Goal setting can seem like an extra and optional job when you’re busy, but it is an important exercise if you want to get the most out of your ‘author time’. The fact is that most people talk themselves out of goal setting. Either they are afraid of writing something down and then failing to achieve it or they don’t know how to set proper goals in the first place. But those who do set goals are more successful. So whatever stage of the writing/publication process you are at – whether you want to finish your first draft, whether you want to get published or perhaps you are already published but want to grow your online presence – having a clear, structured goal will help you succeed.
Goal Setting Will Make You Achieve More
There is a famous study in What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School in which graduates were surveyed upon graduation and ten years afterwards; the few graduates who had set clear written goals were earning, on average, 10 times more that their ex-classmates. Why?
- Goal setting makes you think very specifically about what exactly it is that you want
- Goal setting keeps you focussed
- When you achieve it, it will mean more
SMART Goal Setting
Coming up with your goals will require some serious thinking and a long, hard look at where you are today so you can work out where you can get to in a year. There may be some hard truths to face, but these goals will help you look to the future and stay motivated. It’s important to set the right goal. If you set a ridiculous goal, you will be unlikely to achieve it then you will be demotivated and unproductive. Get it right and you will be flying. On our book marketing course, we teach the popular SMART method:
- Specific. Vague goals will be impossible to track. You need to think carefully about what precisely you want and why.
- Measurable. Something like ‘Be a better writer’ is a noble intention but a useless goal as you can’t measure it. Whereas ‘Write for 2 hours every weekend’ is something that you can easily measure.
- Attainable. You have to believe in it, so it needs to be realistic, e.g. most authors would love to be a No.1 New York Times Bestseller, but a goal like ‘Get 10 new reader reviewers on Amazon each month’ is much more realistic.
- Relevant. Each goal you set should contribute to your overall objective, e.g. if your overall objective is to be a successful author then make sure all your goals feed back in to that. You may have personal goals about diet or fitness but keep those separate.
- Time-based. Of course we are talking about what you want to achieve in 2016, but you might want to break that down into what you want to achieve in 3 months or 6 months’ time too. That will make it seem more manageable.
Still stuck? Here are some good goals for writers, perhaps some might work for you:
- Write 2,000 words every weekend.
- Finish a certain project by the end of the year.
- Start building your author brand and profile – in the next 3 months, set up a website and create and use social media accounts and gain 200 followers.
- Read 1 book within your genre and 1 successful book outside your genre every month.
- Pitch to give a talk at 5 literary festivals this year.
Achieving Your Goals
Now the hard part is out of the way, you need to create a plan for how you are going to achieve your goals and then, crucially, stay on track.
The main reason that people don’t achieve their goals is because things get in the way. Often, this is because people don’t know how to make their goal a reality or haven’t got the time/resources to commit to it. Now that you have a goal, you need to identify what is holding you back from achieving it (Why haven’t you achieved this already?) so you can remove these obstacles. You might find that you need to learn or sharpen a skill or it might be that you need to find more time to practice it.
Now you have identified what is holding you back, you can create actions to overcome this. If you need to learn a new skill then you can start researching workshops or classes you can attend or books you can read that are going to help you improve. If time is an issue for you then you need to look at how you can shuffle your commitments to free up regular blocks of time to dedicate towards achieving your goal.
There aren’t many goals out there that you don’t have to work hard at to achieve, so whatever the goal you set, you need to be honest with yourself about whether you are able to put in the amount of effort to achieve it. It might be that once you have assessed your obstacles and action points, you may need to revise your goal. After looking at these in detail, you might realise that the initial goal was too ambitious given the obstacles and need to tweak either what will be achieved or the timeframe in which it will be achieved. Now you have thought about your goals, obstacles and actions, it’s time to use that to formulate a master plan.
And finally, commit to it
Once you have set your goals, print them out and put them somewhere where you will see them, a lot. This may sound silly, but the more you read your goals and have them in your mind, the more likely you are to achieve them. Put them on the fridge door, your noticeboard, anywhere you are likely to see them. If you are digitally inclined, write your goals in your online/phone calendar for the first of every month and set reminders. That way you cannot forget them! If you have broken your goals down into monthly/quarterly deadlines, put those dates in your diary so you stay focussed.
Tell your friends and family what your goals are and why they are important to you; not only does this make you commit to the goals, but you will also gain the support of those around you. You will be surprised by how many people around are willing to give up some of their time to help, whether that’s volunteering to be a Beta reader for your work, or looking after your children so you can go to a writing conference.
So, be bold, be brave and fill in the box above so we can send you your goal setting worksheet today! We’d love to hear what your goals are, whether they relate to writing, editing, marketing or any other aspect of the process, so please let us know in the comments box below.
Set and achieve your Author Goals
With our free goal setting workbook!