Monday, December 26, 2011

Session 4 Seven Steps to Goal Setting

It's the day after Christmas. I'm sure if you've ever wanted somebody to help you escape into a world other than one filled with reindeer and's the day. Settle in with me to think about where you'd like to be this time next year!

Read on...

Session Four: Seven Steps to Goal Setting (Steps 2 through 4)

According to Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar (two time management, business motivational speakers whose tapes I’ve purchased through Nightingale Conant easily found through an Internet search) there are seven steps to goal setting. They are:

1. Decide what you really want
2. Write your goals out on paper
3. Determine the price you have to pay
4. Make a plan
5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

Last session we did step one. You should have decided what you want.  In fact, you should have a list of things you want like play golf once a month, complete a manuscript, create a bank account that will be a cushion when you quit working.

What you have written down may actually look like goals to you, but we’re going to modify them and refine them just a tad as we do Step 2: Write them down on paper.

Why? Because knowing what you want is only part of a goal. All the goal-setting gurus agree that a goal must be 1) clear, 2) specific, 3) measurable, and 4) time bound. I’m guessing that though you might have something written down, it may not be languaged to be clear, specific, measurable and time-bound. Though “the pleasure of being a good mom” is specific, it isn’t all that clear or measurable and it isn’t bound by time. Compare it to my polished goal of “Play golf once a month with my husband” and you easily see the difference.

So, here’s the test. Hold each item on your list up against the four criteria as follows.

Clear means that it is easily understood. (If you told your cat, she would nod in agreement.)
Specific means just that. That it is specific.
Measurable means that you know when it is achieved. You can measure it.
And time bound gives you a deadline … because a goal without a deadline is only a wish. And we’re done with wishes. We’re serious. We’re getting something done this year. For those writers among us our new motto is writing is my passion.

So, if one of the things on your list from yesterday is to sell a novel this year, is that clear? Yes.

Is it specific? Well, sort of, but not really. What kind of novel do you intend to sell? To whom are you going to sell it? And, really, do you have enough control of the situation to say that you will actually “sell” it this year? Probably not. You have no control over how long your book could potentially sit on an editor’s desk. There are too many variables to that goal.

So we have to amend it. How about this:

I will write a romance novel this year and submit it.

That’s pretty good. It’s clear, it’s specific … Well, sort of ... The truth is, the “romance” genre is now so big that “romance novel” isn’t really all that specific. So you might want to amend this goal again to include a line or publisher or subgenre.

All right. One more time. I will write an Intrigue this year and submit it to …

Whom? To which editor would I send an Intrigue?

Hum. Maybe we have some investigative work to do…or maybe we should leave this open?

How about this:

I will write an Intrigue this year. I will participate on a few Internet loops, visit eHarlequin and submit it to the editor who seems to be requesting the most manuscripts.

Better. Much better.

It is clear. It is specific. It is time-bound (Albeit that it’s a broad time limit because you could spend until December 31 writing and researching and mail the sucker at 11:30 that night…) and it is measurable. You know you are done when the book is in the mail.

It’s also flexible. And that’s something that a lot of goal-setting guys don’t mention specifically, but lots allude to.  Because circumstances change in all of our lives, we need to be flexible. If you were to state that you were going to send your manuscript to a specific editor and she quit, or got pregnant, you would probably panic. You might even be stopped dead in your tracks.

However, because you wrote your goal in a realistically flexible way, you now won’t flinch or blink at any editor changes. You will simply keep up with the editor changes at publishers (via the Internet – as we stated in the actual goal) and make your decision of where to send the book right before it was ready to be sent. No problem. No panic. No work stoppage!

So, we now have an example goal set.

I will write an Intrigue this year. I will participate on a few Internet loops, visit eHarlequin and submit it to the editor who seems to be requesting the most manuscripts.

Good goal. At this point I would tell our imaginary goal-setter she could set a few other goals, if she wanted, but, frankly, this is a fairly hefty one for writing. I don’t think I would set another writing goal. Unless our imaginary goal-setter believed she could realistically write more than one book in a year. Or unless the additional goal was something to do with crafting.

For instance, last year I had 3 books to write. (I ended up writing four…but I digress). Anyway, I didn’t see room in my schedule to attempt any other writing project, but I could attend lots of Internet workshops and I did. I also went to three conferences. I also had three books to promote.

So my writing goals for 2002 were:

1. Fulfill my contract obligations (that was the 3 books)
2. Go to one online workshop a month (I did eight.)
3. Go to three conferences (done)
4. Read an hour a day (I was fairly good with this but not perfect.)
5. Update my web page regularly (blew that one big time)
6. Do some RT ads for the books out this year (easy because RT people remind you of what you need to do)

You will note that all of the writing goals I set enhanced or complimented the big goal of fulfilling my contract.

Yours should too. Online workshops are a godsend. You don’t even have to leave your home to attend. They are cheap. And you can print them out to refer to again and again. You not only get good crafting information that should update your skills, but also completing this goal enhances – it doesn’t interfere with – the major goal of writing that book and submitting it before the end of the year.

