Okay, so if you want to make something happen, you’ve got to have a plan. Right?
And what does a plan need? Goals. It’s often said that people grossly under estimate what they can achieve in five years, but grossly over estimate what they can achieve in, say, a week. So let’s pick something simple – a year. It’s the beginning of the year still (well, just), so what would you like to achieve by the end of 2009 (I don’t know when you’re reading this, obviously, but if you’re half-way through a year, or even three quarters or whatever, don’t let that put you off. Still put some goals down for the end of the year).
If you’re struggling, you might like to work backwards from a longer time-frame. What would you like to have achieved after five years have passed? What would you have had to have done in the next three years to achieve that? Two years? One year? There’s your goals.
Now, let’s do a quick check. Are your goals:
1) specific enough. If you want to be well on the way to completing your novel, what does ‘well on the way’ mean? A certain percentage? 20 chapters?
2) realistic and achievable in that timeframe? Be honest. If in the back of your mind you know you can’t possibly come from nothing to be a worldwide bestselling novelist in a year, don’t write it down! Don’t give yourself the excuse you need to quit before you’ve even started!
Now, break it down (MC Hammer style). You know how many months you have to get this done. So what will you have to achieve each month to meet each goal? Do whatever is easiest in order to break the year down. Maybe you don’t know what you would have to do each month, but looking at any goal for the year, you should be able to decide where you want to be half way through the year. Then break it down further from there.
Got it? Good. So you’ve got goals, and you know whereabouts you should be at the end of each month on each of those goals. So let’s focus on the remaining weeks of the month. What are you going to do each week to make sure that you achieve your goals for this month? Can you see a pattern?
Now don’t worry if your first set of tasks looks a little flimsy – better that than they are simply unachievable, and you can reasonably expect that the first month might be filled with preparation for the months to follow (planning, sketching out ideas, research).
Of course, this might seem a bit OTT for some people. I’ve met a few people this comes naturally to, and they can even do it in their heads. Coupled with an ambitious drive, these are the people who seem well ahead of the rest of us, and get further, quicker. I am not one of those people – I have to write things down. This does several things for me:
- forces me to think about my goals in a logical matter of fact manner
- gets stuff out of my head that would otherwise be cluttering it up
- gives me a much needed framework.
I find that by the time I’ve finished writing something down, it already feels much more real to me – like it could actually happen.
This is not the whole story of course, but it is a start. And if you’ve never done it before, you may find this simple act to be more progress than you made last year!
Has this helped you? Do you plan already, and if so, do you have a different way of doing it? Let everyone know below.