Updated: May 1
Every moment is a fresh beginning. T.S. Eliot
The new year has started, which means new goals, new habits to build, old habits to break and unique experiences to try.
Some of you may have made New Year resolutions, some of you may have already broken them. They say that most New Year resolutions are broken by the time summer—or winter, depending on what hemisphere you’re reading this in—ends. Why are resolutions easily broken? Because we usually over commit on our goals and are generally very passionate about a new year starting when making them. I used to be an annual resolution maker for the new year, but I was sick of breaking them. I always felt like such a failure. To avoid this failure, we need SMART goals to help us determine our goals, so the road to success is possible.
For the past five years, I have ditched resolutions and moved to goals. SMART goals. Each year I break my life into the categories I want to improve on—writing, health, self, relationships, travel and new experiences. I choose two of the most important. In 2021, I am going to focus on my writing and health goals. I still make sure I develop my skills as a teacher and continue to enrich my relationships or try and see new places (which is a bit hard in our current COVID-19 world), but I use the year to enhance my desired goals. As this is my writing blog, I will focus on my writing goals.
Importantly, I continuously remind myself that life is messy and never perfect, and so I work on being flexible with my goals and kind to myself if I slip up. I have been working on being more relaxed and less of a perfectionist when attending to the to-do list of my life. If you aim to meet your goals, 90% of the time, then you are a winner.
I listened to Savannah Gilbo’s podcast episode, ‘How to plan your writing projects for the new year’, and found that what I do, pretty much lines up with this process. She also talks about SMART goals. SMART is an acronym to help you design goals that will help you keep them.
SPECIFIC: What do you need to accomplish? Who can help you achieve your goal? Could this be talking to your family and friends about your need to write? Or looking for an editor, critique group or beta reader to help you gain insight on your writing. When will the goal be completed? Where will you write to achieve your goal? Why is this goal important? Will you need to complete any courses, reading or gain advice?
MEASURABLE – How will you measure your achievement? Daily or weekly word counts? Or completed scenes/chapters?
ACHIEVABLE – Is this goal possible? Do you have room to be flexible? Life is never perfect, and the unexpected will occur. Does it fit with your work/family/study schedule?
RELEVANT – this needs to be relevant to you as a writer, whether you are an emerging of a published writer.
TIME-BOUND – How long will you spend/allocate to your writing? Will you write the same time every morning for the week? Or three evenings per week? Will you write for a specific time each day or as a total for the week? This depends on your life and work commitments and schedules.
One thing to remember is that these goals will change through trial and error. Don’t feel you have to stick to the original parameters you’ve set. Try it out and after some time—after a fortnight or a month—evaluate if it works.
You don’t have to develop goals at the start of the year. These can be determined and planned anytime during the year. Our lives are organic and fluid and holding down a plan is as tricky as holding ‘a moonbeam in your hand’, as Maria in the Sound of Music reminds us when she sings, “My Favourite Things”. Be flexible when you want to develop your goals and be confident when these goals need to be adjusted. If you keep applying the SMART premise to them, they will continue to be relevant and practical.
Kristin Keiffer talks about the importance of habit tracking in an episode on her podcast Well-Storied. Building habits will help you keep your goals, not just for the coming year, but for the years beyond. I have found that developing my writing habits has helped me achieve the goals and projects I set for myself. I want to do so much and hate missing out or having to wait. I don’t want to be chained to my desk either. I still have chores to do and to be present in the relationships in my life. To help me achieve the goals, I set out specific times in the week that I allocate for my writing projects, ensuring I leave space for the non-writing goals and desires in my life. Here is a snapshot of my week:
Monday to Friday – I wake up early and work on my novel for about 45-60 mins during the school term; the time I spend each morning depends on how fast I bound out of bed when the alarm wakes me.
Tuesday evenings – I work on my short story writing. I allocate 60 minutes.
Thursday evenings – I work on my picture books. I allocate 60 minutes for this too.
Saturday afternoons I work on my Blog – yep, you’ve guessed it, for 60 minutes.
For me, one hour is the sweet spot. Not too short and not too long. If I have time, I can choose to work longer. The fact I’m already at my desk, allows me to do this easily.
However, these are the bare minimum. When I have spare time, I work on what I feel like, but having these allocated times to complete my desired writing projects, means they get done. What I accomplish may seem a lot less than what I would’ve like to have achieved, but it’s still better than nothing. I know once I complete my master’s in creative writing this year, my time will open up. Knowing that I have made headway on my novel, as well as completing some short story and picture book drafts, will give me a sense of achievement. I also know that all the work I’ve done will have helped me refine my writing craft further.
Goals give you direction. Habits are the fuel to help you travel further. You need to pack some commitment, kindness, and belief that this is something you can achieve. Sometimes you will run out of gas, that’s okay. Take the time to fill up and rest or take a break. It’s the journey that will help you become a crafted and confident writer.
Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. Drake
Trimarchi, M (2020) ‘Why are new year’s resolutions so easy to break?’ How Stuff Works, https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-other/new-year-resolutions-easy-to-break.htm
Image courtesy of Dalia Kvedaraite @ Dreamstime.com