One Step Closer

This has been an overwhelming year. The month of November was especially challenging, but I got through it with the help of friends and family . I’m grateful to them. But I’m also thankful that I learned something years ago that has helped me navigate the rough waters of life. While working for a company that held yearly “Make It Happen” goal-setting days, we also received Franklin-Covey planners and learned about creating action steps and prioritizing every item on our To-Do lists.

Out of this evolved a process to juggle a variety of projects — I’ve always thrived on having a lot of irons in the fire. But the idea is so simple most people disregard it.

The key is actually two parts that work together. The first part is to remain positive. The second is to break every task and goal into smaller pieces. The pieces help you feel you’re accomplishing something, which makes it easier to remain positive. With this in mind, break everything into as small a piece as necessary to 1) move toward completion, and 2) feel as if you’re making progress.

So, every word builds a sentence. Every sentence a paragraph. Every paragraph a page. Page after page builds a chapter and so on until the manuscript is complete. Now you’re moving forward and making progress.

During the last few months I’ve focused on “just one more” of whatever I’ve been facing. One more class meeting toward completing a workshop. One more meeting toward completing a project for a client. One more manuscript to read. One more student to critique. One more course proposal submitted. One more box toward packing away my father’s possessions. One more load to donation. One more room emptied and cleaned. One more day toward a fresh start in a new year.

And now, one more blog toward getting back on track. Try it for yourself. Just one more step takes you closer to your goal. And as you get through each task, you’re have one more thing to feel good about.

Set Goals for Good Intentions

The new year is upon us. Have you set your resolutions yet? I hate resolutions. Declaring your purpose for the new year doesn’t make it happen. I resolve to lose weight, exercise more, and get more done, but without a plan my enthusiasm waivers and I find myself drowning in my own resolve.

About a decade ago affirmations and intentions were the latest thing at the new year. Both are more positive. You state that you will do something like trim down, incorporate diet and exercise into a healthier lifestyle, and organize to achieve more. While positive and presented with the mood that we all have the power to make these intentions happen, again, enthusiasm waivers and the positive crumbles into negative inaction. Before long I’m beating myself up for blatant laziness. Not exactly positive and affirming. So, I like to focus on goals. Some creative people freeze up at the thought of setting goals. It’s so . . . business oriented. If you fall into this category, think of goals as stepping stones toward achieving your dream.

Like task management, goals take the bigger picture and break it into manageable pieces. Each smaller task or goal leads to accomplishing the bigger task. Many of us do this without realizing it—during the holidays, for instance. In order to get those holiday cards in the mail, there are steps involved. You need to create the list of people you’ll send them to, make labels (or address the envelopes), write notes and/or sign each card, stuff the envelopes, stamp, and drop at the post office. Each step might be done in 5- to 15-minute segments as your schedule allows. In the end, the cards are in the mail and on their way.

Goal-setting is the same. Set a goal, a time frame for achieving it, and then create action steps (or small goals that lead the to larger goal). Use S-A-M as a guideline. The goal should be specific. Select a target and set a deadline such as trimming 2 inches off your waist by summer, losing 15 pounds, or sending out 20 manuscripts by December. It should be achievable. This means you need to make it happen; you cannot rely on what someone else does as a step in the process (such as an editor accepting just 1 manuscript to launch your career). You need to find an exercise you enjoy doing if you are going to trim 2 inches off your waist. You will need to write a manuscript in order to reach that goal of submitting 20.  Finally, your goal needs to be measurable. Notice that these three goals include a specific number. This helps you track your progress as the year progresses.

I had a writing friend who decided to set of goal of receiving 10 rejections in a year. She was working to fit writing into a busy life as a mother, wife, and office manager. She had heard me speak and a comment I made about taking the plunge and getting over the fear of submitting really struck her. She knew that manuscripts left in a drawer would never become books. Setting a goal to get rejected took away her fear of rejection. It is part of a writer’s life after all. Her goal was specific and measurable. She knew she had to send out a MS a month to reach that goal. That was achievable given her busy life.

When the first MS was returned, the sting of rejection wasn’t so bad. She sent it out again. And again. She had nearly reached her goal by summer when she received an acceptance. Then a second. Now she was forced to write new material in order to reach her goal. She did. But she also had credits to list when sending out those new MSS. By the next year, she was ready to “play it again, SAM” in setting new goals. No floundering in good intentions or vague resolutions. Just specific, achievable, and measurable goals with action steps toward reaching them.

Here’s wishing you all a happy and productive 2012!