Category Archives: Goal setting

Progress Report April 2013

April’s been a pretty exciting month for me. I got a job writing, editing and promoting blog posts for DJiZM Disc Jockey Services and I’m thrilled to be working with them. I’m also working on becoming a paid contributor to a large Canadian music blog, but I can’t reveal too much about that yet.

I’m still behind on my personal goals, but I did make more progress in April than I did in March, so let’s take a look:

April progress

Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I ended up only editing four chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian this month instead of six, but I am making progress. I’ve now created a concrete plan to make more time for writing, both personal and professional, and I’m hoping to actually do six chapters in May.

Write twelve guest posts– depending on what you mean by ‘guest posts’, I might have made a lot of progress this month. I had three posts published on the DJiZM blog published in April and I’ve got more scheduled in May. This isn’t a blog for my target market, so it’s of limited value in terms of bringing me readers, but it’s certainly looking good on my LinkedIn profile, so I consider this a success. This would put me at seven posts for the year, which is pretty awesome. I do still need to get into more blogs aimed at my target market.

May plans

As you can see, while I originally set myself up with several goals for the year, I’ve only been making progress on one or two of them each month. Since the seasons have changed and it’s warm outside, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my goals and make a plan for May involving as many as possible.

Here’s the plan, goal by goal:

Query 12 Articles– I’ve decided that this exact goal is going to be scrapped. Instead, I’m going to alter this goal to ‘Make at least $5, 000 from my writing and writing-related activities. I’ve already made over a hundred dollars through my writing this year, and not only am I working for DJiZM and negotiating with one other company, I’ve also gotten ideas for articles I’d like to query to different magazines because of these jobs. This may seem like a big goal, and as someone who’s only ever made a couple hundred dollars here and there, it is, but I still think it’s totally achievable.

My income goal for May? $650. That’s a little bit less than I need to make each month to reach my goal for the year, but I’m planning to do a lot more writing work this summer.

Launch 10 Commandments– this project has been put on hold, but really all it needs is an intro, some exercises, and a conclusion. I’m probably going to be working on that a lot this month.

Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to hold off on this project as I’m having difficulty choosing how I’m going to run it and I’ve got a lot going on right now. I might come back to it this year, but for now it’s off the table.

Create Dear Diary Workbook– I’d really love to get this done this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time, seeing as how behind I am on my edits for Moonshadow’s Guardian. Still, I’d like to get it close to done, so my goal is to write at least one page of this book every month until the end of the year.

Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known– This will get started as soon as I’ve finished editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, which seems like it will be an eternity. I’ll probably end up working on this during the summer.

Write one new novel– this is for November, but this month I’d like to figure out what the basic premise of my story will be. I might end up using November to do a full rewrite of the second half of/sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. I don’t know yet.

This month I’ll be buckling down on my time. No more distracted procrastination for me. I’ve already started carving out more time for myself, but by the end of this month, I’d like to make sure I’m spending at least one hour every day on one of these goals.

What are you doing to reach your goals this May? How did you do in April?

Making The Sacrifice

For the last couple of months we’ve been talking a lot about disturbances in your writing, from writer’s block to family to repetitive strain injury. It’s important to develop strategies for dealing with each of these obstacles, but in the end it all boils down to one thing: making sacrifices.

Today we are blessed that we can do just about anything we want with our time. We have literally millions of options. We can read or watch anything almost instantly with the internet. We can communicate instantly. We can also do everything that came before the internet: go for a bike ride, travel, garden, socialize at the local pub.

With so many options, everyone’s always busy. We fill up our time without thinking about it and forget to leave time for ourselves. We forget to make time for our craft. We get caught up in everything else the world has to offer and we forget the most important things.

It’s fun to party all the time or to spend all your time after work lounging in front of the TV. Even better, it’s easy. But if you want to turn this writing thing into your career someday, you have to make sacrifices. You have to turn the TV off. You have to close your browser. You have to say no to that party or at least go home early.

