How to: Make achievable goals and beat overwhelm

I’ll start off by saying I had some help with this post (more on that below).

I wrapped up December with a jumbled, barely-coherent list of goals and objectives for my writing. It became so scrambled, it looked like one of those mind maps but with everything spewed onto the page instead of neatly organized and connected. FYI, that’s standard for my brain.

To give you an idea, I have SoMES, which I’m currently midway through a final line edit, one sequel (WoS) at 40k words, one early prequel (CoM) which has around 20k, and another prequel that has 40k. I’m in a different place with each and had different ideas of what I wanted to do with them in 2019. 

One of my 2019 goals was to create a better writing routine to balance with other commitments in my life. I knew to center it around goals, but it overwhelmed me just to think about how I could approach them. 

I didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t start at all. Week 1 of 2019 is nearly over and I’ve spent my little free time allowing it all to sink in.

By coincidence, someone I met in an online writer’s groups posted a link to a free, 7-day online course (it’s a daily email for 7 days with different info and objectives and tasks) with a blog called Well-Storied.

Still firmly bogged down in overwhelm limbo, I decided it couldn’t hurt to give it a go. After all, what was one more writing-related aspiration/task to add to the burning trash heap that was my mind? With family visiting for the holidays, a small, bite-size email each day might just work between the usual drama.

Well, it helped. A lot. So much so that I’m going to explain what I did to turn my jumbled mind map into a set of specific, achievable objectives along a realistic timeline. This isn’t all directly from the course, but the course got me thinking along the lines I needed to in order to sort myself out.

Now, I assume those who are not novices like me will know all this already. But if you’re struggling to get to grips with writer’s overwhelm, read on. And if you’d like to try the course for yourself, the link is here (I’m not, like, affiliated or friends with the blogger- it doesn’t cost anything, I just did it and liked it).

The key is to start with big, specific goals for the year. I know it sounds simple, but I didn’t really know how many goals I had, which ones were big vs small, which were part of larger goals or duplicates, and which were *achievable* and not ‘dreams.’ The difference between goals and dreams is an important one to acknowledge. 

Still with only a vague idea of what my ‘big’ goals were, I learned the importance of breaking these goals down into a series of smaller objectives that could be spread across the year and ticked off as I reached them. Like a check point in a video game, you get to the part in a level where it saves and you can pick up from that starting line if things go south.

So, with this in mind, I made a short list of ‘big’ 2019 goals for each of my manuscripts. When I finished the MS-specific ones, I scanned my jumbled brain to see if anything else remained that might be a category of its own (ie posting on here once a week, or researching marketing). As an example, these were some of my goals:

  • SoMES: finish line edits and hire editor by March 2019
  • SoMES, WoS: have MS ready for editor by end of 2019
  • SoMES, CoM: have MS ready for betas by end of 2019

Three are listed above but I had five in total. They’re short, clear, and entirely within my control, unlike goals like ‘find an agent’ or ‘sell to a publisher.’ It’s not that I have anything against such goals, but I’m going for things that can be realistically achieved by me on my own. Therefore they can’t rely on outside approval or intervention to be met. 

After making these ‘big’ goals, I looked at each one individually and charted their ideal progress throughout the year, monthly or quarterly depending on how clear the original goal was. Therefore each one developed into a timeline, allowing me to set specific objectives for each month to stay on track. Again, as an example, I took my goal for WoS above and broke it down to see what I’d need to do monthly in order to achieve that goal:

  • SoMES, WoS: add 15k words monthly from January to May, in May give draft 1 to alpha readers for feedback, revise over June-August, send widely to betas at end of August, then work on edits from September to December.

You can break that down into weekly goals but I find some weeks are busier for me than others so it’s better to stick with monthly objectives that I work towards when I have time.

In short, after sitting down to sort out my big goals and then breaking them down into a timeline, I felt more organized and less concerned about what I wanted to achieve. I’ve still got a lot to do, but now I know what I’m doing and aware of the benchmarks I’ve set myself. If this helps another new writer, I’m glad!

2 thoughts on “How to: Make achievable goals and beat overwhelm

    1. Thanks! Yeah it was good, and I planned my monthly checklists for each ‘big’ goal which will make it easier to track what I need to do each month to stay on track. Happy to chat through my method in more detail if you want.

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