As a person easily distracted by shiny new projects and prone to aimless mental wandering, I live by my goal lists. When I did a lot more freelancing, it was the only way I could keep track of multiple projects. From daily routine tasks (which I still have to write down, because I suck at habits) to big dreams, I love setting goals and high-fiving myself when I accomplish them.
While I’ve been making task lists for as long as I can remember, I did a couple of things last year that really boosted my productivity. First, in January, I wrote a list of monthly goals for the year. I made sure to stay very flexible throughout the year, but setting those monthly goals ahead of time helped me to focus and really see what it would take to get where I wanted to be at the end of the year. Second, I lowered my word count goals. This sounds counterintuitive, but lowering my daily word count goal to 250-500 wds (when I was drafting) helped me build momentum and make sure I wrote a little bit every day. I don’t do well during marathon writing sessions. Everyone has their process, and I’ve learned I work better in short, regular sprints spaced throughout the day. By the end of the year, after building momentum and developing my drafting chops, my daily sessions for NaNoWriMo didn’t feel much different from any other writing month.
Something I’d like to do soon is dream up some five year goals. I haven’t really done this before. Life has a way of smacking you around during certain seasons, and I’ve been rolling with the changes the last few years. But I feel more settled and would like to look ahead a bit now. If my situation changes, I’ll shift my goals. These are dreams to reach for, not anchors to weigh me down.
Here’s how I currently break down my goals for the year:
Yearly – My yearly goals are broken down by project. I list each book I have in the works and list the tasks I want to accomplish for each during the course of the the year.
Monthly – These are my favorite goal lists to work on, because this is the transition between taking projects from my mind to making them a reality. Like I said, I like writing them out for the whole year at once, just to get the layout and set timelines, but this year I couldn’t do that. Too many things are still up in the air. Too much if/then. So for now I sit down at the end of each month and set a few big writing goals for the next month: finish half a first draft, query a project, revise a draft, send a draft to betas, etc.
Weekly – I set weekly goals at the beginning of each month. I write them in the writing planner and in my moleskine journal, which is where I keep everything, and I take it with me everywhere. These usually include things like edit four chapters, hit 50k wds, query [number] agents, or enter such-and-such contest. I check my list regularly throughout the week to make sure I’m on track with these.
Daily – Ah, yes, the knitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, daily details. This is where the magic really happens. It’s where books get written–one page at a time, bit by bit, every day. Write 250 wds. Query one agent. Give CP feedback. Revise one chapter. Baby steps.
Sometimes it feels repetitive or unnecessary to hand write all of this multiple times and in multiple places, but it works for me. Writing it reinforces the importance of these goals. Seeing them in ink keeps them in the front of my mind. And writing new lists each month/week helps me stay flexible if I need to shift to a different project for a while, like if I need to let a story rest and work on a different one for a while, or if a big freelance project comes up that slows my fiction writing. For my easily distracted brain, these lists are the only way to juggle multiple projects.