Making these sacrifices is hard at first, but it gets easier all the time, and without making the sacrifices, you’ll never become a career writer. If you can’t make the sacrifices, maybe this business isn’t for you. Perhaps writing is just an emotional outlet for you or a hobby. That’s fine. Just remember not to treat it like a hobby when you’re trying to turn it into a career.

To be good at anything, you need to practice. To practice, you need time. To create time, you need to make sacrifices. So make a commitment to your writing and make the sacrifice. You’ll know it’s worth it when you have that first publishing contract.

Rules for Productivity

I mentioned last week that I realized I was over committed. The truth is, I’ve known it for a while, but I denied it. I wanted to be super woman, to be able to manage eighteen projects at once while still in school and even working. Unfortunately, I’m not super woman, and I reached a point where I couldn’t deny it anymore.

So I decided to create a plan. But it didn’t turn out to be like any other plan. Instead, it’s a list of rules. Some of it is taking my own advice from my series on finishing projects. I know how to finish a project. I’ve written over a dozen novels. Yes, editing is always slower work for me, but that’s no excuse for the pace I’ve been working at. My new rules govern how I spend my time, ensuring that I’ll have time for my important projects. Perhaps you could adopt one or two yourself.

My new rules

1. I will not work more than three days a week. This is at my part time job handing out flyers. As much as the money’s nice, I don’t need to pay rent right now, so there are much more important things than money. Also, considering that I don’t pay rent, I’ll still make a decent amount of money by working three days a week.

2. I will take breaks from Dianna’s Writing Den. I love blogging here at Dianna’s Writing Den, but it’s a huge commitment to post three times a week. From now on, I won’t be posting on holidays, and I’ll be taking one week off every month. The first of these breaks will be April 22nd-26th. Each post I don’t write is an hour spent on a different project, and right now I need all of those hours. I’m hoping this will allow me to not only put more hours into other projects but to bring you better content during the other three weeks of the month.

3. I will refuse any unpaid commitment requiring more than two hours of my time. Two hours is about the time it takes me to outline and write a guest post. I already have several unpaid long term commitments, and frankly, I need to guard my time carefully. I also need to focus on profits, so anything more than the smallest unpaid commitment is off the table.

4. I will not spend more than an hour on email on week nights. I get a lot of email. It’s actually ridiculous. Every day I get a few dozen awesome articles or blog posts in the mail along with essential correspondences. Making sure I don’t go over this limit means making sure I have time to work on other projects before bed. Playing catch up on the weekends isn’t a big deal either. Most of those emails can wait.

5. I will make progress on one of my main goals every day. This doesn’t have to be a lot of progress. I’m often exhausted when I get home, and I have to make sure that I’m awake on time for school. The important thing right now isn’t how much progress I make each day, but that I make progress each day. Even if I only edit one page of my book or write an outline for a guest post, that’s still a step in the right direction. If I take one step each day, sooner or later I’ll reach my goals.

These rules are designed to help me complete the projects that are important to me. They fit with the busy life I’m leading right now, and most are good advice at any point in a writer’s life. Once I’ve finished writing this post, I’ll be printing up this list and putting it somewhere prominent in my house. In a place where I’ll see it every day.

If you’ve been struggling to complete your projects due to a ‘lack of time’, perhaps you need to adopt some of these rules yourself. You’ll be amazed at how much a simple set of rules like this can change things–every minute counts, and a few hours of extra time a month can make a big difference.

Do you have rules around your productivity/writing/time?

Staying Focused

For the last few weeks we’ve been discussing how to deal with various disturbances in your writing. We’ve discussed family interruptions, technological interruptions, school/work interruptions and even writer’s block.

Today we’re going to discuss one of the most important things any writer can do, especially when working on a book length project: staying focused.

For most people, staying focused–especially for the amount of time required to complete a novel–is no easy feat. In a world that’s all about instant gratification, it’s hard to keep your focus and to stick with a project that might provide no gratification at all. But as writers, that’s what we have to do. If you don’t want to hunker down and get focused on a project that admittedly might never make you a dime or see the light of day, go do something else.

So how do you stay focused? I use a simple three step process, and while it’s not perfect, it keeps me on track most of the time.

