I love setting goals, especially for the new year. It helps me gather up all the potential that’s floating in the air around me and focus it. I love imagining the ways my life can improve in the year ahead. I find this time of year inspiring in so many ways. I particularly love setting new writing goals. You know the ones. We all make them.

“I’m going to write more this year.”

“I’m going to read more this year.”

“I’m going to write and read more this year.”

They are admirable goals, to be sure, but are they SMART? Most goal-setting experts agree that goals following the SMART method lead to higher rates of success. So how can writers apply this idea to their writing lives as we set goals for the coming year?

writing goals

Why Set Goals?

Goals are the mile markers that let you know you’re making progress along the roadmap of your life. They help you come up with a long-term vision for your priorities (in this case writing). Goals also provide short-term motivation for taking steps that will get you there.

Remember To Keep It SMART

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Following this method will help increase your chances of success.

Writing Goals Should be Specific

Instead of “write more,” try honing in on a specific amount of writing you’d like to do. For example, “I’m going to write for twenty minutes a day.”

You can also try adding the habit-forming method of Scheduling to these specific goals. “I’m going to write 250 words every day at 5:00 p.m.” is both specific and tied to a specific time of day. Doing things at the same time daily helps with habit formation, which is key to actually sticking to your goal!

Writing Goals Should be Measurable

Because your resolution is so specific, it’s now also easy to measure. You can simply track the number of words or amount of time you spent writing on any given day. Excel junkies will love this part because spreadsheets come in really handy. You can get as detailed as you like, Shelly over at Keystrokes and Closed Doors has a really great example on her Instagram at the moment.

Or, if you’re a visual person you can create a fun poster to help you keep track. Maybe come up with something cute like an old-fashioned library check-out card that you “stamp” with the day’s stats. Get creative!

Writing Goals Must be Attainable and Realistic

Be careful of getting too lofty. Your goal might be too big if it can be broken down into even more specific increments. Take for instance, “I’m going to write 25,000 words this year.” This translates into just 68 words a day, which sounds much more manageable, am I right?

Writing Goals Must be Time-Bound

All good goals come with deadlines. In the case of resolutions, the deadline is most likely “end of 2016.” But if you want to break it down even more and give yourself mile markers along the way, that can only help. I don’t know about you, but I seem to work much better—okay, maybe not better, but certainly more—when I’m bumping up against a deadline.

Try breaking your goal down into six- or even three-month intervals. In the case of the person who wants to write 25,000 words this year, they should be at 6,164 by the three-month mark. (Unless I did the math completely wrong. Please do your own math, there’s a reason I’m a writer.)

SMART is just one of many goal-setting techniques. Other experts suggest things like finding accountability, which I just happen to provide as part of my coaching service. Get professional editorial feedback and a fire under your butt all in one neat package! For more information, follow this link.


Break It Down Into Actions

Once you’re sure your goals are SMART, ask yourself what you’ll need to do (daily, weekly, monthly) to ensure you make progress toward this goal. It’s important to take into account what did and didn’t work in the previous year(s) when coming up with this breakdown. Continuing to do something that wasn’t working can lead to frustration, which won’t help you make progress.

Sometimes your goals won’t change much year to year, and that’s totally okay! Continuing to make progress toward a goal you set for yourself the year before is completely valid. If you are continuing to work on a goal, it becomes even more important to consider the previous year.

How Do You Feel About These Goals?

Emotions are super powerful. They can be great assets or huge hindrances. So acknowledge the emotions these goals invoke, the good and the bad. Are you intimidated by how ambitious your goals are? What intimidates you and can you take any steps toward minimizing that? Are you super pumped? Write down the most exciting part and put it somewhere you can see it every day.

This method for goal setting is a great way to start off the new year, but really you can use it anytime! Way to go, you goal-getter you!


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Author: Whynott Edit

Hi, I'm Megan! My mission is to help underrepresented writers refine their words, strengthen their skills, and tell the best possible versions of their stories.

If you have questions/comments/concerns about writing, editing, or publishing, or want to suggest a post topic, feel free to reach out to me! megan[at]whynottedit.com

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