Sunday, January 29, 2017

Set Your Writing Goals for 2017

Here we are at the start of a new year. January is nearly gone, and we have only 11 months to go before another year will have passed us by. It’s time to set your writing goals for 2017.

Myrko Thum, the personal development expert, states, “A goal is a thought with commitment to make it real.”1 He is right on. The key word here is “commitment.” A goal isn’t reachable unless it’s carried out. A goal without commitment is a dream. By joining this writing program, you’ve made the decision to turn your dream into reality.

Why set writing goals? They give you long-term vision and short-term motivation. Reaching short-term benchmarks gives you a feeling of success along the journey toward a long-term target.2

To set reachable goals, however, one must:

·         understand the difference between short-term and long-term goals
·         set S.M.A.R.T. goals
·         create a writing schedule

Short-term vs. Long-term Goals
Short-term goals are the ones set for the actual writing of your book. They may include the number of hours spent writing per day or week or the number of pages produced at each session. Your long-term objective is to finish your book. But be careful. That objective should not be the end in itself. Once you have finished writing, then what?

Astronauts ran into this problem. Their long-term objectives were to go to the moon or to do a mission on the space shuttle. Those took years to achieve. Once they were accomplished, the astronauts felt their lives were over. Been there, done that. Some resorted to drinking because they felt so lost.

There must be targets beyond that of writing your book. Your next one is to publish. After that, it’s to market your work, and then it’s to keep promoting and selling. And your goal after that should be to create ancillary products. Beyond that it should be to write another book and start the journey all over again. In other words, goals comprise a process, not just an end.3 Long-term ones concern why you are writing your book. To get more clients?  To become a well-known expert in your field? To sell enough copies to expand your business or buy a new house? These are the objectives beyond writing.

Napoleon Hill, author of the classic book Think and Grow Rich, quotes George Herbert, a 17th century British poet, when he says: “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” 4

2  Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
In The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey states that habit number two is to “begin with the end in mind.” 5 While you don’t want to put undue pressure on your- self, set S.M.A.R.T.6 writing goals for each of your work sessions. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

Let’s consider the first word: Specific. That means “clear.” For example, the goal “to finish writing the book” is too obscure. When will you finish? How much will you write at any particular time to reach that goal? We can’t tell from “to finish writing a book” because of its vagueness. Vagueness invites failure. A specific goal is “To write five double-spaced pages at the next two weekly four-hour writing sessions.”
The “S” can just as easily stand for Simple. Three to five writing goals is a good number. Having too many amid other obligations will also set you up for defeat. The rest of your life, including your business, needs attention, so don’t overlook or neglect it.

The goal of writing five double-spaced pages at the next two writing sessions is an example of one that is Specific, Simple, Measurable, and Time-bound. You’ll know each week whether or not you have achieved it.

Your goals also have to be Realistic. For example, putting your book ahead of clients or food on the table won’t work. Goals must also be Attainable. If you intend to write twenty pages each writing session but can generate only five comfortably, your goal is not realistic or attainable. Be honest with yourself about what you can produce.

Don’t think of creating the entire book. Instead, set small goals for one specific chapter at a time. State each as a positive statement. For example, “Write five pages of Chapter 1 of my parenting book this week.”

If you find that your goals are not realistic, revise them. Nothing is cast in concrete. Avoid stress as much as possible when it comes to writing or you may find yourself losing the desire to finish it. You don’t want that!

Write your long-term goals on page 9 of your workbook. Print copies of page 10 to use for short-term goals for the sections or chapters of your book. Review them often. If you find that your goals turn out to be unrealistic for the time element scheduled, revise accordingly. The overarching objective is to complete your book. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

3  Create a Writing Schedule
In order to complete your book in a timely manner, setting a writing schedule is critical. James Clear7 suggests that writers need to develop a system. For example, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule you devise for yourself. It could be fifteen minutes a day, an hour a day, four hours a week—whatever works for you and your business and personal commitments. The person who can dedicate three hours a day to writing will finish sooner than the person who can dedicate three hours a week. There is no right or wrong to this process. It’s whatever fits with your schedule without adding undue stress.

Determine your peak productivity times. Do you function best in the morning? the afternoon?  the evening? Ideally, use some of this time for your writing. But be careful. Scheduling yourself an hour between 11 PM and midnight, for example, won’t work if you’re exhausted from a hard day. You need to be alert and able to think clearly with no distractions. The length of each session isn’t as important as the fact that you have a specific slot set aside. Look at your calendar and make appointments with yourself. Record your writing schedule in your workbook. If your schedule changes, print a fresh sheet to record the new times.

Record your writing schedule on page 11 of your workbook. Keep these appointments the way you would keep any with your clients or customers.

Reward yourself when you accomplish a goal. Treat yourself to whatever you like. This will keep you motivated.

Psychotherapist Carl Jung said this many years ago:

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”8


1.    Myrko Thum, Goal Setting: 7 Steps to Set Your Life Goals, n. d., http://www.myrko

2.    James Manktelow and Amy Carlson, Personal Goal Setting: Planning to Live Your Life Your Way, n. d.,

3.    Will Meek, How to Set Goals, Notes to Self, Psychology Today,  http://www.

4.    Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, 2012, Reprint of original 1937 edition, Napoleon Hill Foundation, Hammond, Indiana.
5.    Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, 2013, New  York, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

6.    Duran, G. T., Miller, A., & Cunningham, J. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to
write management goals and objectives. Management Review (AMA Forum), 70(11), 35-36.

7.    James Clear, Forget About Setting Goals: Focus on This Instead, January 21,
2014, Psychology Today,

8.    Carl Jung, n.d.