As a writer, one of the most important things I’ve done is learn to set writing goals for myself. Though, sometimes I have been struggling to reach those goals. More often than not, it’s because they weren’t SMART goals. Mostly I think I lost myself on the -A.
SMART goal setting is something I think a lot of us already do without realising it. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based. In the past, all my writing goals were specific, and most were measurable. I’ll skip the A part, because that they usually weren’t, and head on straight to relevant and time based. They were mostly relevant for whatever project I was working on, and timely they all were in theory, I just never seemed to finish when I was supposed to.
The thing is, for goal to be SMART, you kind of need the A in the middle. And perhaps in order to actually make your goal, you need to make sure that what you are asking yourself to so, it actually possible. That your goal is attainable in the timeframe in which you want to get it done. Otherwise, you may just be fooling yourself. Of course, you also need to push yourself, get out of your comfort zone and aim higher.
Let’s have a look at what you need to be looking for when setting a SMART writing goal
S is for Specific
Fairly self explanatory. Your writing goal should be specific. What is it you want to get done? Are we talking completed rough draft, or something a little easier, like editing chapter two this century (last part is a bad timeframe, but more on that later).
It doesn’t have to be about writing either. It would be a goal to climb Mount Everest (or the local equivalent that won’t be as likely to kill you if you fail), walking 500 miles in a year, og baking the perfect brownie. Just be specific!
- What is it you want to accomplish?
- How do you want to do it?
- How will you do it?
- Who are you doing it with?
- Or are you doing it alone?
- Why are you doing this?
M is for Measurable
This step is about finding out what it is you see, hear, or feel when you reach your goal. The result should be something you can measure. If you goal is to finish Nanowrimo, then your goal is measurable. When you reach 50,000 words, you have won, and finished your goal.
You want to think about the physical manifestation of your goal. If it is to finish a draft, then the finished draft in your hand (or on your hard drive) is the goal. If it is to live healthier, the physical manifestation is you cutting down on sweets and junk, and walking a few extra miles a week.
It’s all about finding a way to measure your goal. So, find out that your goal is, and how things will look once you get there.
A is for Attainable
My favorite letter. The one I keep forgetting exist, in this context at least. To me, weather or not my goal is attainable is the most important question I need to ask myself. Because in the past, they haven’t been. First off, is your goal possible for you to do? Second, is it acceptable? By that I mean, is it something you’re comfortable doing, in the time alloted, that you are also capable of doing? Is it good enough, of should you push yourself a little harder?
This can be a tricky one. You want to set a goal that is both realistic, and offers a challenge. Saying you’ll write 100 words per day for 30 days sound easy enough, but may actually end up being harder than you think. Maybe because finding time to write each day is hard if you have a family, six cats and a parrot (they do exist, parrot owners brave enough to have multiple cats). Or maybe because 100 words a day seems so easy, so easily attainable, that you suddenly don’t have the motivation to fight to find the time to write.
The trick is to find something that is both doable, and offers a challenge. Nanowrimo is the perfect example. It sound impossible, but once you get started, it’s hard to let go before the 50k mark.
R is for Relevant
Is your goal relevant? Fairly simple question, mostly a yes or no answer. OK, so it’s a little more complicated. You want to look at the goals you’re setting. Are they relevant, and if so, in which context? Climbing a mountain or running a marathon are good and relevant goals if your endgame is to be in better shape. However, if your goal is to win the Tour de France, you might want to consider cycling that marathon instead.
Things to consider are why you want to reach this goal, and if this method is the right way to do it? I have had several worldbuilding goals in the past. As I need to build my world in order to finish my fantasy series, all these goals have been relevant to my ultimate goal of finishing and publishing the entire series.
T is for Time based
When setting your goals, you always want to make sure you have a realistic timeframe. Set deadlines for yourself, but make sure they are both realistic and flexible. That can be harder than you might think. You need to consider all the things that could happen to delay you reaching your goal, while at the same time set a deadline that you know will push you a bit in order to complete it.
If it is impossible to reach your goal, finding the motivation to even try is hard. But if it’s too easy, it may also be equally hard to find the motivation to get started, because you already know you can probably finish it in an hour on the last day anyway. Except then you don’t care anymore, so in the end, nothing gets done.
The timeframe should be flexible though. Sometimes things happen, so instead of scrapping your goal all together, you may want to consider extending your deadline a week, or maybe even two. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your best to finish your goal by the original deadline. It just means that in the event of nuclear winter, you may want to consider giving yourself an extra two weeks to finish.
Setting your goal
Having been through all that, let’s set one writing goal right off the bat. Let’s see if we can find a simple writing goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
For me it’s the most obvious one. I’ve even mentioned it earlier in this post. My goal is to win Nanowrimo, again. It is specific; I want to win! Measurable; I have to write at least 50,000 words. Attainable; I’ve done this many times now, and it is very possible to do in the time allotted. Relevant; Always, as I tend to work on projects I was going to work on anyway. Time based; It needs to happen in November.
There it is, my first SMART goal of the year, that I actually knew was a SMART goal. Now you sit down, and make you own. Or borrow mine to get you started. Nanowrimo is awesome!