Monday, January 26, 2015

Setting Stretch Goals and Achievable Goals

It's been awhile since I posted. Life got in the way quickly toward the end of 2014. My father entered the hospital with pneumonia the day after my last post. He died on December 10th with his family surrounding him. In the past month, I have allowed time to process all of that--both emotionally and physically as I and my family went about the business of living life with loss and all the legal followup that must be done. This not only put me behind at the end of the year, but also put me behind already in 2015.  However, that is the nature of life--to provide changes in a path that forces you to stop, reconsider, review, and find a new path.

I usually spend the week between Christmas and New Year's taking stock of what has happened in the previous year and making new goals for the coming year.  I didn't really get to that process until about a week ago.  Some of my goals are similar to what they were last year. Others are a little different.

My word count goal has diminished from last year. This year it is 400,000. Last year it was 500,000 and I didn't make it. I only did a little over 300,000. It wasn't just the death that stopped me from making my goal. I actually started slipping toward the end of August. But, like many people, I was convinced I could make it up. It really meant two books and a couple short stories for that last 200K. Then there wasn't time.

One might ask, why go for 400K when you've already proven you can't do it.  First, I always set "stretch" goals. Those are goals that I know with good focus I can achieve, but also know that if something big happens in my life I'll miss them. I ALWAYS dream big. My goals are hard enough that I need to believe in the big reward to keep myself going. Of course, then the key is not being horridly depressed if the big reward isn't quite what I thought. However,  I can learn from failure too. I can readjust my dream if it proves completely unrealistic. On the other hand, I've had big dreams throughout my life and if I hadn't had them I would have settled for much, much less. I would have settled for never going to college because the truth is there wasn't money to do it. I would have settled for never seeing beyond our national borders because it is very easy for me to cocoon in my own little space and surround myself with all those things that are familiar and safe. I would have NEVER been a writer or published because I learned early in life that a steady, consistent paycheck was the only way I could survive. 

Dreams are important. But they don't happen without incremental goals to get there. And then taking action to meet those goals. If I fall down on any one of those steps--dreaming big, setting goals and a timline, and then consistently taking action--I would not have accomplished most of what I have in my life

So why 400K words when last year a barely got over 300K? First, last year I had some darn good excuses in life rolls for not making my word count. However, I also know there was a good amount of wasted time that I can wrangle into something more this year.  Also, I'm dropping the number from 500K of last year to 400K in order to accommodate some things in my life that are not word count related. Honestly, 400K is 8,000 words per week for 50 weeks. That leaves me two weeks of vacation time. That is only 1,600 words per day for five days a week. For me that is 6-1/2 double-spaced pages of writing each day. My posts on this blog average 1,000 words. Really, very doable. No excuses.

By choosing 400K instead of 500K, I'm allowing myself time for editing, plotting, admin stuff around my writing career and running two businesses that relate to my career--Windtree Press and Indie Author Prep. It also allows me to do my volunteer work which takes about 10 hours per week on average.

Outside of writing a have three other goals that are "must haves" for me to keep a balanced life. I didn't do so well on these either last year. But this year I am putting solid intention behind them instead of leaving it to when I happen to think about it. These non-writing goals are:

Walk every day -- It's hard to believe but I can very easily not leave the house for days on end. I can be glued to my computer and the walking I do is limited to going up and down the stairs in my house. Believe me, long term that is NOT good for me.  To make it more likely I will do this, I haven't even put a goal of how far I have to walk. I just have to physically leave the house and stay out there walking for AT LEAST 10 minutes.  If it is raining, I put on my raincoat and at least get up to the mailbox and back. I know it sounds small, but for me this is a huge deal. I actually LOVE to walk. But tearing myself away from my computer to do it is very difficult.

Spend time on something else three days out of every month --Take a minimum of three days (24 hours) out of every month where I do no writing work. Instead I spend time with my husband, my friends, doing something other than my work. Last year I did some of this when I collaborated with my husband on music and lyrics for a couple of original songs. It was both challenging and freeing. Most important it really made me happy. I also do try to connect with friends and family regularly. But I need to set aside time for this--not just let it happen when I'm procrastinating doing work and am already stressed, or doing it because I feel guilty for having ignored them for a month. It must be intentional!

Take a "vacation" once every quarter -- I don't necessarily mean the go-away-for-weeks-on-end type of vacation. Though that will be a goal in a future year, right now that isn't in the budget time- or finance-wise. What I mean is to take a vacation with my husband from all the "must do's" in our lives. It might be just one day that we spend hiking or just sightseeing. It might be two days that we go somewhere and spend the night and disconnect from electronics and those things that keep us constantly at attention.  We did do this a couple times last year, but again it was more of a last minute thing instead of being planned. I am focusing on intentionality with this.

Something I knew intellectually, but hadn't taken into my heart, is that I HAVE to make time to reconnect, renew, and remember that I am sooooo very fortunate to have the people in my life that I do. They all love me. They all put up with me, and rarely ask things of me. I need to be more present with them. Doing that will provide balance and I will be renewed. Whenever I do it I am so thankful.

What goals do you have? How do you find balance?