You’ve probably heard this acronym before: SMART. When applied to your book goals, the letters represent the characteristics of goals you will actually reach. They are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.
The more specific your goals are, the better. Whenever possible, answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how when defining your goals. Here are some examples of general writing goals made specific:
- Write every day. Specific: I’m going to write for 15 minutes every day.
- Write a chapter each week. Specific: I’m going to complete one chapter of at least 3,000 words every week for ten straight weeks.
- Spend the weekend writing my book. Specific: I’m going to get away for the weekend and write 5,000 words in my book each day for three days.
Now take some time to be specific with your writing goals. What are some specifics you can add to your current goals?
Your goals should also be measurable. If they’re not, it gives you one more reason to let the pattern of procrastination run. After all, if you’re not sure exactly when you’ve met your goal, you don’t really need to reach it, right? Is your goal to write fifteen minutes a day? Do you want to get 2,000 words on paper every day?
Instead of saying, “I want to work on my book three times this week,” make it more measurable like “I want to write three times this week and not stop until I’ve written 2,000 words each time.”
Actionable goals can be as simple as adding a verb (action word) to your goal. Think beyond the word, “write,” to other verbs. Some ideas could include (actionable words are in italics):
- Finish my rough draft in three months.
- Quit editing as I write.
- Research the gaps in Chapter 1.
Actionable goals contain an action—something you have to do or apply to reach your goal.
Keep your goals to what’s possible on planet Earth. If your goal is to fly with the eagles, make sure you have a hang glider, parachute, or something other than yourself. Don’t just jump off a cliff, flap your arms, and hope you’ll fly. Be smart. If your goal isn’t attainable, you’ll quickly give up.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the quote, “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” To me, that’s just a cop-out to feel better about not reaching your goal. Make your goal attainable, and you’ll land on that moon every single time. As you make and reach your attainable goals, your goals can grow larger.
Do you have a family demanding your constant attention, so you can’t find the time to write? Set a realistic goal of writing only ten minutes per day after your family is asleep or before they wake up, even if all you can write is one paragraph.
If you’re extremely busy (who isn’t?), your realistic writing goal may be a paragraph each day. It may simply be a sentence every day. Maybe you want to research one fact and input it where it belongs in your manuscript. Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s attainable in the time you allot to complete it.
Once you reach that goal, it’s easy to repeat because you know you can do it—you’ve already done it! Set realistic goals and increase those goals each time you consistently reach them, and before you know it, your book will be written!
For a goal to be reached, it needs a time limit. In late 2013, I set a goal to write and publish a new Kindle book each week. The time frame for those projects was one per week for a total of 18.
Knowing I would be finished the last week of December gave me a huge sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to keep that pace forever, which made it easier for me to pump out those e-books. Having the accountability of a requirement to complete my goal also helps me stick to it. Think of how you can set a timeframe to your attainable, realistic writing goal.
Obviously “life” can often get in the way of your goals. However, don’t fall into the common pattern of using life circumstances as excuses to not finish your book.
When I hurt my back really bad in 2004, I could have chosen to lie around and watch TV for the week it took to heal. Instead, I chose to spend that time writing and I wrote my first full-length book in that one week.
Choose wisely when you spend time writing and give yourself a deadline to have your book done. You should also set a time goal of when you’ll finish each chapter. For short Kindle books, your timeline can be 30 days or less. For lengthy books requiring a lot of research, that 30 days may apply to just one chapter.
The important thing is to set a timeframe for your goals. As Napoleon Hill wisely stated, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Quit simply dreaming and set a time for when your first rough draft will be done.
Setting a goal and taking the action necessary to achieve it are two completely different things. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goals method to set and then take action to reach your achievable goals time and time again, and gain the confidence to get your book done!
This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.