Thursday, December 29, 2005

The First "Goal" Post

As the year draws to a close, and another looms before me, unsullied, full of purpose, and loaded with hours that have not yet been frittered away, I find myself thinking of all the things I want to accomplish in the next twelve months.

In Geoff's book, he spends an entire chapter discussing the importance of planning and making goals. I agree with his rationale. If you don't have a goal, how will you know if you've ever reached it? Furthermore, if you don't have something to strive for, keeping your focus and your motivation becomes increasingly difficult.

In the teleseminar course I am currently taking, communications & marketing guru Alex Mandossian also talks about the importance of goals. He uses himself and his level of income as an example. He talks about once having a goal of making his annual income (then about $60K) into his quarterly income. When he did that, he made a new goal of making that his monthly... and then his weekly income. He also discusses the steps he took to make that goal a reality.

I've been spending some time drawing up a list of goals in the hopes of keeping myself on track (and not overloading). So it seemed timely and appropriate to discuss goal-setting with regards to the specifics of the writer's and rider's life, in addition to the larger goals of having a productive year in general.

To begin with, goals must be achievable. In his book, Geoff talks about a rider's goal of riding in the Olympics. Though it may not be terribly realistic, he says, there is nothing wrong with dreaming big IF you have access to certain attibutes that make achieving your goal at least possible. For instance, a talented 12 year old with supportive parents stands a chance of making the Olympic team if he or she works very hard for about 20 or 30 years.

However, Geoff cautions, beware of making goals that only set you up for failure. If you are in your 40's and just learning to ride, the reality of your situation is that riding to Olympic gold is just not in your future. Unrealistic goals can actually detract from the enjoyment you derive from your endeavors.

In addition to achievability, a goal must be within your power. Setting a goal that is dependent on someone else for success is an exercise in futility.

For instance, a screenwriter with a goal of "Winning the Nicholl" in a given year is probably destined for disappointment. The same goes for a writer with a goal of "getting published by Penguin Books," or even "selling my novel." These sorts of goals, while possible, can only be achieved at the whim of someone else -- namely, the Nicholl judges, a Penguin editor, and a sympathetic publisher.

A more suitable goal is one in which you control the outcome. If you want to do well in screenplay contests, your goals might include "complete a comprehensive edit and polish of my most competitive screenplay and enter it in 5 reputable contests." That you can do. And if you don't meet such a goal, you are the only one to blame.

Any goals you set must be measurable. After all, you have to be able to know if you've reached them, or not. Because of that, "write a little bit every day," or "increase name recognition" are not great goals. How much is a little bit? How will you know if you are becoming known in your field?

Come up with a way to quantify your goals. Be as specific as possible. You might try:

* Write for 30 uninterrupted minutes every day.
* Write 1200 words a day.
* Finish a rough draft of a screenplay in three months. (That's only 2 to 3 pages a day, with time off for weekends.)
* Finish all note-taking and information gathering for a non-fiction book project in two months.
* Increase website hits by 10%.
* Improve website ranking on major search engines to land in the top 20 sites for targeted keywords.

You get the idea. Find a way to know beyond the shadow of a doubt whether or not you have achieved your goals.

Tune in Tuesday for more talk about goal-setting, with some specific tips from the masters on how to set yourself up for success.