One Easy Method for Reaching Your Freelance Writing Goals

What’s on the iPod: Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen (this is my favorite version)

It was great to have the Springsteen song (link above) show up on my iPod this morning. The UPenn FM station WXPN named it #1 in their list of All-time Greatest Songs. Agreed.

As the holiday speeds up on us, I’m spending today splitting time between a client project and getting packages wrapped and mailed. We have much to do, but packages must come first. Husband is on vacation starting today, though maybe I should remind him — he’s headed to work for a meeting. It doesn’t feel like work when you love your job.

Soon after Christmas our brains shift to the new year. What will our resolutions be? Anyone who knows me knows how much I can’t stand resolutions. They solve nothing. Personally, I think they make us feel worse about ourselves when we don’t achieve that loosely set, afterthought sort of goal.

So I’d like to propose something different.

I’m one to set goals regularly, be it a new year, a new month, a new week, or a new day. Every day is a fresh start, and it’s always the right time to build a plan. Like last year on – – I set a goal to read 20 books this year. I did. I chose 20 because it was manageable, but it was also enough of a challenge that I’d have to force myself to read some of the 2,500+ books we have (not kidding — I’ve put them on a spreadsheet as we kept buying the same ones).

Let’s apply that to our goals for the new year, shall we?

Every writer sees that fresh new calendar and thinks “This is the year things will be different.” Yet I’d bet that thought is followed by a list of things a mile long. Be honest with yourself — if you write down 24 things you want to accomplish next year, you’re going to have to accomplish two of them every month to keep up (or work on all 24 simultaneously). Every. Single. Month.

If you’re like most writers, your goals aren’t going to be ones that are easily met within a 30-day period. Increase client base by five clients, hit that $5K monthly earnings goal every month, learn SEO, build a website…. whatever is on that list is going to take time and concentration. And planning.

So here’s what you do:

  1. Write that list.
  2. Prioritize goals – those you think are essential go at the top.
  3. Choose four or five. Put the others aside.
  4. Create your plan around those four or five (including how you’ll track your progress and how you’ll remain accountable)
  5. Set monthly calendar reminders to check your progress.
Why this works: instead of chipping away at a huge list of things you can’t quite finish, you’ve narrowed it to essential things that are manageable. Your goals are within reach, not simply part of some abstract to-do list.
And you’re able to slow down and plan your approach. 
You might find after a few months that one or two of your goals aren’t right, that your aim is off or that the bar you’ve set it a little too high. Treat that day of discovery as your new year — go back to your list and revise it, maybe replacing those mismatched goals with some from your list of 24.

Writers, how do you set goals? What’s your process?
How do you handle the new year’s resolution? 
What steps have you taken that have resulted in achieving your goals?

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  • Joy Drohan December 18, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    It helps me to tell a bunch of people my goal, and ask them to ask me about it from time to time. When they do, I'll want to have made some progress I can tell them about.
    Your idea of a monthly business assessment seems to have taken root for me now in the 3rd month of doing it, because I find myself making notes on things I'm doing as I go, so I don't forget anything, rather than trying to recall everything at the end of the month.
    The webinar you did with Jake Poinier earlier this year got me reading more about business growth and meeting my personal and business goals. Several habits have clearly taken root from what I've read. So I owe a huge thank you to you and Jake (I'll email him too).

  • Lori Widmer December 18, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    Joy, I'm glad you're doing that! And I enjoy our email exchanges. You're really diligent about sending me your update every month — I love it! And you're just damn fun to talk to.

    Small changes make big differences, don't they?