them. (Well, I've already lost it, but more so. I guess... *sits in a corner and rocks for a while*)
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
Lol :)
jakobdrud
Jan. 12th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Goal setting is something I do involuntarily. "I want to write a novel about [x], and I want it done yesterday." That's usually hard to live up to, so in my more succesful moments I force myself to ignore these compulsory goals and get into the process.

Usually, the goals I set/ignore that way will give me a useful hint about where I'm heading, but I can't say they're inspiring as such.
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)
Interesting. thanks for sharing, Jakob :)
rowyn
Jan. 12th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
I usually set new goals around the beginning of the year, a habit I got into around 2004. The last several years my goals have been on the lines of 'X amount of work daily', without a specific 'and that will all add up to Y' goal. In theory, if I keep plugging away, I'm bound to finish something eventually. }:)

Each day, I'll make a mental note of what I've done or not done, and I try to write it down in my activity log every day or few days. But I don't have a schedule for monitoring my overall progress. Sometimes I'll watch it obsessively, and sometimes I'll ignore it for months.

Having goals is a motivator for me; I generally get more done in years where my goals aren't too lax. I like my goals to have some flexibility in what and when I'm doing, and to not be unduly ambitious. The last coupld of years I've specified that I can get ahead on my daily goals, but not catch up. The idea is to avoid the death spiral of 'I can never do ALL THAT why bother getting started?'
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 01:51 am (UTC)
'The idea is to avoid the death spiral of 'I can never do ALL THAT why bother getting started?'

Exactly :)
jennifer_brozek
Jan. 13th, 2012 12:13 am (UTC)
Heya Jon,

This poll seems to be geared towards people who make goals but don't intend to keep them rather than towards people who make goals and DO keep them. I don't know if that was your intention but it is what I see.

For example, "If you set goals, how often do you review them?" I had to answer "rarely" when, in fact, my answer is "monthly". That is usually what I need to keep track of where I am and where I am going.

Also, "Does goal setting inspire you?" should have had the simple answer of, "Yes." because there are people out there who do make goals and are disciplined enough to still to them. Instead, the answers were geared towards failure or the need to come explain yourself.

In either case, I'm not certain what sort of data you are attempting to collect.
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
Lol, well that set me straight :P
(no subject) - jennifer_brozek - Jan. 13th, 2012 06:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 13th, 2012 07:03 am (UTC) - Expand
raisinbottom
Jan. 13th, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
Reviewing a list of goals makes me feel like I accomplished something even though the only thing I accomplished was making a list. I need to spend more time doing stuff instead of making lists which are full of good intentions and nothing more.
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 01:54 am (UTC)
I know what you mean.

Setting goals can make you feel good, even if you don't take any action towards achieving them.

If I find myself setting hourly goals for anytime other than the current day, I take it as a warning sign and make myself stop.
dendrophilous
Jan. 13th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
I'm with Jennifer on this. I review my goals at least monthly, and it's not that they inspire me, it's that they keep me on track. If I'm not meeting my goals, it's usually not by much, and it's not an excuse to give up--it's a sign to examine what's gone wrong. Ridiculous goals, bad planning, or have I been distracted by something else?

Sounds like a good topic for a meeting. I'd love to be there if I weren't halfway across the country. :)
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 07:15 am (UTC)
Goals keep me on track, but the best goals inspire and motivate too.

I think a good long-term goal should inspire, because of what achieving it means to you, while a good short term goal should motivate because it's small enough to accomplish with relative ease.

It'll be an interesting meeting. I'm looking forward to it :)
eneit
Jan. 13th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC)
owing to illness, and the boys, and allowing for the fact I am just taking baby steps back to being a writer again; I learnt a long time ago to not set goals in a formal manner. In my case it would be just setting myself up to fail. What I do instead is borrow from the Spinal Tap movie, and vow to take this years efforts up to 11. Cos, you know, it's one louder.

Seriously, last year I was finally confident enough to start sending out subs. I sent out two shorts. So at the end of the year when I looked back at what I'd done, that I had finally sent stuff out impressed me more than that I got stuff published. One louder ever year is my goal
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
...vow to take this years efforts up to 11

You can't ask for more than that. I wish you the best of British...er, Australian luck for 2012 :)
(no subject) - eneit - Jan. 13th, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
celestialgldfsh
Jan. 13th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I rely heavily on my goals. I keep a writing journal by my computer and record what I do each day: new writing and word counts, if a short story or chapter was revised, critiques, web site updates, submissions, all that stuff. I also keep monthly goals for big stuff, like completed stories and submissions. This keeps me on track for the annual goals.
jongibbs
Jan. 13th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Beth, and Happy Birthday...again :)
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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