UPDATE: Links have been updated with a full 2015 calendar!
I don’t really do New Years resolutions in January. Sometimes I set goals for myself, but April is generally my goal-setting month because it’s the month in which I was born. Doesn’t hurt that it starts with April Fool’s Day, so if I make a completely unreasonable goal, I suppose I could change my mind on April 2nd.
Back in January I decided 2014 was THE year for me to once and for all finish the manuscript I’ve been working on. The past few months I’ve been reading up on productivity, attending time-management and goal-setting workshops for artists, and setting short term and long term goals.
There’s a difference between a goal, though, and a SMART goal.
Making SMART Goals
Your goal needs to be specific. “Be a better person” is a good ideal, but not a good goal. “Be a better writer” is more specific, and you can work with it, but let’s try a little harder. How about “Write a novel”? Sure. Let’s take that one.
“Write a novel”–is that a measurable goal? Why yes it is! Because novels have a beginning, middle, and an end. Let’s choose a measurement so we can make the goal even more specific. “Write a 50,000-word novel.”
“Be a better person” isn’t a good goal because how will you know when you’ve achieved betterment? You need a goal with an obvious finish line. Something you can cross off a list. Having a goal of writing a 50,000 novel gives you a point to work towards. In this case, the finish line is typing the 50,000th word.
For something to be achievable, it also needs to be realistic. For me, a full-time mother of two young children (who also freelances), writing a 50,000-word novel in the month of November is NOT a realistic goal. (Sorry NaNoWriMo.) But writing 50,000 words over the next few months is realistic. Especially since most of my research is done.
Helpful tip: Don’t attempt an historical novel during NaNoWriMo.
A SMART goal is relevant. It is important. It is worthwhile. It is meaningful. Are you the right person for the job? Is it a good time in your life to set this goal? Do you have the support necessary to achieve the goal? For me, that means hiring a part-time nanny so that I have a couple of hours every day to devote to writing.
Making a time-bound goal means actually writing it down on your calendar and making time for it. It’s setting a deadline. And this is the kicker—it’s choosing to not procrastinate.
I never have a problem coming up with ideas or goals. I have a problem keeping with them. Which is why I’m really excited about “Don’t Break the Chain” motivation.
Don’t Break the Chain
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of “Don’t Break the Chain,” you can read about its background here. It’s easier to turn something into a routine and keep doing it every day than quitting and trying to start back up again. “Don’t Break the Chain” is all about keeping up the momentum.
First, you pick something you can do every single day. Writing. Exercising. Doing the dishes. Choose something relevant. You’ll be bound by time because you have a deadline every 24 hours.
Make it measurable (Ask yourself “How much?” or “For how long?”). Make sure it’s achievable. Be specific.
Say you want to write every day. Will you write for a certain amount of time or will you have a minimum word count? Start small and manageable. It’s better to underestimate yourself than overestimate yourself. One is motivating, the other is debilitating.
If you’re writing just to journal, 300 words each day is a good minimum challenge. Or 15 or 30 minutes.
If you’re trying to put the “progress” into a “work in progress,” then shoot for five hundred, 750, or a thousand words. Or 30 minutes to 2 hours.
If you’re attempting to write a novel in 30 days, your goal will be 1,667 words each day.
Then each day you do that thing, you cross off the day on your calendar. Soon you’ll have a row of X’s. If you skip a day, you break the chain. Don’t break the chain.
Try this for a month, a season, or a year. The longer you go before breaking the chain, the easier it will be to pick up where you left off.
Free Printable Calendar
You can search for other “Don’t Break the Chain” calendars online (Here’s one). For my own, I wanted to combine the chain idea with SMART goals. I’ve got two versions for 2014. The first is an April-December one, shown in the featured photo at the top of the page. The second is a complete
2014 2015 year. That one has the conditions for a SMART goal in small print at the bottom.
Click on the thumbnails to download either one! These are for personal or classroom use only. Not for profit use. Enjoy!
I’ve updated the SMART goals and Don’t Break the Chain calendar with a printable calendar for 2015!