Justine: Setting Goals for National Writing Conferences, Part 2

goals for writing conferences, justine covington, eight ladies writing, setting goals, SMART goals, S.M.A.R.T.In last week’s blog post, I outlined the major goals I want to achieve before July’s RWA Nationals in New York City. This week, I’m going to introduce a way to plan for and achieve that goal. (I know…last week, I said I’d have a detailed plan, but I thought it more important to show you how I was going to develop the plan…next week, I’ll show you the result.)

I thought it pretty timely that a few weeks ago, I learned about goal-setting at my most recent local chapter meeting, Desert Rose RWA. Deena Remiel, a teacher and workshop presenter, introduced us to S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Results-oriented or Relevant
  • T – Time-bound

The idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals has been around since 1981, when originally presented in a management magazine, and the acronym (and concept) has stuck around because it works.

I’m going to use my major goal as an example:

To complete Three Proposals in its entirety and submit it before Nationals to the agents/editors who requested it last year.

Now I’m going to break my goal down based on S.M.A.R.T. and see how it measures up.

Let’s start with “S” – Specific. “To complete Three Proposals in its entirety.” That means it’s done. Polished. Ready to go. It’s not a second draft. It’s not all done except copyediting. It’s done. I’d say that’s pretty specific.

“M” – Measurable. How can I measure my goal? Perhaps things like “Doing Margie Lawson’s EDITs System on all my chapters.” That’s one way. I’d also add in a completed copyedit job, and perhaps a final read-through with no further changes. I have to decide what the metrics are going to be to be able to say, “Finis!”

Attainable – “A.” Can I really get this done? Hmmm…this is where I have to think carefully about the amount of work that I have to do, setting mini-goals like little steps to the top of a mountain. Are there too many steps? Are some of them too big? Are some missing? There’s nothing more demoralizing than not achieving a goal, so setting one that’s unattainable is a recipe for failure…and something I want to avoid.

In my case, I have to consider things like spring break (when the kids are home and I don’t get much writing done), the normal “life” stuff that crops up during the week and derails me from writing, and other things like my husband’s travel schedule (I can usually get some more writing in during the evenings when he’s not home and if I’m not too tired). When I sit down to work out the details of my goal and the incremental steps involved to achieve it, will it really work, or will I have to reset expectations and/or change my goal?

“R” for Relevant…will I see at the end of the time period whether I’ve achieved my goal? Also, is what I’m doing relevant to achieving my goal? For example, if I’m focused on finishing this book, is taking a week-long class this spring on the anatomy of 19th century sailing vessels going to help me achieve my goal? Probably not. I’d make better use of my time to take the class later and finish the book now.

Deena showed us a graph that Stephen Covey created for his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

From Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"

From Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”

When something comes up, figure out where in the graph it falls and plan accordingly. If it’s not urgent and important, do it later.

Time-Bound – “T.” According to Deena, this is crucial if you want to be a multi-published author (which I do). I must make sure there’s an end in sight, stick to it, and reevaluate my goal if I miss it. Heck, before that! If life happens, I should be reevaluating my goal and making the necessary adjustments. Perhaps I push things out a week. Perhaps I only copyedit those chapters that haven’t already been copyedited. Perhaps some of the “stretch” items on my list of mini-goals get put off until later.

In my case, I want to achieve my goal before Nationals (actually, according to last week’s post, the end of May). That might be pie-in-the-sky thinking, but the only way I’ll know is to break down my big goal into much smaller ones and be realistic about whether I’ll be able to achieve them in the time that I have. If not, I’ll probably have to reset my major goal. Better to do that, though, then think I can push through something I probably cannot and fail.

Now that you know what S.M.A.R.T. goals are, you can use them to create specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented/relevant, and time-bound goals of your own.

Next week, I’ll have a detailed plan of my goal to finish Three Proposals by the end of May. Is my goal realistic? Will I be able to get it done? What about my other goals? Be sure to check back!

12 thoughts on “Justine: Setting Goals for National Writing Conferences, Part 2

  1. I think we probably all feel RWA pressing down on us. Best wishes for your SMART goals, Justine! Everything you want to do seems perfectly achievable. Especially if you can also follow Nora Roberts’s BITC (Butt in the Chair) guidelines!

    • Yes, I’m taking Nora’s guidelines very seriously. That’s where I am today. BITC! (I think we should add an H on to the end for full effect. Butt In The Chair, Honey! What do you think?)

  2. I think the thing I’m going to work on today is a menu. If we don’t eat, I feel like I’m a lousy mom and wife and daughter-in-law. And I’m also neglecting the part in me that likes to eat. If I can come up with a no-brainer menu in an hour, I will save at least 20 minutes everyday in thinking time alone.

    Today happens to be a holiday, so in theory, I can do that. I can spend an hour menu-planning, and an hour reading over my notes, and an hour actually writing. If I can have that safe place of a well-organized house to launch from, I think I can be a better writer.

    LOL, or maybe it’s all excuses.

    Still, babysteps, and maybe when those three hours have passed, I can spend some time thinking about what I want to accomplish with the rest of my February.

    • I have several friends who plan out their menu on the weekend for the whole next week, taking into account after school/work activities and such. Sometimes, they cook on the weekend and reheat meals during the week. But you’re right in that it’s a huge time-saver. My friend and I got in the habit of meeting once a month to cook together. Whatever we made, we split, bagged or packaged it up, and froze it until it was needed. I loved doing that, because aside from it being easy, I got to eat something DIFFERENT for a change!

      Having things running smoothly on the homefront is definitely a good way to ensure ample writing time. I wish you luck in your organizational ventures!

      • (-: Public announcement of goals is a good thing, too. I *did* finish my menu, I think I can repeat in for at least two weeks, and then I spent a couple of hours working on the masquerade ball in Madison Square Garden.

        And then suddenly my Mommy job caught up to me — had to go to town to get ingredients for Valentine’s Day cupcakes, and then the laundry, and then we made the cupcakes . . . .

        But still, I got something done (-:.

  3. I have one conference-related writing goal – I want to have Cam and Mary’s story finished, at least to polished draft stage, by July. That’s specific, measurable, achievable and time-dependent. I probably won’t break it down any further than that, though. I know what I have to do, and how to do it. The scold with a clipboard who lives inside my head will let me know how I’m progressing. She never sleeps, and she doesn’t seem to have an ‘off’ switch 🙂 .

  4. Pingback: Justine: Setting Goals for National Writing Conferences, Part 3 | Eight Ladies Writing

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