Real advice for real writers (and those who want to become one)

Goal Setting Using the SMART Technique

February 19, 2017

Many people don’t set goals for themselves because they feel as if it is a useless process. The commitment to setting a goal can be a little unnerving because of constant self-doubt, and the question: “What if I can’t do this?

 

Setting goals can be simple and, once you learn how, vital for success. Just because it isn’t New Year’s season any more, now is still a good time to sit down and think about your future and what you would like to achieve.

 

Currently I am finishing my last semester of Honors college for UMSL. One of the things we are required to do every two weeks is set our own goals and work towards achieving them. This process has not only helped me stay on track, but has also given me greater success in my college career than if I had set no goals at all. The best approach to achieving anything you want, I have learned, is by setting goals that are productive, effective, and workable.

 

Why is goal setting important?

Goal setting has helped me deal with feeling overwhelmed and dealing with the unknown. It can also help with feelings of self-doubt, help with organization, and can help with achieving life-long dreams. Goal setting can also produce short-term motivation for long-term vision. In the Honors society, we learned how to set goals using a technique called SMART goals. Setting a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time) goal can help you gain clarity on what you truly want to accomplish in your life.

 

Breakdown of a SMART goal:

 

Specific:

The most important thing about setting goals is to make sure they are specific. Writers need goals that are clear and define exactly what we want to do in our writing, otherwise we wander down rabbit holes in our own writing, right? Ask yourself: What do I want/need to accomplish? When does it need to be accomplished? And, Why do I want to accomplish this goal?

 

As a writer, we all want to write a certain amount of pages a day or write for a certain time limit so make that specific. For example, instead of saying “I will write every day,” consider something more specific like “I will write 3,000 words a day.”

 

Measurable:

Giving ourselves a time frame to complete our goals will show the progress we have made. There’s nothing more satisfying than crossing something off a to-do list, and accomplishing a goal in our writing is no different. Setting measurable outcomes gives us greater personal satisfaction which motivates us to keep going (even when we are experiencing the dreaded writer’s block!)

 

As writers. we are constantly working on a writing project. Whether we are writing a book or blogging, give yourself a specific time frame. For example, “I will get my next chapter written by Friday” or “I will post my blog each week on Thursday.”

 

Attainable:

Our goals should be something attainable. This doesn’t mean easy, however. Working inside our comfort zones usually doesn’t produce the growth we want to see. It can be helpful to break down big projects and dreams into smaller segments so that we can experience both growth and progress.

 

For example, when facing the huge task of writing a book, consider setting attainable weekly or daily goals. Instead of saying “I will write a book” consider breaking it down into several smaller, more specific goals: “I will write 3.000 words a day” or “I will polish one chapter this week.”

 

Realistic:

The most common mistake when setting goals is setting an unrealistic one. Unrealistic goals will discourage us from taking the first step to achieving our goals. Realistic goals encourage us to immediately spring into action.

 

Writing can take a huge amount of time. It is unrealistic, for example, for a new writer to set a goal of being published in 6 months. However, she can set goals to “research the publishing process,” or “make a decision to traditionally or self-publish,” and then develop a realistic timeline for the chosen path.   

 

Time:

Deadlines are invaluable. Giving ourselves a deadline will motivate us to ignore distractions which will inevitably surface, clamoring for our time. I have learned the importance of setting a deadline for something I want to get done. If I don’t set a date to get something done, it doesn’t get done and I keep pushing the date back saying “I’ll get to it eventually” but I don’t. With school, I absolutely must set my own deadlines to get papers written or the readings done or else I wait until the last minute and I don’t give it the full attention it deserves.

 

Sample SMART Goal:

 

Using the SMART goal setting technique, the goal of “I want to write a novel” would be re-phrased like this:

 

“I will write a novel by writing two chapters every two weeks and have the entire novel complete for edit by the end of the year.” This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. It clearly states what I want to do and what I should do to accomplish my goal.

 

Last Thoughts:

Before coming to UMSL, I had no idea how I managed to get anything done. With working, babysitting, and going to school full time it’s hard to find time to do all my homework, write papers, and do all my readings for class. The SMART goal technique taught me how to set goals for myself for every aspect of my life, not just academia. I hope they will help you too.

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