1. Figure out your focus. Choose a project to work on and commit to finishing it by a certain date. Be specific. Is this going to be a novel-length project or a series of poems? Often a lack of focus is a symptom of being too vague about your goals. As any motivational writer will tell you, it’s much easier to stay focused on a specific, measurable goal. So be as specific as you can when choosing what you’re going to focus on in the coming months.

2. Make a plan. Now that you know what project you’d like to focus on, make a plan to complete it. Take a look at the deadline you’ve specified and how long you want your project to be. How many days between now and then do you have? How much would you have to work on the project each day to finish it by the deadline? Is it a reasonable amount of work? If not, you might have to adjust your deadline.

Make sure that you include all kinds of work in your estimate. If it’s a first draft, writing might be the only thing you need to do, but on the second draft you might have to write some new scenes as well as edit the old ones. If it’s an ebook you plan on self publishing or a website you plan on launching, you’ll probably want to do some advance marketing.

Give yourself a reasonable deadline based on how much work you can be expected to do each day, then start planning your time. Are you going to spend an hour a day editing your novel? Or are you going to spend one day editing and the next marketing? Decide how to organize your time and write down your plan.

3. Eliminate distractions. This is actually what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, and it is perhaps the most important thing. Now that you’ve carved out time to work on your project and figured out how to use that time, it’s your job to defend that time. This part involves saying no to people and creating strategies to deal with the distractions you’re most susceptible to.

The easiest way to do this is by scheduling time to work on your chosen project each day and making sure nothing interferes with that plan. Make it a habit to write at the same time every day. That way it’ll become routine and soon you won’t have to think about it, you’ll just write at that time each day.

Conclusion

This may seem like an over simplification and maybe it is, but I think keeping the focus to finish a project depends entirely on these three things. In fact, I argue it could even be simplified to two things: make a plan and stick with it. It’s a simple concept in theory that becomes incredibly complex when you try to implement it, but if you follow those two rules–no matter what it takes–sooner or later you’ll have a finished project.

And that will be worth all those hours of hard work, right?

Progress Report March 2013

Today it’s time for me to be accountable, to share my progress with all of you.

March has certainly been more productive than February was, but I’m not satisfied with my progress on most of my goals, and I’ve realized that I’m severely over committed. Falling behind on your projects is one thing. Staying behind on them is another, and it usually means one of two things: either you’re over committed, or you’re not really dedicated to the goals you claim to have.

I’ve realized that I’m suffering from the former problem and I’m currently working on a plan to address that, which includes some changes here at Dianna’s Writing Den. But that’s a conversation for next week. Today I’m going to show you why I need to kill some of my commitments by sharing my progress–and what progress I’d like to make in April.

Here goes nothing:

Finish editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I edited about three chapters and added one chapter. It’s slow going right now because there are several scenes that need to be added near the beginning, but I’m making headway and I’ve put in more time on this during March. In April I’d like to edit at least six chapters, but I’m really aiming for ten. This means a bigger time commitment, but frankly, I need to finish this damn thing.

Write 12 Guest Posts– This goal I actually made some progress on, with one guest post published at Girl Seeks Place. I also made plans for a second guest post which I’ll be writing today. Once it goes live I’ll be at three guest posts for the year, so I’m doing pretty well on this one. I’ve got a list of other potential blogs and a few people I need to follow up with. With any luck, I’ll be able to pull ahead this month by getting another two guest posts.

My Confession:

At the beginning of the year, I set several goals for myself. In the last month, I’ve only put serious effort into two of them. One of them is intended for much later in the year–writing a novel during Nanowrimo–but the others have accidentally fallen by the wayside.

This month my main goal is to reorganize my life to make time for the goals I’ve set for myself. Those goals are focused on what will build the foundations for my writing career. Since my time is limited by school and working outside the home, I need to focus on making sure my time at home is spent on activities that will build my career.

In previous years I spent a lot of time making goals, but I didn’t spend much time evaluating how I progressed each month. This year I’ve started analyzing where my time goes more carefully. Now that I’ve figured out the patterns, it’s time to create a concrete plan of action. It’s time to decide what stays, and what goes.

