New Year, New Writing Goals: Setting Successful Writing Goals for 2021
There’s nothing like the smell of a new notebook and planner that gets me to listing all the things I want to do and projects I want to get finished for the year that risk being abandoned at some point as a direct result of me planning those things out poorly.
I don’t have a problem crossing goals off of the list, but I tend to get a little less done than I planned because I don’t set myself up to be great in the face of all the writing goals I set.
When it comes to setting writing goals, it’s easy to get carried away with a lot of new ideas and new projects and it’s easy to think they can all get accomplished because a year is 365 days’ worth of time to get things done.
As with all things, writing goals don’t always go as planned for many reasons. See 2020 as an example of plans being tossed out the window as a whole.
When it comes to setting writing goals, I’ve got some tips to help you keep crossing your writing goals off of your to-do list – even if 2020 turns around and repeats itself just because it can.
Or brain-vomit as I like to refer to it.
Taking time to let yourself purge out all the ideas and things you're excited to do for the year is where you can let all things run free without restricting yourself or second-guessing.
For me, I usually hit a twenty-minute timer and go at the page with everything I’ve got. Big ideas, small ideas, projects I want to complete, website expansion ideas. Business ideas. Things I want to introduce to my audience. Ways I want to keep helping other writers.
All of it.
I don’t look back until the timer is up.
Put Them in the Sorting Hat
I’m not outing myself as a Harry Potter fan with this reference, I’ve never read a single book, but this idea kind of works the same way.
Once I’ve regurgitated all of my writing goals, I go over them with more care than excitement, mindful to differentiate the bigger goals from the smaller goals. It also helps me to separate them in terms of personal and writing goals, as a writer, it's easy for the two to blend together.
Bigger goals like Increase my online presence come with steppingstone goals which include things like, posting more frequently on my blog and showing up on social media more.
Sorting out the bigger goals from the steppingstone goals will help you sort out where to start and what to focus on and minimize the overwhelm in the face of so many new and exciting writing goals.
My brain-vomit session starts out looking crazy before it morphs into something less overwhelming and easy to tackle one step at a time.
Time & Energy Management
Once you know what your writing goals are and can separate the bigger writing goals from the steppingstone goals, I like to take more of the pressure off of myself and break them down into monthly or quarterly goals.
This allows me to do two things:
1. It gives me 90 days to get some things done
2. It narrows my focus, so I can zero in only on a certain set of my goals instead of trying to focus on all of them at once.
This lessens the overwhelm that can come in the face of setting a lot of writing goals and knowing how much energy I have to put in to get them done. It makes it easier to stay on top of things that I want to get done so that I’m not trying to get everything done at once.
For me, I prefer quarterly goals that I then break down within those three months in a way that makes sense and flows with the rest of my life schedule. I am especially mindful of how much creative energy is going to go into those goals individually as I divide them up.
I schedule those quarterly goals throughout the year based on what else is going on. Mis-managing time and energy can be a large part of why a lot of goals - especially writing ones - go unchecked off of the to-do list for the year.
For me, I know that the first quarter of the year is sprinkled with a lot of birthdays, including my own, so I’m mindful to save the time and energy-consuming writing goals for the second and third quarter of the year when there’s less going on and I have more time and energy to devote to them.
When you’re breaking down your writing goals for the year and setting deadlines for yourself, always remember to consider what is realistic for your creative energy levels and your life and leave a little room for grace in case life gets in the way of some things, because it’s inevitable.
The Process > The End Result
The point in breaking down your writing goals and differentiating the bigger goals from the steppingstone goals will enable you to not only focus on the goals one at a time but also enables you to focus on the process of each step instead of just the end result you’re after.
Often, trying to achieve your end result without the focus on the smaller steps can get a little overwhelming and makes it easy to discourage ourselves from reaching the goal at all or worse -- we drag out each step because we’re too focused on what it all has to be instead of focusing on just taking it one step at a time which is the secret key.
Once you have your writing goals and timeline set up, remember to focus on the steppingstone goals, one at a time, so that you can be sure you’re giving each step your best which results in the best end result overall without you having to stress about the entire goal all at once.
A tracking system
The best part of achieving your writing goals – or any goal really - is being able to cross them off of the list.
You know — it gives you a bit of a rush.
It can be harder to cross your writing goals off of that list or feel like you’re making any forward-moving progress if you don’t have a system that allows you to cross things off of your list more often.
Creating a tracking system for the writing work you’re getting done and the progress you’re making on a project can help you keep pushing forward.
This tracking can look like anything that works for you.
An Excel spreadsheet, a daily to-do list, a color-coded section in your planner – whatever works for you exclusively.
I personally enjoy using a daily to-do list, setting up my big goals and steppingstones in Asana, and take great satisfaction watching them disappear every time I hit the checkmark of completion. And by now, you know I’m a big fan of the Author Platform Planner I‘m always showing off on Instagram.
I also track my word count daily in Excel which helps me stay on top of my MILWORDY goal for the year.
The key to the perfect tracking system for you, it the one that helps you stay on track and keeps you excited as you keep moving forward.
This, much like your tracking system, is a way to keep yourself motivated with your writing goals.
Writing is hard work and takes a lot of energy and it’s hard to feel rewarded by the process until you reach the end result you’re looking for.
When I have projects that I know have a lot of stepping stones to the finish, I have a reward system for myself that doesn’t break the bank.
Some days it looks like giving myself another coffee after I hit a word count goal for the work period and sometimes it looks like treating myself to some self-care after I get through the day but only if I check off certain things on the to-do list.
Your self-reward system doesn’t have to cost money – but if you got it like that, treat yo’self - and your rewards can be as simple as getting to read a few chapters of a new book you bought after you finish something on your to-do list.
As long as it’s something that makes you feel good after you work hard, then it’s the right system for you.
I’m also big on ice cream and chocolates so know that those are always at the top of my self-reward list.
Goal and System Check-ins
Something it took me a while to realize with my writing goals is that I wasn’t checking in with myself often enough to see if the systems I had set up for myself were really working in the way I wanted them to.
Instead, I’d just keep at the same system and methods to getting my words in and never questioned if they were working for me and instead kept trying to adjust myself and what I thought I needed and kept at it.
That was a mistake. And a common one among writers.
It’s easy to follow a routine that you see working for other writers and assume having a few things in common with the writer means that you can glow-up on their routine, too.
This is rarely the case, as what works for one isn’t always going to work for another. Though it doesn’t mean this isn’t a good place to start when you’re looking for new things to add to your writer’s arsenal.
As important as it is to the creative process to try new methods and tap into our creativity in different ways, its equally as important to check-in with ourselves periodically and really ask ourselves what is and is not working in favor of our creative process and adjust where we need to so we can keep feeling successful in what we do.
For me, that looks like checking in monthly or quarterly to see if the systems I set in place are working in my best interest.
Am I wasting time with certain tasks?
Do I work better at a different time in the day than I previously thought?
Is my reward system working for the work I’m doing? Can it remain in place for the next set of goals I’ll be tackling?
Regularly checking in allows us room to see where things can improve and acknowledge what we’re enjoying and how we can do more of it to best serve our creative selves.
So tell me, what do you have planned for the new year? What goals are you looking forward to crossing off of your list?