We’re not quite a full week into 2020, but I’d lay odds that some people have already broken their New Year’s Resolutions.
Part of that is because resolutions are hard! We resolve to do a thing, but almost never do we have a plan to support that resolution.
A few years ago, people stopped calling them resolutions, and they started calling them goals.
The term “goal” is better because any progress toward the goal is just that: progress, and therefor a positive thing… even if we don’t 100% achieve the goal. Part of the issue is that a goal is something we might attain or obtain (depending on the goal) in the future. It is something to move towards, and even with a plan to help us get there, it is still something in the future.
This year, I want to make sure that I’m setting intentions, and today, I intend to discuss how to make some solid writing intentions for 2020.
Intentions are a bit more personable and involve present tense actions. More than that, it is something I recently went to a training for as a teacher, so the concept is relatively fresh in my mind.
As a teacher, we are given a list of skills and standards that we are expected to teach our students. In Texas, we call them TEKS: Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. For the subject of English, specifically, all of our TEKS are changing between this year and next. It’s a change that’s been going on for a while now, and it’s one that has probably been needed for a while… but that’s a soapbox for another day.
The reason I mention TEKS at all is because we have to go through training on how to “unpack” TEKS in order to make them accessible for our students. Once we’ve unpacked the TEKS to identify what it is we need to focus on for a lesson, we can create the lesson plan to accompany it. With the new changes to the TEKS, we also are expected to create a learning intention for our students as part of our lesson plan.
All of that to say: making goals/plans/intentions takes more work than you think.
So, let’s backwards plan a little bit, to use a teacher term. The very first step is to identify your goal, that future thing you want to be able to attain. So what is it you want to be able to tell the world you accomplished by the end of the year?
That is your goal.
For me, I want to finish my novel that I’ve been working on and tweaking for much longer than I care to admit. I’ve lost it twice and started over 4 times, and based on my notes, it’s now a trilogy… If I can ever finish any of it.
That is my goal.
Now let’s make it a SMART goal.
I’m sure you’ve heard this term before, but in case you haven’t, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
For example, I want to finish my novel, but what does that mean? I need to take into account where I am currently and determine what it means “to finish.” It could mean that I finish the rough draft, or maybe it means I publish it. Either is a valid goal, but, currently, simply “to finish” isn’t Specific enough, nor is it Measurable.
Measurable, when talking about writing, might be like NaNoWriMo and setting a word or page count goal, or it could be a stage goal (like we said before: rough draft, final draft, etc.).
Can I realistically write and publish a novel in a year? For some people, that is a completely realistic goal. Those people have more writing experience than I do, and (at least for some) writing is their day job. My day job is teaching, and I work way more than 40 hours a week doing that job. Writing is my weekend/holiday job, so for me, taking a story from notes to published novel in 12 months is not an Achievable goal.
The question of Relevant is a strange one for writing. In teaching, it would be why does the student need this skill? For a writing goal, we need to ask the question how does this goal affect my life? Or why is it important that I complete this goal?
It could be something as simple as it will bring you joy to complete a project (that’s basically mine), or it might be about improving or honing your craft because this is what you want to do for your day job if it isn’t already your day job. Whatever makes it important to you, that’s the Relevant part.
And finally, we need to set a Time frame to complete it…keeping it Relevant and Achievable, of course!
For me, this means that my overall goal is to complete a rough draft of a 50,000-75,000 word novel by the end of the summer 2020 because I am emotionally ready to take my writing to the next step.
And there you have it: a SMART goal. But that is still a future goal, and not an intention…
Weren’t we working on setting intentions?
Of course we were! A goal is our end point. An intention is what we intend to do on a daily or weekly basis in order to achieve our goal. It is the actual plan.
For me, it means that I am going to allot 10 hours a week to writing. This week, the writing has been primarily blog stuff, but I did go to a cafe with a friend and we wrote together for about 2 hours, bouncing ideas off of each other when we got stuck.
Next week is the beginning of a new semester, and with it comes new expectations of me from my students and coworkers. I may find that 10 hours a week is too much some weeks, but some weeks, I might be able to write much more because my kiddos are testing and I don’t have much to do after school during testing times.
Which brings us to my last comment about goals: Be flexible!
Life happens, and when it does, it can throw our plans for a serious loop. This isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe I find an apartment closer to work and cut my commute time in half so I have more time to write. Maybe I type faster than I think and I’ll get done sooner. Or maybe I take on an extra-curricular club or two and I have to find a way to magically find 10 hours a week to write. Who knows?
The point is, I’ll need to periodically check in with my plan and see if I’m on track, or if I need to revise my plans.
- Start by creating a goal.
- Rewrite your goal as a SMART goal.
- Create a plan to achieve your goal.
- Create short term intentions for each step of your goal.
- Check back on your plan periodically to revise as necessary.
- Be awesome!
Please share your goals in the comments below, even if they’re not writing related! I love to see what’s happening with the people I meet on here!
And good luck! Here’s hoping 2020 goes smoother than 2019!