Part of me dreads this time of year: I feel that if I don’t make some sort of resolution or promise to myself that I’ll be better then I’m missing out. There’s another part of me that looks at January as a mental map is 7 spaces wide and 52 spaces long.
I step on the cracks of a grid before me. I wake and I’m on this side of the square, and before me, each square is cut into 24 sections, although only most of them are useable. I may shuffle, or leap, I may tiptoe or meander, but I have to go forward into each one, leaving a mark or not, making progress or not, frittering or fretting or not until I get past that little square and the next one begins. I think that as we cruise into 2020, we need to think wisely about our time here on earth.
This is where the SMART system is helpful.
The SMART system is a simple way to track any kind of goal to insure that it’s doable. What’s the point of making promises to ourselves if nothing will come of it?
Instead of vague resolutions, try asking these questions about your goals:
Are they Specific? This means you envision tasks that are easy to visualize. For example, In 2020, I want to write at least 12 poems and 6 short stories. I want to read at least 50 books. I want to write 365,000 new words (or more.) I want to investigate more teaching opportunities and submit my work for publication. These goals are way more specific than “read more, write more, send stuff out.” As you think about your goals for 2020, rewrite them into the most specific way possible, use numbers not just vague adjectives.
Are they Measurable? This means that it would be easy to tell if you made headway or not. If your goal is to be a nicer person, how would you know that you actually had become one — other than the fact that you didn’t slug the stockboy at your grocery store who was keeping you from your favorite lime and jalapeno corn chips. As you look at your goals for the year, ask yourself: how will I know if I have made this goal or not? For my goals, I have lists and spreadsheets to keep me accountable.
Are they Attainable? This may be the hardest part of goal setting: What are you really capable of? Does your reach exceed your grasp? To find the most attainable goal, you’ll need to know your strengths and weaknesses well. You’ll also need to admit where you’ve failed in the past. But this is the nice thing about goals and the New Year: It’s never too late to start over. Be honest with yourself and check that your goals are attainable.
Are they Realistic? It’s one thing to dream big, it’s quite another to understand what really could happen and adjust your dreams accordingly. It’s better to have a realistic goal you can make than break your heart later after reaching for the impossible. The biggest struggle I hear from writers is that they don’t have time to work on their projects. This is where I would suggest printing out a weekly schedule and filling in all the time that you spend working, eating, sleeping, etc. I am convinced that you can find 10-minute increments in which to write, maybe even several a day.
Are they Timely? What are the time constraints you’ve put on yourself for this goal? Is this goal something that you must do now, or would it better to wait for another time? Can you address the meeting of this goal on a regular basis throughout the course of a year? We only have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year to accomplish what we want. Analyze your time well and set your goals to fit your needs and commitments.
We have a new year and unless I’m SMART about it, my promises to myself are full of hot air. Don’t let flighty resolutions float through your minds at the fresh, breezy start of January only to settle, forgotten in the corners of your mind before that groundhog pokes his head out.
Be SMART and have a joyous 2020.