Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goals-Schmoals: Here's What You Really Need

How many of us have read or heard that we should set goals? *raising my hand right along with you*

I’m here today to prove that long-term goals may be helpful, but they won’t get done without a detailed plan.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot going on in my life. My husband enjoys a home-cooked meal once in a while. I’m trying to raise two young children, one of which personifies the word “energy”. I strive to spend time in the Bible once a day (preferably for more than two minutes). I’m back in a workout routine with five one-hour fitness classes per week. I try to keep my house from looking like a sty. Oh, and let’s not forget that I like to actually do my hair and put on make-up once in a while.

Um, did I mention I’m also trying to write a book and keep up with social media?

*cough* Right.

I hit a wall earlier this year with my writing. I’ve usually been a self-motivated person who can set a self-imposed deadline and stick to it to finish a manuscript. This time? Not so much.

This time, I made all sorts of long-term goals. “I’ll finish the first draft by the start of the summer.” “I’ll get it polished before the ACFW conference.”

But did those things happen? Um, no. Granted, I had some unusual circumstances like my sister’s heart transplant that took first priority. But even after that crisis was over, I still didn’t move.

I was floundering from day to day, trying to do lots of things, but not really doing any of them. Tired of walking aimlessly, I returned to an old standby of mine: The to-do list.

My to-do list doesn’t just encompass writing. It includes everything I need to get done—housework, errands, phone calls to make, and word count goals. Here’s a sample day:

Zumba class @ 9am
Clean downstairs bath
1,000 words
Line up babysitter for Saturday
Online time

Did you notice how those 1,000 words were neatly tucked in there? This sample is exactly what it looked like scribbled out on my calendar. Those 1,000 words were just as much a part of my to-do list as the laundry and fitness class.

By outlining everything, I have the ability to see my day at a glance and pace myself so most or all of these things are done before my husband comes home from work. Then my evening is freed up for family time. Obviously certain days have a mind of their own and don’t go as planned. In that case, the lowest priority items get bumped to another day.

The key is to take a long-term goal (i.e., writing a novel) and chunk it into smaller segments. Then put it on your daily to-do list and get ‘er done!

Are you a list maker? What goals do you need to chunk into smaller segments? Any tips for the rest of us to "get 'er done"? :)

*Target photo by Danilo Rizzuti /
**Checklist photo by digitalart /


Anonymous said...

I've made long term goals alot and end up failing many times. But I think you hit the nail on the head in saying the short term goals are the key. You have to have a plan. A detailed plan.

Now...I've got to go make my to-do list! :)

Jacqueline Howett said...

Usually the things on my to-do-list, at some point get done. That's the magic in writing things down. Funny how I don't include an approx word count to this same list of chores, and what I eat, etc., If I'm writing, nothing much else gets done, except a walk and to eat. Thanks for the tip to add this most important item as I write the date on my morning notes.

Happy magical word count to you- for today!

Pepper said...

Wow, Sarah
Great 'list' and post.
boy, those long term goals can feel SOOOOO heavy sometimes, esepecially when you view them through the lense of your 'everyday'.

Short term works much better for me and I like lists, but often forget them (ugh)
Strategic planning is necessary (with a whole lot of grace & forgiveness sprinkled in)
In the morning, I try to think through my day and plan out when I might have time to write. Places I haven't thought of before. Sometimes, those plans work out - but other times (because of work, fam, church, etc), they don't.

I think goals are vital. If you don't have something to attain your likely not to meet it :-)
I NEED the focus, because I'm really good at getting distracted ;-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sarah, you sound so much like me! Got to fit in the exercise, got to fit in writing, got to fit in the family and cooking, etc, etc.

I make lists like crazy. I have a weekly to do list, daily chores, a daily writing log with the amount of words I need to write, and weekly networking (blogging, etc.) goals. I love those lists because I make progress and I can see the progress. Busy, busy! :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Yep, Sherrinda, Details are a pain sometimes, but they force us to stick to it. Good luck with your list! :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

You're so right, Jacqueline...Just writing something down makes it more tangible.

Thanks for stopping by today! :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh goodness, Pepper, What mother DOESN'T get distracted? :) A little time invested in writing out that list really does save time in the long run, doesn't it?

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh wow, Cindy, You are the list queen! Maybe you can do a future post abut all your lists! I'll be taking notes, for sure. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great blog, Sarah! So true. We have to break it down for ourselves. Otherwise it's too overwhelming and doesn't get done.
Just an itty bitty suggestion, but you should put the author's pic on the blog so we get a visual of who's posting. :-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Thanks, Melanie! And funny you mentioned the picture thing...That thought JUST crossed my mind today. Great minds... :)

Jennifer K. Hale said...

My darling Sarah--we are living parallel lives, but I think we already knew that! :)

To do lists really help me. I don't always get to cross things off, but when I do, it feels so nice!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh yes, Jenny, I knew you and I were living parallel lives the minute I met you. :) And uncrossed to-do items are no biggie...I just shift them to the next day, as long as the next day isn't already overwhelmed with other stuff, lol.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I love to do lists. Don't think I could get out of bed without it. :) AND I can be a bossy taskmaster for myself...sometimes too bossy.

Beth K. Vogt said...

I'm more of a short-term goal maker--those are the ones I write down. I keep the long-term goals in my head.
Google calendar works for me. It helps me keep the "must dos" on tracks -- so long as I remember to put 'em on the calendar!

Sarah Forgrave said...

LOL, Mary, I'm picturing a to-do item next to your bedside that says, "Get out of bed". Check. Ahhh, I love starting the day with one thing accomplished already! :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

I'm with you, Beth. I tend to keep long-term goals in the back of my mind, but I don't write them down. I've used Google calendar on occasion but not in depth. I may have to look into that.

Pepper said...

Okay Sarah,
I like that idea that Mary inspired. One thing accomplished right from the bed!
Count me in.
1. Get out of bed (check)
2. Stumble to the bathroom (check)
3. Wash face (check)

Oh wow, I'm feeling empowered now! ;-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

lol, Pepper. They say crossing things off a to-do list gives a boost to our endorphins. Why not start the day off right? :)