Set smart goals
I learned from Lisa Sonora Beam’s great book The Creative Entrepreneur that all goals should be SMART.
Smart stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound! It does sound smart, doesn’t it?
But to be honest with you I often hesitate to set goals like that, goals that has a set number or a fixed deadline, mostly because I am afraid of failing. If I promise myself that I absolutely will write every day – and then I don’t, I feel extremely unhappy. And who likes to be a disappointment to yourself?
Previously I have avoided this feeling by setting silly goals like: I will write more each day, as in “more than I usually write” (which is nothing). This is not a smart goal. It is not measurable, nor is it specific, time-bound or very useful. The question is if it is even achievable? In a goal like that there is not focus on what to write or when or how. So even when I write a long post for my blog I will not be satisfied by that, because I don’t count that as true creative writing which is my larger goal (like a book project). And even when I do write something, like an article or essay, I can’t say for sure that that is more than usual either. In this way I can’t really feel successful even when I do write “more”.
When is any time?
I have noticed that my list of loose goals for the whole year is not very time-bound or specific in terms of when things will happen, or how. Most of my goals could happen when-ever-I-have-the-time, any time. Things that could happen any time don’t seem very important. “Any time” seldom happens in my life!
Though I did set a few specific goals that I wanted to happen in February, and those are the ones that have been most on my mind even though I failed to accomplish most them on time. Still I can and will follow through on these promises to myself in March instead. Better later than never or “any time”-later, right?
Maybe March is a good time to look through the list of goals again and set a few more deadlines, at last a few “before summer” could be tossed in there as a test, maybe, I guess (if I am courageous enough).
It is impossible to fail when you don’t have a deadline… Well, not until you’re dying because then you will finally know it’s too late for all those things that you’ve procrastinated throughout your life! Personally I ♥ deadlines, and preach their importance. I’ve asked for them lately, from others because that makes my time management easier and life less stressful. But deadlines are also scary. They are also extremely difficult to set for yourself, as is that quantity goal or a set number or a specific amount etc. Scary!
But you know what, that set number can actually make your life much easier! It reduces the feeling of not knowing when to do what, what to prioritize and when you accomplish your goal it gives you a huge feeling of success. I’ve noticed this because I did set a few numbers in my goal list for this year (not in the online post of goals but in my personal list of goals, printed for the planner).
Pet Owl, original art collage by iHanna, January 2011, now for sale at etsy.
Let’s compare two of my goals for this year; “write more” and “create ten new collages each month”. The first one I’ve talked about already we all agree it sucks. It’s not smart at all, it’s just lame. I am not one bit closer to achieving “writing more” than the last time I set this as my big goal. I like the second goal a whole lot better even though I’ve already failed it twice in these past two months, a total failure rate of 100 % one might think. But “create ten new collages each month” is still a smart goal, and one that I really like the look of. It is very specific as I know the size of these collages, how to do it, where and why, etc. It’s also measurable (10 pieces of art), achievable, extremely relevant to me and also, mostly by pure chance when I wrote that goal, time-bound (one month at a time)! So when each month ends I know if I’ve failed or succeeded with this goal, and I am really loving that!
Just pick a number already
In January I only created two collages but the only reason I created them at all was because it was on my list of goals! I actually created “Growing Up” and “Pet Owl” on the last day of the month, and when I did that felt like a success! If you look at it in another way; 20 % art is better than 0 %, right? Math is not my thing, but I think that’s about right. In February I created just a few more, still not ten, but at least something that is aligning with my bigger goal of developing as an artist, diving into collage and enjoying my favorite art form. That is big, don’t you think?
I recommend you to pick a number, any number, for one of your goals and try it for a while. The number ten seemed good to me, I will revise it when I’ve tried it for a few more months. It might be too many with ten finished collages (it’s quite a bit of work plus extra work of scanning etc), maybe five is a better goal but we’ll see. For starters any number will do as a measuring point.
A Good Writing goal
I recently finished reading Chris Guillebeau’s book The Art of Non-Conformity where he, among a lot of other things, writes about his own writing habits while traveling the world. I am not very interested in his way of living, but some of his ideas are interesting for sure. His daily goal for writing is 1000 words, no matter what. I am impressed by such a goal (and the following accomplishment!) as you can imagine, and I am guessing the best way for me to both get some writing done and to get a well needed feeling of success would be to set a number, a quantity goal!
While listening to an episode of the podcast I should be writing yesterday I was (again!) pondering what my number should be when it comes to writing… Gail writes 2000 words each day for example. Just listening to this round-table-talk I get inspired to write, so I will have to listen to ISBW more often, it’s been a while since I listened regularly (it used to be a favorite a few yeas ago). More about setting writing goals in a future post for another time I guess. Okay? I can’t continue this post any longer… But in the meantime…
What’s your take on all this? Do you set deadlines and/or quantity goal for your own project?
(BTW: this post is, without headlines, 1150 words, all written today).