by Christine Hennebury
When some people decide to undertake a project, they automatically adjust their lives and expectations to match the project’s needs. They intuitively understand how much time their work will take, and they add it into their work days.
For the rest of us, we have to consciously choose to make those adjustments in order to get our work done.
I used to really struggle with reaching my writing goals. I could lay it all out on paper, even in a SMART goal fashion, but no matter how specific I got, I still didn’t do the work. Over time, I realized that while I had concrete and detailed goals, I was not making room in my life to do the work I wanted to do. I was setting up a feasible plan but I wasn’t doing the preliminary work to weave it into the existing rhythm of my days.
Learning to weave new habits and tasks into my life required me to consider some very basic things about how I work.
I’ve outlined some questions below to help you do the same thing.
(Note: For some people, these questions are an automatic part of the SMART goal process. They never were for me, so I thought I’d share in case you have the same issue.)
1) How much can you ACTUALLY write in a specific amount of time?
If your goal is to write 500 words per day, it’s a good idea to know how long that will take. If you don’t know how long it takes you to produce your daily goal, it is impossible to know how much time to schedule. Time yourself for several writing sessions and get an average. Sometimes it will take you longer and sometimes you’ll need less time, but at least you will have a good estimate.
2) How much time can you ACTUALLY dedicate to writing daily or weekly?
If it takes you 30 minutes to write 500 words but you only have 10 minutes per day, you are setting yourself up for frustration. It would be less disappointing for you to identify the time that you have and then set your word count.
This really helps for the ‘realistic’ aspect of a SMART goal. If you consistently set your targets within your time limits, you will regularly reach your goals. That’s how you build momentum!
3) When can you write?
For some people the Timely aspect of a SMART goal includes a specific time of day. For example, they might say ‘I will write for 10 minutes at 9PM.’ However, if your goal hasn’t led you to pick a specific time, you might want to consider it.
Look at your schedule and see where there are possibilities. Maybe you can write on your phone for a few minutes once you arrive in the parking lot at your day job. Or perhaps your child watches a specific program every day and you can write during that. Right before bedtime might be your best choice. It doesn’t matter WHEN you choose, as long as it is a time that works for you.
You might not even choose the same time every day but it is a good idea to know when you intend to write on a specific day. For me, for example, I often write just before supper. However, on Tuesdays and and Thursdays, I have Taekwondo so that time is filled. Because I know that in advance, I write at 9am on those days.
4) When will you re-evaluate?
The approach you develop at the beginning of your project will likely change over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to schedule regular times to re-evaluate your goals, your systems and your work habits.
As you work, you may find that you have more or less time than you realized. Or, you may start to get more words written during your allotted time. Or certain sections may be more difficult to write than others and take more time.
It is completely natural for there to be a difference between your perceived accomplishments and the reality. That is not a sign of failure, it’s just more information. You can use that information to set more realistic goals for your next phase.
It doesn’t matter if you re-evaluate weekly, monthly or at specific project milestones. You just need to find a schedule that works for you.
5) What gets in your way?
We can’t possibly plan for everything that gets in our way but most of us know a few things that derail us. It is a good idea to make a back-up plan to get around those things.
For example, I know that when my sons are home sick from school, the change in routine throws me off. So, I have actually written down a list of ways to still get my writing in on those days.
Similarly, I know that if I feel that a project is VERY important, I get too focused on the result. When that happens, I find it hard to write because it seems like I won’t be able to do a good job. Because that happens to me a few times a year, I made a plan to get past that mental block. I have a list of actions to consult and I have asked a couple of friends to let me know when they notice that I am spinning my wheels about a project.
You can do the same thing for yourself. Perhaps you need a flow chart so that if you meet certain obstacles you can choose a different path?
By the way, some days, you are just going to want to take a break. You will know if you need a break or if you are just resisting getting down to work. Choose your actions accordingly.
6) What will keep you going?
For some people, the goal itself is enough to keep them on track. The rest of us may need specific things to keep us going when we get distracted, dispirited or disappointed.
Perhaps you need a vision board? Or you may find a reward system useful? Maybe having an accountability partner would work for you?
No matter what you choose, the key is to have something to turn to when you need a little energy boost to keep going.
Informed Answers = Useful Systems = Projects Finished
If you consider questions like the ones I have outlined above, you will give yourself excellent information to create workable systems. When your systems match your current life circumstances, you will be able to work consistently. Working consistently moves your projects closer and closer to that finish line.
Have fun with your writing!
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com or visit her on Facebook .