As 2016 is coming to a close, and 2017 is mere hours away, you know what time has arrived…that’s right, time to set your goals for the year.
You thought I was going to say New Year’s Resolutions didn’t you? Nope!
Goals and resolutions often go hand in hand. Think of it this way, a resolution is usually based around making changes in your life to improve it or make yourself a better you. Whereas goals are a desired end point, an achievement toward which you direct your effort. For example:
Resolution: I’m going to become healthier this year.
Goals: Lose 15 pounds by April. Go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Limit myself to 1 coke/week.
Setting goals as an author is important. Let me repeat…this is an important exercise every author should take the time to do and most don’t.
Top achievers in ALL fields all set goals. Goals help you focus, move you forward, motivate you to achieve, help you to organize your time and resources, hold you accountable, help you believe in yourself, and get you closer to your dreams.
Today, we will not be setting “life” goals, but “author” goals. If it helps, think of your goals in this scenario as a mini-business plan for your author life for the year.
Our Top 10 Tips for Setting Your Yearly Author Goals:
1. What Is The Dream?
Every author has a dream or two related to writing. Do you want to publish your first book? Do you want to finish a book? Do you want to get a “YES” from a certain publisher or maybe an agent? Do you want to be a best-selling author for a top five publisher whose books are made into an award-winning series of movies or HBO show?
No matter how unattainable you think them, write down your dreams for yourself as an author. These won’t be your goals, but you may set some (or many) of your goals this year with the dream(s) in mind.
For example: If the dream is to finish your first book, you might set a daily word count goal, or set a goal to find a mentor to help you, or set a goal to join a critique group.
2. Evaluate Your Current Situation
Evaluating where you currently are is always a great place to start. Look at what you achieved during the past year related to your author career and all the factors affecting those achievements. Evaluating where you are can help you determine where to go next. It also gives you a good baseline of what is achievable, where you could grow, and where you can let go.
For example, if in the past year you finished 4 books, perhaps your goal in the current year is to finish another 4, because you know you can do it. Or, after having had that experience, you realize that pace takes away from your personal life too much, and your goal is reduced to 2 or 3 books for the year. Or, on the flip side, you might realize you can do more, and set the goal at 5.
3. List Out Known Expectations
Most likely, you are starting the year with a known list of expectations. Do you have a contract with dates you owe agents or publishers your work? Do you have a pre-order date set, or you’ve announced a publication date to your readers? Have you already registered for classes? Or plan to attend an upcoming conference?
Write down a list of all the known expectations, because these will do 2 things:
- Feed into the goals you set for the year.
- Affect additional goals (conflicts? changes in direction?)
4. Pick Goals That Motivate You
Think about past goals and expectations. The ones you were excited about achieving and working on are most likely those you did achieve or even exceeded expectations.
Most authors are authors because they have a passion for the gig. So the goals you set for yourself, most likely should be ones you are excited to achieve. Passion is a key to achievement.
Ask yourself…why do I care about this goal?
Often it helps to categorize your goals. Categorizing means thinking of types of goals. Doing this exercise will help you cover the bases. Many authors think of their writing goals (word count, finish a book by x-date, etc.) but forget things like personal growth goals like improving as a writer, or business-related goals like spend less on marketing.
A few category breakdowns you might consider:
- writing goals
- marketing goals
- publishing goals
- personal goals
- business goals
- Scheduled Goals (things you expect to achieve relatively easily, or things you are obligated to others to achieve)
- Stretch Goals (goals that might stretch you a bit, but are still achievable)
- Reach for the Stars Goals (goals that will be really hard to achieve, but you want to try anyway!)
- work goals
- personal goals
- financial goals
- social goals
6. How Many Goals?
This depends on you and the types of goals you are setting. Many articles out there recommend keeping your goal list short: Only 5-7 goals total.
If you’re someone who gets easily overwhelmed, or perhaps you’re just starting out, 5-7 goals is fantastic. If you’re a lister like me who is 5-10 (or more) years into their career as an author, you might need more.
My suggestion is write them ALL down. Then, if you look at the list and start to have a panic attack, start whittling it down to a size which makes you a little uncomfortable (you want to stretch yourself after all), but doesn’t make you want to throw up.
Remember, you want to be excited to start your goals list!
7. Think SMART, then Dream Big
SMART is an acronym which can help you set the specifics of your goals. Goals which set specifics such as a date, a quantity, a plan, etc. are more often achieved. For each goal you set, think about the following parameters:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable or Meaningful
- A – Attainable or Action-Oriented
- R – Relevant or Rewarding
- T – Time-bound or Trackable
The SMART system is a great way to make sure your goals are not vague or irrelevant.
That said, they don’t tend to work for the “This is the Dream” related goals. Author’s dreams can be BIG, which is fantastic. The big stuff is what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish in the long-term. Check out this fantastic article on how to set goals for those big dreams: When SMART Goals Don’t Work, Here’s What To Do Instead
8. Put Your Goals in Writing
Write it down folks. Otherwise you’ll forget about it. I promise that, when I go to review my goals and see how I’m tracking, I have already forgotten half of them (usually the half I’m not working on yet).
WRITE IT DOWN
Look at your final list of goals and prioritize. Make sure you’re focusing your work and effort and energy on the most important goals first. When setting priorities think about:
- How long will it take to complete?
- When is it due?
- Who do you owe it to?
- Urgency level?
- Downstream impact? (Something could be low urgency today, but if you don’t get started it’s a big impact to you by next month. Or 3 other goals hinge on achieving the first goal.)
10. Reevaluate Regularly
Check your goal list often. Once a quarter (every 3 months) is a good rule of thumb. If you have goals happening every month, then once a month is better for you.
When you review your goals do the following:
- Check off those goals which have been achieved.
- Look at remaining goals and your progress.
- Has anything changed which affects your list?
Reevaluating your goals isn’t just about checking things off the list. During the course of a year things are going to happen which could impact your list in big ways.
Sometimes life gets in the way, and you need to pare back your goals. Which is okay!
Sometimes an achieved goal can lead to more unplanned for goals. For example, you could have a goal of landing a contract with a publisher. Let’s say that happens. Yay! But they not only signed your book, but contracted 3 more for the series with specific due dates, many within this year. I promise, you’re going to need to add those to your goals and likely re-prioritize your list.
I hope this article helps you create a fantastic goal list for the year. And I hope you achieve not only your goals for the year, but also your dreams!