It’s always important to analyze where our time is spent and to make sure the majority of our activities contribute to our long term success and happiness. Next week I’ll be unveiling my plans, knowing that if I fail it will essentially be in front of all of you, hoping that I’ll inspire you to create a similar plan to increase time spent working towards your writing goals.

With any luck, we’ll all be able to say April was a productive month.

How much progress did you make towards your goals in March?

Progress Report

I kind of got derailed last week with asking questions but this week I’d like to get back to accountability. Since we’re talking all about achievement, let’s go over how I did in the short month of February.

Edit Moonshadow’s Guardian– Thanks to getting a job and starting a new after school program this month–with the promise of two more by the end of March–I’ve been super exhausted, but I’ve got a proper plan of attack and I don’t have school next week, so I expect there to be a lot of progress this month. I’m really frustrated that it hasn’t gotten done yet, but it’s a project that’s not going to bring me any income any time soon even if I hurry, so it’s less of a priority.

Launch 10 Commandments–- I wrote up an intro and conclusion to this, and then realized it’s part of a bigger book. So I’ve created an outline for the book and I’m building around what I already have.

I didn’t make any notable progress on my other goals for the year so I’m choosing not to list them at all this month. Unfortunately I’m only one person and I can only split myself in so many directions at once, so I’m focusing on these two projects and blog maintenance.

This month I’ve made some big commitments to things that have nothing to do with writing, but which will help me grow as a person. I made these commitments because I know that writing can’t be my only focus. I’m graduating this June and moving out soon after that. Having a small but steady paycheck will ease my mind about money, and working part time in the summer will allow me to work on my writing full time. It’s important to note that this job–and the other programs I’m starting, two of which end in June–won’t be impeding my writing in a few months. In a few months I’ll have all the time I need to write during the day.

So this month’s report on a writing scale is mildly disappointing, but amazing things are shifting in other areas of my life and I’m still confident that I can complete everything on my list for this year–and probably a few things that didn’t make it onto my list.

How much progress did you make towards your goals in February?

Disturbances in Your Writing

Last Friday I asked you guys three questions, and one of them was about what you struggle with most in your writing. Several of you said that your biggest challenge is actually finishing projects, so I’ve decided to tackle this problem. Today I’ve compiled a master list of all the things that have ever prevented me from finishing a writing project, and over the next few weeks I’m going to discuss in detail how to overcome these obstacles, dealing with one or two obstacles per week.

If you have some obstacles that aren’t on the list, feel free to mention them in the comments and I’ll see if I can help you with those, too.

But first, take a look and see if your biggest obstacle made my list:

Interrupting family.

Ringing phones/messenger programs.

The internet.

School/work.

Writer’s block.

Urge to jump to a new project.

Illness/repetitive strain injury.

These are all the things that have ever slowed me down. When you’re not used to them and you’re just getting started, it’s easy to let these things stop you from finishing a project. But with the right strategies you can overcome all of these obstacles so they barely even slow you down. I’ll be delving into those strategies in detail over the next few weeks, and if you implement the strategies I suggest I guarantee you’ll have a long-term(think novel) project finished within the next two months.

Is there anything stopping you from finishing your projects that didn’t make the list? Post it in the comments below and I’ll make sure to tackle it in the coming weeks.

January Progress

This year my main goal is to build the foundation for a writing career and to help you do the same. With this in mind, I’ve decided to share my progress on the goals I set for this year at the end of each month. I’d love to hear about your own progress in the comments below. Remember, we’re all on this path together. Not only is it important to help each other figure things out, but it’s important to celebrate our successes as a community.

I’m going to start by addressing each of my goals in order.

Finish Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I kind of hit a snag with this where I thought I’d printed the whole thing, but when I reached the end of my printed manuscript, it wasn’t the end of the book. So I got frustrated and worked on other stuff for a while, but now I’ve printed the rest of it and started working at it again.

