Tag Archive for: time management

The end of the year is a time for reflection. For writers, that reflection often includes taking assessment of how many things we published or finished, or maybe how much progress we made in a novel—or if you’re an industrious little tracker (like someone around here), how many words, hours, or pages you wrote over the year. Inevitably that reflection turns to the future and to setting writing goals.

Writing goals for the new year should be set on your previous goals, the progress you made, and what your priorities are now. Frequently I’ll look back on goals I made and realize I didn’t even remember setting those goals, which means I did nothing about them over the year. (And ultimately means they weren’t actually that important to me and I probably should have set different goals.)

Let’s talk about how to set better writing goals that support our long-term writing hopes and short-term realities.

Setting Realistic Writing Goals

Define Your Priorities & Reality

Before you start dreaming up writing goals, you need to decide what’s important to you. While that should include what’s important to you about your writing life, it should also consider everything else about your life.

If spending more time with your kids or learning how to knit has become an important part of your life, you need make time for it. Balance your writing goals against your other goals and priorities so everything fits together.

Your writing goals don’t always have to be about doing more. Sometimes making a writing goal to write for only 1 hour per week, or to write 100,000 words fewer than last year, or to write 1 novel instead of 3 is the right call. You’ll feel more successful when your goals match your reality, and you can check them off instead of continuing to shuffle them to next year.

Limit Your Goal List

One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past is trying to tackle too much at once. A list of writing goals that is ten items long has at least six things that will be forgotten or ignored. It’s too hard to focus when there are too many goals, and it’s too easy to forget what you’re not actively working on.

Three or four focused goals that meet your priorities and reality are more powerful than ten goals you wish you could achieve in a perfect world.

Subjective & Objective

Many writing goals are objective:

  • Did you finish your novel?
  • Did you write 200,000 words?
  • Did you write every day?

Those goals all have an easy yes or no answer, and you can check your progress throughout the year and have a good idea if you’ll achieve your goal. (For example, if you need to write 100,000 words in October to meet your word count, you can probably assume you’re not going to make it.)

While it’s good to have a goal you can measure, in a creative life it can be demoralizing if you realize you won’t reach your goals. When you know your goals are out of reach, it can be harder to make any progress toward them, which defeats the whole purpose of writing goals!

Instead of basing all your goals around objective metrics, include some goals with a subjective component. These goals might include something about craft development, your mindset toward writing, or how you feel about your work in progress. What’s something you want to change about your writing life or process? What’s a goal you can set to put you on the path to the change?

Writing Goals

Taking this advice, here are my four writing goals for 2024.

  1. Write 200,000 words.
    It’s me, you knew there would be a wholly objective word count goal.
  2. Complete a novel draft.
    The planning is complete, and the draft has started! If you want to follow this journey in detail, check out the Behind the Novel tier on Patreon. I’ll be talking all about my novel writing process (successes, frustrations, and failures) over the course of the year.
  3. Clear more mental space for writing.
    I’ve been working on getting my physical space more organized in an effort to declutter my mental space. I want a physical space that lets me drop my baggage and focus entirely on my work. While there are some objective elements to this goal, how much mental space is cleared is definitely a subjective assessment.
  4. FOCUS.
    If I do nothing else, I want to focus on what’s in front of me and not let other projects or ideas distract me—even if they’re really cool! (I do have some leniency for other projects that have been sitting on the burners, but the most time and focus over the year needs to be on the novel until it’s got a full draft!)

So, that’s what I’m working on next year. What are your writing goals for 2024?

 

 

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Saying you’re going to write a book is easy. So is deciding to write 250,000 words this year. It’s also easy to say you’re going to write 1,000 words every day or get a story published. Writers have no trouble setting goals—the difficult thing is taking actions that will actively support your writing goals.

I’m great at making goals and getting distracted. It’s not that I forget the goal I made—I’m just really good at finding other interesting projects that demanded my attention, time, and energy. In some ways it’s a form of procrastination. There could also be a little self-doubt or imposter syndrome worming their way in there if the goal I set feels bigger than what I think I can accomplish. Whatever the underlying cause of the distraction, I wind up working on things other than my intended goal.

So how do you support your writing goals instead of getting distracted?

