You make goals for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether they’re for a week, a month, or the year. You’ve made them and you’re determined to see them through.
Terrific! Now what?
Well, if your life is anything like mine, those goals hang like giant water balloons, just waiting for the pin-prick of inattention to drown you. Aspiration doesn’t get a job done. Goals don’t get the job done either.
Only hard work completes the project and sets it up for success.
I should be talking, right? My past year has been one of broken goals and drowned intentions. Life has a way of doing that to a person.
One reason why I don’t let this truth doesn’t get me down is that stubbornness painted a large stripe down my spine at birth. Being a realist has advantages. It may lead to more pessimism at times, but it also allows for idealism to blossom among the weeds.
February’s writing/revision challenge was a success. All the revision goals were completed and then some on Dreamie’s Box. A few new twists were added along the way, and the overall story was strengthened by the group experience of the write-in.
Now, I’ve got to deal with those twists. A new character addition always makes for changes. The hint of a new, previously unplanned murder can shift many scenes and relationships, not to mention all those tiny continuity issues that must be tracked down. In all, pleasure has come with the new work. Everything will be completed soon and ready for the copywriter and then the shopping experience.
On the sidelines for a long time has been the coursework that keeps giving me jabs from the bench. I actually have two courses, a year-long workshop, and a short, do-anytime workshop which clutter my calendar. I also have three separate projects for these courses. I’ve decided to get sneaking about those projects, too.
March promises to be the beginning of a long push. For those who’ve witnessed my recent burn-out, don’t begin the lecture. I’ve got things set up so that I only work on courses/projects for one to two hours a day, five days a week. The life lesson was learned well. After looking at what I wanted to accomplish and how many days a week I was willing to work, a workable/doable schedule was created.
It can be argued that goals are like nuts or jewelry. You can’t set just one goal. One nutmeat never satisfies the stomach or the taste buds. They’re always taken in multiples.
And like jewelry, one goal is never right for every occasion or event. A goal to write an article for The New Yorker can’t be reused on a fantasy short story for Tor Books. They just aren’t the same. You need more than one gem.
Therein lies some of the pressure put on us by our goals. We focus our attention and intention to get something written for a specific purpose—say a competition, magazine, publisher, etc.—and work toward those intents. If something gets in our way, frustration ensues. If we get balked due to over-scheduling, we take it out on ourselves, as if it were a crime.
That’s where real mistakes are made. The more we allow self-punishment, the worse the situation becomes. The solution, though, is very simple—even for an over-achiever like me.
Schedule half as much work or less each day as you’d really like to get done. Do everything on the schedule that day. When you get to the end of your scheduled work day, reward yourself with something you really enjoy.
The reward can be anything from social media time to reading a book you put aside three months ago and didn’t get back to. Or, perhaps you’d like to take an afternoon for lunch with friends and a bit of window shopping. Then again, maybe you’d like to take a long nap. The specific reward isn’t as important as the gifting to yourself.
That’s been my biggest lesson in the past months. I don’t guilt myself anymore about not getting something done “on time.” The only deadlines I have at the moment are ones for competitions and open calls for submissions. I’m concentrating on those and my studies.
Everything else is gravy.
So, tell me, are your goals dictating your work, your time, and your emotions? Or, have you developed a plan to sidestep the pitfalls and sail through to whatever port you choose with fair skies and calm seas? Let me know in a comment.