Write Twelve Guest Posts– I have a whole bunch of ideas, a list of blogs to pitch, and a first draft for one of these blogs. I’ll be editing and submitting my first guest post next week, and with any luck you’ll be hearing about its publication soon.

Query 12 Articles– I’ve been having a lot of trouble developing specific article ideas to the point where I’m comfortable querying them, so I’m already behind. But I’m going to work hard to catch up over the next week or so.

Launch 10 Commandments– I’ve typed this whole thing up now, so all I need to do is lengthen it a bit and then add some writing exercises and it’ll be finished. It’ll still be a bit before it’s formatted and ready for sale, but I’m proud of my progress on this.

Create Dear Diary Workbook– I haven’t really started working on this yet, but I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to look like.

Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known– Since I’m behind on editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, I haven’t started editing this yet, but I’m hoping to get started early next month.

Write One New Novel– This one’s special for November, so I haven’t started it yet.

Analysis of Progress

I was a little bit less focused this month than I should have been, and I’ve been doing poorly with the planner I decided to try for the year, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this month. I also did some other work, including editing and submitting a short story that I hadn’t touched in a while.

My main concern in the month ahead is adjusting to the new planner. I’m hoping that I can teach myself to stick with the plan in order to increase my productivity. I’ve never been someone who likes rigid routine, but if I am to succeed in this business, I need to put the hours in and I need some sort of routine. I need to practice staying at my computer even when it’s much more tempting to go somewhere.

Right now spontaneity is the biggest thing standing in my way. My goal is to balance the routine and the spontaneity so that I don’t feel stifled but I get the most work possible done.

What progress have you made on your goals? What is your plan for the month ahead?

Creating a New Routine

For most people, the holidays are a busy time of year. They may not be working, but they often have several family commitments and other things going on during the holidays. I doubt many people can honestly say they got much done this holiday season–at least not in terms of work. I certainly can’t.

But the holidays are over now and it’s time to get back to work. For most, this means getting back into a routine, but why not do one better? Why not start a new routine in the new year? Right now is the perfect time to adjust your routine to something more comfortable–or more challenging, if that’s what you need–for you. You already have to prepare yourself mentally to get back into full work mode, so why not prepare yourself to make some major changes in your life?

Creating a new routine is hard but often it’s exactly what we need to move on to the next level of our life. Most people are afraid of change, but the thing is, change is what allows us to move forward. Change is what brings us closer to our dreams, and it starts with us.

This year, I’m restructuring my life to create a new routine. I’m pulling back from the world and focusing on me. I was more focused last year than in the years before, but this year I’m determined to take my focus to a whole new level. I’m trying a new system with a daily planner I downloaded and printed out. It’s structured by the hour which is usually not something I’m comfortable with, but it’s been a long time since I tried to schedule my work that way so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Here’s the thing, though: creating a routine is easy, sticking to one is hard. It’s easy to get derailed by friends and family who always want to see you when you should be working. It’s easy to get distracted by a million things on the internet or by a beautiful day. I’m particularly bad at it, but I’ve learned some things that have helped me stick mostly to a regular work schedule, and I thought I’d share them with you in the hopes that they’ll help keep you on track too.

1. Write it down. Make sure your commitment to the new routine is written down somewhere. You don’t have to write anything official like a letter or a blog post, but make sure the information is written down somewhere where you’re likely to see it often. This way, you have a constant reminder of the new routine or habit you’re trying to get into.

2. Inform those closest to you. Hopefully, telling the people closest to you what you’re planning to change about your life in the new year will inspire them to hold you accountable. Even if all they do is avoid contacting you during the time you’ve allotted to your new commitment–say two hours of writing time a day–that’s still a wonderful support. And if the people closest to you don’t support you when you tell them you want to change your routine and try to create a better one, well then perhaps you need some new people in your life.

3. Reward yourself. Just like with Nanowrimo, you should reward yourself for establishing a new routine. Every week that you manage to stick with your new routine, you should reward yourself. The routine I’m trying to adjust to is putting down all my goals for the day ahead in a proper planner every day and accomplishing those goals. Every week that I manage to stick to the schedule and get all my work done, I’m going to put a gold star in my planner. Choose a reward for yourself–try for something that won’t give you diabetes–and treat yourself for managing to implement a new routine. It’s a lot harder than it seems at first.

