At this time of year, one thing that’s on my mind a lot is goals. For one thing, the end of the year is edging ever closer, so it’s only natural to look back at the past year and think about all the things I have and haven’t achieved. But also, this is the time of year when I’m heading into NaNoWriMo, and right now I’m also winding up Blogtober 2019, which has me thinking about goals, and why I set them.
Because the thing is with me, I’m actually super lazy. Or maybe lazy is the wrong word? I put things off a lot, but I feel like my lack of motivation is often more down to fear of failure than anything. Because if I don’t write that story I want to write, then I can’t do it badly, and if I don’t get round to that blog post I’ve been struggling to write, I can’t mess it up.
The reason behind it doesn’t matter though, because the result is the same. Left entirely to my own devices, I would get nothing done towards achieving the things I want to achieve, mainly becoming a writer and keeping my blog going.
That’s why I’m very big on setting goals, and love taking on challenges like NaNoWriMo. Yes, by the time I get to the middle of the month I’m usually tearing my hair out and struggling for motivation, but I’m much more likely to actually push forward and do some work if I have a formal goal to work towards.
Blogtober 2019 has been a classic example of how setting goals works for me. Before Blogtober I was suffering through one of the biggest blogging slumps I’ve ever experienced, and was often going up to two weeks without posting. Writing a single post genuinely felt like a struggle, yet somehow throughout this entire October, I’ve been stumping up a post every single day. Sometimes it’s been a struggle, but I’ve always done it, and I’m very nearly successfully through the finish line (I bet I’ve totally jinxed it now though!).
I just think that by setting a goal, my fear of failing that goal becomes bigger than my feel of messing up whatever it is that I would otherwise be putting off. Which is great, because it means I get stuff done, achieve more, and it doesn’t usually end up being as difficult as I think it’s going to be.
But at the same time, I don’t necessarily think goal setting works for everyone, or that it’s a good idea for everyone. It does become stressful – I’m basically an adult who is constantly setting myself tonnes of homework – and a lot of people wouldn’t want to, or can’t work under that kind of pressure, even if it’s coming from themselves.
For example NaNoWriMo definitely doesn’t work for everyone. Having such strict parameters and daily word counts just isn’t a lot of people’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. Similarly, not every blogger wants to set a super high goal for their Goodreads Challenge, because they don’t want the pressure.
And to be honest, most people probably don’t need to set themselves strict goals like I do. A lot of people are highly motivated in the first place!
But if, like me, you’re a person who needs to motivate themselves through goal setting, here’s a few of my tips on how to set them, and actually achieve them:
Break big goals down into smaller ones.
Nothing is scarier than an enormous goal, like ‘write a 90,000 word novel’. That’s why I try and break it down into smaller goals, that seem more achievable: so, ‘write a novel chapter a week’, or ‘write 1,000 words a day’.
It can also be motivating to have smaller goals because you get to cross them off your list faster, and then you can physically see that you’re making progress.
Vague goals are hard to achieve, because you don’t really know what you’re striving for. That’s why I try and be as specific as possible about what I want to achieve.
So rather than just think, ‘I want to write a short story’, I’ll decide to write a short story on a specific topic for a contest I’ve seen somewhere. That way the definite end goal is to have a short story written in time to submit it to the competition.
Set a time scale.
I also think it’s a good idea to set a time scale for any goals, and then you actually have something to aim for. If you just want to write a novel, then that could mean at any time in your life, so there’s no point to the goal, as you’ve never not achieved it (until you’re dead anyway, and then I guess you won’t care?).
Having a specific date makes the goal more likely to motivate you, as you have to have done it by a certain time.
Have a plan of action.
I also finds it helps when I set a goal to have some kind of plan of action, or idea of how I’ll achieve it. So with challenges like NaNoWriMo and Blogtober I plan out what I’ll write ahead of time, to avoid me becoming flustered and stressed when I can’t think of what to write. I also sometimes plan out when I’ll be available to work on my goals, so when the time comes to work it seems non-negotiable.
Make yourself accountable.
Accountability is also a huge factor in whether or not I achieve my goals. If other people know about them, then I’m so much more likely to achieve them, because then someone else would know I’d failed (and it’s bad enough just knowing yourself that you didn’t reach your goal!).
That’s why when I do challenges like NaNo and Blogtober I always put up on my blog that I’m doing them, as it’s a form of accountability to have publicly said what I’m going to try and achieve. Now I don’t exactly think anyone would have been on here like ‘you failure!’ if I’d missed a day of Blogtober (most people probably wouldn’t even have noticed!), but it still makes me more accountable than just keeping my plans to myself.
So do you set yourself goals, and do they work for you? Do you have any more tips on goal setting?