Thursday, August 30, 2012

How Can You Build a Map Without Knowing Where You're Going?

I recently took up bike riding, but as empowering as riding and feeling my legs get stronger made me feel, I was struggling to stick to a regular riding schedule and found myself making excuses a lot of time not to ride.

That changed this week when I set a weekly mileage goal for myself. With a clear destination in mind, I automatically began planning how to reach it. Instead of saying, "Eh, I don't feel like riding tonight," I found myself saying, "If I'm going to hit my goal, I need to ride tonight."

And what do you know, I'm motivated to go out and ride even when I don't really feel like it, because, damn it! I have a goal I have to hit. I'm proudly saying, "I've ridden x mile this week."

Granted, I didn't make my goal outrageously unattainable. This week I want to ride 16 total miles. That's 4 miles on 4 days. Next week I want to ride 18 miles, and the following week, 20. My goal is to reach 24 weekly miles by mid-October. TOTALLY reachable.

And double what do you know? This same method is working for my writing, as well.

I had been so stressed that I wasn't getting much writing done now that I have a day job that I was imploding and not able to write at all. Without even realizing what I was doing, a couple of weeks ago I started setting daily writing goals for myself. I didn't say, "I'll write when I feel like it and won't write when I don't." I actually created a calendar and plotted down which days I would read, and which days I would write, and which days I would take off.

I've since altered that approach now that I'm editing Rebel Obsession. Last week I decided that I wanted the first round of edits on RO to be complete by this coming Sunday morning so I could email it to my beta readers. I took the number of pages, divided it by the number of days, and just like that I had my daily goal. I calculated that I had to edit 43 pages per day to ensure the first edit is done by Saturday night. If you know how I edit, you'll know that 43 pages is a very challenging number, but not impossible, especially for this first edit, which doesn't involve a lot of rewrites (some, but not many).

With the number calculated and in my mind, I surged forward, and I'm right on target. in fact, I'm a few pages ahead of schedule as of this morning.

This goal-setting thing really works, and just as with riding, writing has become much more fluid and I'm motivated to sit down each night so I can make my daily goal, as well as my end goal.

Notice these key points about the goals I've set:
  • They are achievable. I did not set myself up to fail by giving myself a goal that would require super human abilities to attain.
  • They are challenging. While the goals are achievable, they do push me to stretch to accomplish them.
  • They are measurable. I'm not shooting darts and hoping for the best. I have actual, measurable numbers to stack my results up against.
  • They don't rely on others. My goals are for me alone. I can't control others, so I don't want others being responsible for whether or not I achieve my goals. (Example: I can have a goal to contact 5 book reviewers each week, but I can't have a goal to get my book reviewed 5 times each week. See the difference? One I can control, the other I can't.)
My goals allow me to see where I'm going and figure out how I will get there, and they allow me to continue moving forward. Seeing the destination allows me to build the roadmap, and in writing, it's all about the destination. If you don't know where you're going, how do you ever expect to get there?

What types of goals do you set for yourself? Do you find setting goals motivates you more or not?

Happy writing and happy reading!


1 comment:

  1. I really find that having a goal helps to keep me motivated to actually write something each day. Good on you for making your editing goal though, I still struggle with that one!