So basically, when it comes to creating writing goals you could have the big ones (the “I will accomplish this much work” writing goals), crafting (that’s going to workshops), industry (that’s where reading comes in) and PR.  People tell me it’s never too soon to start promoting yourself, so – hey – get your publicity pix taken and start studying how you will promote your books when the time comes. There’s nothing like being prepared.

But that’s only what you want to do as a writer. I’m sure that after yesterday’s lesson you also wrote down a few personal goals (like lose twenty pounds before June 1…yes, Susan, I’m talking to you), family and community goals. Maybe even financial goals. So take those things you listed yesterday and language them in the same way you did your writing goals. Make them clear, specific, measurable and time-bound “things” you intend to do.

Once you’ve brought those things in line, that completes step two. Write down all of your goals.

But I’m going to take step two (write down your goals) a little further and talk for a second about what you do with your goals once they are written down.

I have a small notebook that I can carry in my purse and I write my goals in this notebook. Why? So I can carry it with me and review my goals regularly.

The pundits say you should review your goals once a month. Any more than once a month, and it becomes meaningless because your progress is frequently too small to measure so there’s really nothing to analyze. Any less and it becomes worthless because you aren’t analyzing enough.

Writing down your goals and reviewing them regularly reminds you of what you want to accomplish and gives you the chance to record progress, which motivates you.

And we all now know how important motivation is! So don’t just write them down and forget them. Write them down in something you can carry with you and look at them about once a month!

Step Three is Determine the price you will have to pay to achieve your goals.

This is another one of those toughies. If your goal is to get a book to an editor before the end of the year and you know it will take a lot of your time to write the book, then the price you will have to pay isn’t merely the expenditure of time. It is also the “loss” of whatever else you would have been doing in that time.

My big deal is TV. I think all of us could find enough time to write something the size of the Bible, if we stepped away from the tube. But I watched almost nothing in the late eighties and early nineties when I was working fulltime and also writing one book a year for Silhouette. Did I miss Dif’Rent Strokes? Did I lose something because I rarely saw the Facts of Life? Am I fashion-impaired because I never watched Dynasty and Dallas? Lord, I hope not.

Rather than think you have to give up going to your son’s little league games, why not go in the direction of cutting out TV? Rather than miss time with your family, why not get up an hour earlier than they do to get your jump on things?

But, wait, I’m tripping over into time management and we don’t want to do that yet. For now, write your list of things you can realistically give up to get the time you need to write. Some people give up bowling leagues, then get back to them once their book is finished or when they are writing full-time.

Some people, believe it or not, have to give up critique groups or writing groups. I’m one of those people who is always called upon to do work for my writer’s group so when I have a deadline or special project, I just disappear for awhile.

And that’s what you need to do. Figure out what things you can most realistically give up.

Then make a plan. Step four.  Sit down with your list of goals and your list of things that you’re giving up (so you know where you’re getting the time to accomplish your goal) and make a plan for how you will achieve your goals.

Before you actually pick up your pen and start writing your plan, however, remember that writing a book is more than writing! Hitting your goal of writing a book this year might realistically require you to research first. In the same way, a goal of attending a certain number of workshops might require that you spend time on the Internet looking for online workshops.

Either of the above might require that you set your alarm for an hour earlier than you normally would. And writing a book this year might require that your plan include a per-day page count. It might require that you assign chores to your kids so you don’t have to do all the housecleaning! (Ah-ha! Now we’re getting somewhere!)

Again, think it through. Think through your life. Think through your goals. Think through your work habits, your work style, and your goals and make them click.

That’s your assignment for the day. If you haven’t done it already, take the goals you made in our last session, make sure they are clear, specific, measurable and time-bound and write them down.

Then figure out what you have to give up (mourn the loss, kiss stuff goodbye, promise to return, but give it up at least temporarily).

Then make a plan.

And meet me here for the next session when we talk about goal setting steps five, six and seven.

5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

susan meier (Happy Christmas!)


BJ Piper said...

You are absoulutely correct - I am happy to be home today and finished with the festivities! As I sit at the computer and contemplate 2012 and what I will do to move from hopeful writer to published author, I find your blog on goal setting to be an inspiration to get serious and organized. Thank you for taking the time to pass along the advice.

Victoria said...

Thank you for these tips, Susan! They are great. Setting goals is important - but even more important is working towards those goals once they are set, and that is where many of us falter - including me. Hopefully, I can counter that this year and forge ahead.

Susan said...

You're welcome! I try to put this workshop up every november and December so that I can go through the steps myself! LOL

Keep reading all week because the other lessons are geared toward helping get yourself motivated and time managed enough that you can work toward your goals!


Tessa Radley said...

Susan, I just discovered this series of posts. Very timely. Because this week is set aside for planning 2012!

I've always enjoyed your books. Finding your RWA tape on revisions after selling my first book was a life rope at the time--now I'm a huge fan of your workshops, too. I had the great fortune of meeting you in person at RWNJ this year...

Wishing you a wonderful year for 2012.