Tips for Choosing Writing Goals

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

"goal" in dictionaryThe final round of A Round of Words in 80 Days 2013 begins tomorrow, so this is the day I am declaring my goals. But first, I’ve been thinking about all of the goal-setting advice I’ve heard through the years.

Goal Areas. You should have goals in different areas of your life. For instance, goals for health, spirituality, career, relationships, etc. Your life is not actually compartmentalized, and areas of your life tend to bleed into other areas. However, listing  goals by area ensures that you don’t neglect an important value (such as health or family) and merely focus on work goals.

I do have goals in other areas, but my ROW80 goals focus on the writer area of my life.

SMART. SMART is checklist acronym for how to describe your goals. They should be:


We often come up with goals like “Get healthy” or “lose weight,” which describes more of a wish than a goal. Better-written goals would be: “Add two servings of fruits and vegetables to daily diet and cut out sweets by next doctor visit” or “Lose 10 pounds in the next 5 months.” These are more specific, can be measured, are time-sensitive, and don’t require a genie and a lamp to achieve.

ROW80 already has a time-bound factor, but I’ve also learned the importance of writing goals more specifically and realistically.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you haven’t read this book by Steven Covey, I encourage you to pick it up. It’s full of insight for anyone who needs to balance their time. I hail back to these principles over and over when my life feels off-kilter.

Here are a few of the seven principles relevant to goal-setting:

First things first. It’s easy to get sidetracked or put the easy-to-do stuff first on the list. Yet, if we want to achieve our goals, we have to consider what is really, truly, gut-wrenchingly important to us and put that first on the list.

Begin with the end in mind. This is most often seen in the question, “Where do you see yourself in a year? Five years? Ten years?” You identify your long-term goal, and then backtrack to fill in the tasks needed to arrive at your desired destination.

Be proactive. Much of the day can feel reactive, especially as a keeper of the home and parent. Like it or not, sometimes we must react to laundry piling up, kids requiring immediate attention, or the pantry running bare. But we also tend to react to demands on our time from sources that don’t matter as much as our families. Being proactive means setting our calendar, making sure we complete our most important tasks, and leaving room for unexpected tasks that will surely come our way.

All of these remind to focus on the big-picture and be the mover-and-shaker of my own future.

Values. Values should be a big determiner of goals. Oftentimes, we just look at a big to-do list, order it, and move on. But if family is an important value, how much time have we allotted to spend with them? Doing things for them? Has something important been shoved down to the bottom of the list because that need seems less immediate?

From time to time, it can help to list your values, list your goals, and compare the two lists. How well do your goals reflect your values? If they don’t, then something on the goals list needs to change.

I’m guilty of ignoring the majors and focusing on the minors at times. I want to make sure my goals align with my values.

K.I.S.S. This oft-used acronym means Keep It Simple, Stupid (or Keep It Super Simple). Sometimes our to-do lists rival the IRS Tax Code in length and complexity. In case you haven’t noticed, we do not have supernatural powers and cannot juggle 12,000 tasks at once.

Keep It Simple, Stupid. A goals list should include things you can actually get done–which means, don’t try to do too much. Simplify your life. Consider which goals are most important and give them your focus. It’s better to give 100% of yourself to five main tasks than 60% of yourself to twenty tasks.

I used to list a bunch of goals for ROW80, but now I focus on just a few–the important stuff. The other stuff can get done as time permits.

ROW80LogocopyThere are plenty of other goal-setting systems and tips I’ve seen around, but these provide a foundation for writing my ROW80 goals.

1. Finish YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, by completing three chapters each week. First things first! Nothing should take precedence over this goal in my Round 4.

2. Take Short Stories 101 course from Young Adult RWA. This online course takes place in October and will help me determine how to write more short stories and where to publish them.

3. Read 10 fiction books and 2 nonfiction books. I have always valued reading, and staying steeped in fiction now hones my writing and editing skills.

And that’s it. Keep It Simple, Stupid, remember? Yes, I’ll be on social media. Yes, I’ll blog. Yes, I’ll be checking in with other ROW80 participants. But my must-do list needs to remain short and focused this round.

How do you set your goals? What goals systems or tips have you used with success?

15 thoughts on “Tips for Choosing Writing Goals

  1. Just in time, Julie. I’ll be working on goals today. I especially like that acronym SMART for I always struggle with measurable — and my goals shift so it’s K.I.S.S. for me! Thank you.

  2. I recently picked up another goal-setting technique that I like quite well: “Let it be easy.” I think this is probably along the lines of the KISS principle, but I apply it more to the goal itself, as opposed to the planning of the goal, if that makes sense. And of course, my #1 mantra in goal-setting is this: “Just show up.” For me, that’s often the hardest part. Once I “show up” the rest is cake.

    1. I always remember something Woody Allen said: “80% of success is showing up.” There’s definitely truth to that! It’s the daily show-up and do-the-thing that gets the goal completed. Thanks for your additional advice!

  3. Loved this! I am posting my goals post tomorrow, but I highlighted this post. Thanks for the inspiration. I needed it! And wishing you all the best in Round 4.

  4. Love, love this. I’m doing much of the same for this Round simply because I have too much going on outside of writing to make changes, if that makes sense, LOL. However, this is exactly what will need to happen for Round 1, so thank you for the inspiration!

    Wishing you a fabulous Round Julie.

  5. Oh this is a mighty post… fabulous, although I could have used it this morning before I wrote my goals 🙂 I did put in mine that I’d change them to fit what was happening, so I may rewrite them in light of these indispensable tips. I did keep it simple… but I refuse to admit to being stupid. 😀 X

  6. This is great advice, especially for those who don’t know how to set up a plan, whether it be for life or a task. KISS is one I follow too.

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