Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year. Instead of making an unrealistic resolution for the next year, apply the SMART methodology and set your goals with the intent of actually reaching them.
I don’t remember the first time I heard about SMART goals, but from the first time I used the methodology, it worked. Applying it to my writing goals was equally successful, and it’s something I do every year.
SMART goals are simply this: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Let me give you an example from my 2014 writing goals.
“By December 31st, I will have submitted no less than twenty stories to markets worldwide and will notch my first professionally paid sale.”
Using my goal as an example, here’s how I apply the methodology simply by asking and answering the following questions:
Is my goal Specific? Yes. I clearly defined what the goal was with a specific number of stories to submit and one professional sale.
Is my goal Measurable? Yes. I had a yardstick of twenty submittals to measure my progress against throughout the year, as well as the one professional sale.
Is my goal Attainable? Yes. Caution – attainability is highly subjective. Did I think my goal was attainable? Yes. I’ve submitted more than twenty stories in a year before, but a professionally paid short fiction sale eluded me. I felt I was ready to do so, and therefore the goal was attainable.
Is my goal Realistic? Again, this is a subjective goal but I felt I could submit the number of stories. Was it realistic to believe I was ready for a professional sale? To me, yes. I’ve been writing professionally for five years and I felt it was time. Could I have been wrong? Sure, but it was a realistic goal. Saying I would submit fifty times and make ten professional sales would have been unrealistic.
Finally, is my goal Timely? Yes, I put a date on it. Having that mark on the wall helped me stay focused on short fiction sales while I worked my day job, raised my kids, was a supportive husband, and sold a debut novel. The date is not a measurement. It’s an accountability tool and without it, I may not have been able to reach my goal. To date, I’ve submitted stories to contests and markets twenty-one times this year. I’ve had three sales, and one of them was a professionally qualifying sale.
Using the SMART methodology allows me to set and manage goals by making myself accountable to the specific requirements of the goal and forcing me to look realistically at where I am as a writer not where I think I should be. When I apply SMART to what I want my goals to be, I can stop thinking about the “what if” possibilities and focus on what I know that I can do. The rest will take care of itself.
Stay away from resolutions that will fade as January passes. Set SMART goals and make the most out of 2015.
Kevin Ikenberry writes after his kids go to bed. His day jobs for the last twenty years have revolved around space, so it’s no surprise he writes primarily science fiction. Kevin’s debut novel will be published by Red Adept Publishing in late 2015. You can find him online at www.kevinikenberry.com or on Twitter @TheWriterIke