Support Your Writing Goals

Keep Your Goal Centered

A sculpture of a hand supporting a tree that is growing lopsided, much in the way that you need to support your writing goals using whatever props you can.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

The first thing is to keep your goal centered within your writing practice. If you’re planning to write a book, set daily, weekly, or monthly targets to help you achieve that goal. Those targets can be the number of hours you work on the book, the number of words you write, or some other measurement of progress.

Give the book pride of place in your writing schedule. Devote the most time and energy to that book. If you have other writing obligations (most of us do), try to either work on your book first or devote more quality time to your book on another day.

Ignore Distracting Opportunities

Don’t take on other time- and energy-consuming projects that are unrelated to your goal. If your goal is to get a short story traditionally published in a magazine, don’t work on a novel. Devote your time and energy to reading and understanding and writing short fiction.

Becoming a slush reader for a magazine can help you with your research in that regard—it can give you an insight into what publishers are looking for in a short story within your genre. But agreeing to review novels won’t support your short story publishing goal. (And at some point, you might want to give up that slush reader job to focus on your own writing.)

Goals Take Time

Goals take time to achieve. Remember, it’s easy to list your goals, but it’s much harder to achieve them. Even the fastest novel drafters don’t show up to the page with an empty mind. They’ve spent time thinking about the story, if not writing down their planning.

Give yourself space to focus on your goal and work toward it a little at a time. If you have a deadline, set landmarks to help you get to your goal. If you don’t have a deadline, find other landmarks or ways to ensure you’re working toward your goal and making progress.

And progress does not mean 1,000 words a day, even if that’s your goal. Progress can mean writing 250 words per day for three months, and then upping that daily word count. Give yourself time to get there!

Adjust Your Behaviors or Responsibilities

If you’re able to, adjust your behaviors and responsibilities to align with your goal and focusing your time and energy on that goal. Instead of reading only fiction in your downtime, read books on novel writing or publishing. Instead of blogging those novel reviews, blog about short story reviews.

Or if you have a Patreon and are shifting your goal to writing a novel, maybe change one of your reward tiers to talk about the novel writing process. (Which is what I’ve just done—details at this link!)

If you have other writing responsibilities you normally perform, consider how they can work to support your writing goal, and then shift them so your goal is centered in your writing life.

 

Achieving your writing goals is possible, but first you have to support your writing goals! Look at the other things you do and ask, “how is this going to help me meet my goals?” Make sure you give yourself time and energy to devote to projects and tasks that will help you make progress. And while you’re doing all that—give yourself the grace to make a misstep and course correct. Adjusting your schedule, expectations, and focus is all part of the writing process!

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

July began with a desperate plea for help reprioritizing my life. Thankfully, my friend Jennie Jarvis stepped in to provide some structure to my internal flailing and give me a very simple method to prioritize my time and projects: does it make money or not?

I have a generous, but ultimately unhealthy habit of volunteering my time and energy in many unpaid ways. I love helping other writers—and some volunteer opportunities just sound like so much fun—so I’m not surprised I volunteer over and over and over. But when I’ve done that too often, or overlapped projects too much, I end up stretched thin, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Even though I’ve been working to say “yes” less and to only volunteer when I honestly have extra time and energy, I’m still spending more time on unpaid activities than on paid activities and badly bungling my time.

Which, uh, is a problem.

So, Jennie’s earth-shattering reprioritization system is as simple as categorizing projects as to whether or not I’m getting paid for my work, and then making sure I schedule my day to spend more time on paid projects than unpaid projects. Her strategy also allows for projects that are not currently making money but should in the future, such as developing websites, podcasts, workshops, and writer tools.

Writing time on personal projects (which would be projects unrelated to paid work) is kind of a third category, since all short stories, novels, and anything else we write for traditional publication is kind of a question mark as to whether or not (or when) it will sell. I’ve been regularly dedicating an hour and a half daily to writing, so I kept that time set aside (and still sneak in five-minute chunks here and there as time and ideas allow).

Honestly, this whole process is so easy to figure out I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself. (I mean, I do. It’s something about missing the forest for the trees.)

I’ve been using this new system to restructure my time and reprioritize my projects for the last month, and while I had some difficulty adjusting (and had to make some tweaks for real-world application), I’d say overall I feel more confident in my ability to keep up with my workload and more balanced in the choices I’m making. For someone who struggles so much with mental health, getting my schedule under control has been a HUGE help. So, thanks, Jennie!

If you are struggling with your projects, responsibilities, and how to prioritize your time, I recommend taking a look at your list to see if anything I’ve described here might help get your life under control.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.