Setting Actionable (Achievable) Writing Goals

It’s only the end of January, but you might already be seeing your 2016 goals and resolutions slipping to the wayside. In fact, it’s so easy to let this happen that over 90 percent of us ‘resolution setters’ drop the ball by year end.

But maybe it’s not our butterfingers to blame. Maybe it’s not just lack of discipline or forgotten desire. Maybe we’re just setting the wrong kinds of goals.

I read an excellent article once on goal setting (and though for the life of me, I can’t remember which publication it came from), I remember the main point. Set actionable goals. Set goals that have a little substance, that can be measured and mostly controlled. So many of us focus on the end result instead of the process it takes to get there. With no process, no roadmap, we often get lost along the way.

So take a moment to revisit your goals. Use the five tips below to create goals that are both actionable and achievable.

mseditors_actionable goals
My goals are scratched down on a little ripped piece of paper much like this one. But they’re actionable and visible–propped up on my desk where I can see them every day.

4 Goal-setting Tips For Writers


1. Focus on submissions not publications.
“Get published” is quite a lofty goal, and, unless you plan to self-publish, is usually somewhat out of your hands. Instead, set goals about how many times or places you would like to submit your writing to. You might even set a goal to specifically reach out to a certain agents or publishing houses.

2. Focus on time spent writing. “Write a novel” can also be a goal that is somewhat out of your hands. Sure, you can force yourself to write a really crappy novel, but in the end was it worth it? In my opinion, setting a goal of writing for certain amount of time or even a certain number of words per day/week is a better alternative. I’m willing to bet that without the pressure of a novel as your outcome, your writing will be less stress-induced, higher quality and fit into your someday novel a lot more naturally.

3. Create accountability. Support, encouragement and accountability (usually) don’t just happen to you. You have to create them. Reach out to fellow writers or even friends to tell them your actionable goals. Then ask them to ask you how it’s going. Create self accountability by writing your goals down and putting them somewhere you’ll see them every day.

4. Schedule it in. If your goals are truly actionable, they will usually take up actual space in your day or week. If one of your goals is to write for two hours a week, don’t leave that up to the fates. Schedule it in, and treat it just like a coffee date with your best friend. Don’t be late, and don’t let something else crowd it out.

5. Treat yo’ self. I love how Kyra wrote about this one for NaNoWriMo. Celebrating is so important. When you complete a goal, give yourself a little treat. Not everyone needs material things, but most of us crave some kind of reward or recognition for our achievements. Let’s be real, the universe isn’t waiting to crown you Mr. or Ms. Writey-pants of the Year, so create the reward/recognition yourself. Text a supportive friend when you achieve a goal. Or create little incentives (buy new pens, get a massage, take a day stay-cation) that will keep you motivated.

Now that you have a few tips to get you started, we’d love to hear from you on how it’s going, what works for you and what doesn’t. Comment below or tweet at us!

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