Those are just a few things that I’ve found really helped me stick with my routine. I could go on for days about the different methods I use to get and keep myself on track, but really, I’d rather hear from you now–how do you stick with a new routine or habit?

Writing Goals 2013

In the last month I’ve been talking a lot about goals. So have thousands of other people–so many that you might even be sick of hearing about it.

Well, for those of you who are sick with new years resolution talk, I’m sorry, but please bear with me. Today I’d like to share my writing goals for the next year with you both so that I can be held accountable to what I’m doing over the next year and so that you can see why I chose each goal and get an idea how to structure your own list of writing goals for the year.

Goals 2013

Finish editing Moonshadow’s Guardian–This has been on my list forever. It’s been shunted aside due to injury, Nanowrimo and post-Nanowrimo burnout, but I’m back on track now and I’ll probably finish this in January. This goal is here because I absolutely have to get it done. I’m passionate about this project and I’m already most of the way through this goal, so I should be able to cross this one off early, too.

Write 12 Guest Posts–I’ve done some guest posts in the last couple of years and they’ve all been well received. I’ve also gotten good traffic here from doing these, so my goal for next year is to make sure I write at least one guest post per month. It’s a good way to get more traffic and to build a reputation, bringing me not only relationships with new readers but also with the blog owners themselves. Twelve is one per month and it seems like a reasonable goal to me even with everything else that’s on my plate.

Query 12 Articles–This goal is all about getting myself into the freelance marketplace. It’s about making sure that I always have at least one thing being looked at by an editor. It’s also at the one per month scale, meaning that while it is a commitment, it shouldn’t interfere with my other work. Oh, and just a note–it says query twelve articles rather than publish twelve articles because unless I’m self publishing, I have to depend on editors liking my work to publish. Thus, publishing twelve articles wouldn’t be such a good goal because I wouldn’t be able to do it all on my own.

Launch 10 Commandments–The 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer–no, it isn’t religious–is an ebook that I’ve already done most of the writing for. I’m hoping to have this ready in March. It’s going to be a flimsy freebie used mostly to test how many people would be interested in ebooks I produce and also to help me get comfortable with the ebook creation process.

Launch an Email Newsletter–I’m already pretty familiar with the technology used to run one of these, and I’ve always wanted to have one. My biggest issue has been figuring out what the format would be. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do with this now. I’m aiming to launch it with the 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer ebook.

Create Dear Diary Workbook–I’ve always wanted to turn the Dear Diary Workshop I’ve run on this blog in the past into an ebook that people can work with on their own time. I’ve already got a solid outline for this and an intro, so I don’t think it will take too long to get it up and running. By the end of the year is totally reasonable. I’m hoping to sell this as it’s very dear to my heart and I think it’s a great tool for writers. This should help me further build credibility and hopefully make some money.

Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known–This is my Nanovel from last year, 2011, that’s in pretty awful shape. I do quite love the story though, so I’m probably going to start an entirely new draft of this next year. I do someday hope to turn this into a publishable novel, and I didn’t have time to this year with all my other projects. But I’m going to be doing a serious restructuring this year so I have more time to write, giving myself time to finish more than I did last year.

Write One New Novel–Every year I participate in Nanowrimo and this year will be no different. I have no idea what I’m going to write in November. All I know is that I insist on participating and that writing a new novel is never a bad thing–even if it’ll be a couple years before I get the chance to edit it.

These are all my goals for the year. Each one is designed to contribute to my writing career in some way, and this list has a good mix of editing, non-fiction and fiction projects. I’ve also kept it relatively small–at least in comparison to some of the lists I’ve had in past years–to leave room for new things that come up. I’ve already got some ideas of what else will come up in the new year, but I’m trying not to overload myself with official goals this year so there’s room for new things and so I actually feel accomplished at the end of the year.

What are your goals for the new year? How did you choose them?