December 31, 2018

How to Make and Achieve your Goals

Happy New Year! As the holiday season comes to a close, I always get really excited for the new year. It’s a natural point to look forward and decide what you want to accomplish. I’m already anticipating working on three projects which I discussed in the previous post, but more than that, I’m excited to set goals on what do I want to accomplish.

For 2018, I made plans to publish two books and write two new ones. I ended up writing only one book but publishing three. After having some difficulties with online promotions in 2017, 2018 was the year of conventions. I tabled at three comic-cons and participated in a couple craft shows and a multi-author event.

Next year, I want to write three books, publish two or more, and learn how to effectively market online. I definitely want to keep participating in a bunch of smaller conventions and craft fairs. But as I gear up for another productive year, just shouting out my plans into the ether isn’t going to help me accomplish them.

The plan is to set myself up for success, and part of that is establishing goals in a way that that’s achievable.

A resolution like 'get healthy' or 'become a successful writer' is too vague. There's no definitive benchmark for ultimate health or success, so there's no real end to reach. Additionally, overall health and success are not easy to quantify, so there's no clear way to measure your progress.

In order to attain your goals, you need to be mindful of setting good ones. Here are the steps I use to make and reach my goals:

Be Specific

Of course, I want to be a successful writer, but when I resolve to be more successful, it's best to be more specific. What's something that I need to achieve as a successful writer? Finish writing a manuscript. Publish an ebook. Research marketing opportunities.

Make Sure it's Measurable

Although writing a book is a huge undertaking, it can be broken down into smaller parts, each of which isn’t too daunting. Watching the word count grow is a great way to track progress. Think about all the steps involved in the things you want to achieve. Completing a single step is an accomplishment in itself, so don’t be afraid of celebrating your progress.

Be Realistic

If you're just starting out at writing, finishing a novel may be too daunting. Goals should be a challenge, but still something you can realistically achieve. I'll have to work hard to finish three books this year, but I know I can do it. I also know that I would never be able to finish an entire six-book series in a year.

Some people pick several things they would like to achieve and consider accomplishing a certain number of them (perhaps half) as a success. This works well for individuals who want to continually be productive, but I personally find that this technique isn’t helpful for me.

Pick a Timeframe

Without a timeframe, there's no pressure to work toward your goal every day, and getting into the habit of doing whatever activity it takes to reach your goal will help give you the momentum to see it to the end. Instead of planning to finish writing that novel by the end of December, decide to complete the outline in January, write 5,000 words each week in the spring, and do an entire editing pass before Labor Day.

Set Up Rewards

And I'm not talking about just the sense of achievement for accomplishing what you set out to do (although this can also be a good motivator). Reward yourself for every step you complete. This is part of why having a measurable goal is so important. If your plan is to draft a 100,000-word novel, celebrate after each 25,000 (or some other number, it's up to you) words. Reward yourself with something you enjoy: a nice dinner out, a new book, an extra hour of your favorite video game. I don’t recommend punishing yourself for not achieving a certain milestone, but pushing yourself to work on your goal for an hour before engaging in a fun activity—like watching a TV show or going out with friends—can definitely help.

Make New Habits

One of the nice side effects of working toward a goal is that you make new positive habits. By participating in NaNoWriMo, I had to write every day in November. It generally takes 30 days of consistently doing something each day for that activity to become a habit. I've gotten used to working on my book every morning, so it no longer feels like a chore. I've also picked up some other habits which help me as an indie author—like keeping on top of social media, maintaining my website, and writing a new blog post every week.

Be Accountable

Let friends/family/internet strangers know what your resolutions are for the new year. Let supportive individuals know that you're serious about achieving your goal, and ask them to hold you accountable. It’s great to have someone who will help celebrate your successes and encourage you to move past your failures. You’re not in this alone—there are plenty of people who want to see you reach your dreams.

I thought I’d share a little insight into what one of my goals for 2019 looks like:

Goal: Write an Escape Room Themed Puzzle Book

Specific, Realistic — Work on a book which includes both a narrative and a series of puzzles and get it to the point of having a paperback copy that can be sold.

Measurable, Timeframe — This is a very rough timeline showing the little steps I want to achieve. Some of this will likely change since life can be a bit unpredictable.

January — collect an assortment of cool puzzles, start writing the narrative of the book
February — playtest the puzzles I’ve collected with puzzle enthusiasts, mathematicians, and my writing group
March — finalize puzzles, finish writing narrative, self-edit, then send to editor
April — format book interior, commision cover art, order the first proof copy
Onward — playtest the entire book, make final changes, publish

Reward — Once I have all the puzzles together, play-testing will probably consist of a celebratory dinner with friends where I’ll share the first batch of puzzles. Ordering a physical proof copy is always a great reward.

Be Accountable — My dad loves hearing about my current projects and is always encouraging me to keep working.

I hope you’ve found this helpful! Have you made any goals for 2019? Feel free to share them in the comments here or on my Instagram @BethMart07. Have a wonderful, and productive, new year.

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