Tag Archives: goal setting

Goal Setting

View from Zabrisky Point in Death Valley NP

Everywhere you turn this time of year, you are exhorted to set goals. You can look on a writer’s advice website, you can ask Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss, you can ask anybody, you just have to have goals. Much as I’d like to disagree with that sentiment, I’m afraid it’s true: you need to have goals.

Maybe they don’t need to be written down formally, but I find writing them down helps keep them straight as I go along. They don’t need to be in a particular format, but some of the formats and protocols can be very helpful in deciding where you want to go this year, or decade, or lifetime. (Unless you’re like Richard Blaine, and never plan that far ahead, in which case, you’re depressed.)* The true fact is that if you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t ever get anywhere. So, goals.

Maybe you want to sell that first novel this year? Get an article published in The New Yorker? Finish your short story anthology? Finally publish that book you’ve been sitting on? Attend a couple of useful conferences? It doesn’t matter, because it’s your life, and these are your goals, but you need to set them in order to achieve them. You can revise them during the year, but you need to set them in the first place. Okay? Good.

There are books about goal setting, and there are goal setting workshops, and you should check out these, and any other sources of help you can find. I met a major goal last year when I entered a novel in a nationwide contest. This year, I’m going to also enter it in as many regional contests as I can find. Hey, I like it, so it has to be good, right? And edit and polish my current chapter book. And start a new big project while I’m at it, because drafting is the most freewheeling fun part of the process, so I’ll be doing some. I expect to add a couple of goals this month as well, The Las Vegas Writers’ Group meeting is all about goals, and I intend to take advantage of the opportunity.

As should you, my friend. As should you.







*If you don’t get this, I’m sorry. Try googling the name.

Overnight Success!

My favorite holiday is coming up!  New Year’s Day is just days away and I get to start my most favorite family tradition: annual goal analysis and planning! *insert audible snort from my boss here* No really.  The start of a new year is always my favorite time. We spend a few hours analyzing how our past year went, patting ourselves on the back for being SO AWESOME, and prepping a new plan for next year.  What could be more fun? The last time I peeled a fully filled out annual plan off my cork board (strategically located in my bathroom, directly in front of our commode) it was the last in a series of ten charts that led us to our castoff.  The day I pulled that chart down, I had chills.  It worked.  All our planning led us where we wanted to go. I could hear the ironic cheer my partner yells anytime we win a case we worked on for years:  “An overnight success!”   People often ask how did we make this sailing trip happen?  This post gives you the secret. It’s really boring!  But I swear it is true.  From 2005 through 2007 we wandered around blindly – happening upon sailing opportunities, finding jobs, buying a house, moving to Las Vegas.  We had our big dream in mind, but we were also just letting life take us where it might.  Already, the business of life and work were pulling us away from the little things that made us happy.  In 2007, we hardly mountain biked or camped at all.  I started to worry.  If the little things we loved were falling away, what about our big dream? How would we stay focused and make that happen?  We needed a system.  In December of 2007, I set to making another chart.  (The Oddgodfreys love charts.) I broke our categories into the major things we needed to get done in a year:  (1) learn to sail; (2) get some money (3) stay healthy and strong; (4) remain sane while we wait; and (5) grow our professions and our community.  I made a column for deadlines.  I made a column designed to keep track whenever we made good on something we said we would do.  We didn’t need a giant plan envisioning 13 years of effort all at once. I knew if we could organize and keep smaller commitments each year, we would get there.   In honor of the New Year, Andrew and I sat down over a cup of tea and listed a handful of little tasks organized under each category. We asked ourselves one question: “What do we need to do this year to remain happy, keep our health strong, our finances improving and make our sailing dream happen?  For 2008, we set out the following:  1. Sailing:  (a) race in at least 10 races on Lake Mead; (b) buy our own boat for $5,000 or less; (c) go sail camping at least once before the end of the year; (d) Take ASA Certification Courses Levels 1 – 3 by end of the year.   2. Finances:  (a) save $1500 per month toward sailing.  (b) Save up six months worth of cash in an emergency fund.  3. Fitness and Health:  (a) Weight train three days per week; (b) cardio three days per week. 4. Personal Sanity:  (a) Go camping four times; (b) Do at least 12 mountain bike rides; (c) host at least four dinner parties; (d) Plant a spring and a fall garden; (e) write journal notes at least once per week; (f) travel to Utah to visit family at least four times. 5. Professional and Community:  (a) Write at least 1 professional article; (b) Take at least three depositions (L); (c) Obtain three new customers (A); (d) Prepare Henderson Symphony Orchestra’s 501(c)(3) application.  We printed out the chart and pinned it up on the wall in the bathroom on a cork board. Why the bathroom?  Well, it is one of those places a person must go every single day, and it’s not quite as obnoxious for guests as the refrigerator.  I tied a pen to a string and pinned it right next to the chart.  No excuses due to a lost pen! Then we would track every time we did something we said we would do with checkmarks or tick marks. Whenever we would complete a task as promised, we would do a little dance.  If it was a big goal i.e. the day we paid off student loans, we would make ourselves a nice dinner and enjoy a bottle of wine we had saved for such an occasion.     We confronted ourselves every single day with our own high demands. We also started doing a semi-annual review at six months and a third quarter review at 9 months to check progress and re-jigger the plan.  Sometimes we would overshoot, and by six months in, we realized a goal is unrealistic given time/energy/financial resources, we just don’t care about this particular goal as much as we thought we did, or there is something else more important to which we have to divert resources.  When this happens, we adjust or delete the goal to realign our plan with what we really want at the end of the year.  Before we remove a goal, we think about t

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