Let’s face it - New Year’s Resolutions just don’t work.
According to Forbes, one survey found the average resolution lasts 3.74 months. That’s not going to get it done.
Sure, you may make some progress in those months. But, by the time the next New Year comes around, it’s back to square one.
Let’s make “SMARTer” New Year’s Resolutions that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. To illustrate how we can change a “Resolution” to a “SMART” goal, let’s use “writing” as our example topic.
What are SMART Goals?
Turning "I want to write more" into a SMART goal involves adding Specifics, Measurability, Achievability, Relevance, and a Time frame.
Here's how to turn this vague desire into an actionable goal.
Decide what "write more" means. Define and visualize what this achievement looks like. Be as detailed as possible in your description.
Here are some examples of how you can turn “write more” into a specific goal:
- Write a weekly blog post of 1,000 words
- Complete a 50,000-word draft of a novel
- Journal 1 page upon waking first thing in the morning
- Attend a writing workshop or join a writing group
- Respond to a journaling prompt every day.
You may have to make changes to your original vision of this goal based on the M-A-R-T parts of this goal-setting process. It’s OK. Stay flexible and open-minded as you move through the process and you’ll clarify a goal that is well-tailored to your ability to achieve it.
Ensure you can track your progress to hold your progress accountable. By being specific about your goals, you can easily determine if you are hitting your mark or not.
Here’s how you could track the completion of your goals from the above examples:
- Use the “word count” feature on your word-processing program to check if you’ve hit your 1,000-word goal.
- Create a habit tracker to mark off the completion of your daily journaling goal.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes (or 10 min. 5 min, etc) for journaling in the morning.
- Set a reminder on your phone to check in with your writing group or post in a community forum on your daily progress.
- Fill in each page of your journal with the day’s writing or prompt responses.
Measuring your progress holds you accountable for taking steps toward your goal. Seeing the progress visually is also inspiring and self-reinforcing your habit. Seeing an unbroken streak of daily writing can be motivating and satisfying.
Our appetite for achievement can be far bigger than our capacity to achieve. If all you wrote last year was your name on credit card receipts, completing a 50,000-word novel might be too ambitious to start. Scaling your goals to an achievable level takes into account your current skills, schedule, and resources.
Don’t confuse this with, “I should lower my expectations because I lack certain capabilities.” Making your goal achievable ensures that it is within the realm of possibility. This step asks the important question, “How will I achieve this?”
Here are some potential stumbling blocks for the writing goal examples we listed above:
- Do you already have a blog or do you need to start one? Do you know how to start one?
- Does your schedule allow for the investment in time to write the 50,000-word novel? If not, could you move things around to free up time?
- Do you have a consistent morning schedule to wake up each day and journal?
- Do you have access to a writing group to join or would you have to find one that meets regularly?
- How will you remind yourself to respond to a writing prompt each day?
If “Specific” is the “WHAT” and “Achievable” is the “HOW,” then “Relevant” is the “WHY” of SMART goal setting. Connecting your goal with deeper values and aspirations will help when motivation and enthusiasm wanes.
- Why do you want to share your writing on a blog? Are you looking to grow an audience or make money with ads and sponsorships?
- Why do you want to write a novel? Do you want to publish it or share it with close friends and family?
- Why do you want to write morning pages? Are you looking to clear your mind and set your intentions for the day?
- Why do you want to join a writing workshop? Are you looking to improve the craft of writing or help hold yourself accountable while you work on a project?
- Why do you respond to writing prompts? Do you want to be more creative and push yourself outside of your comfort zone?
As Canadian tech entrepreneur Robert Herjavec says, “A goal without a deadline is just a wish.” Now is the time to stop saying, “Someday, maybe” and put a time limit on this goal. This is why 30-day challenges (like 30 inks 30 days) tend to be so effective at getting people to put their pens on paper. The time constraint gives a sense of urgency. The goal has a definite conclusion instead of an open-ended one.
Here’s how you can manage the scope of your goal by imposing a deadline:
- Each weekly blog post has to be published on the website by 11:59 pm on Sundays
- The first draft of the novel will be finished by March 31st.
- I will finish my morning journaling by 6:45 am each morning and do this for 3 weeks.
- I will attend every meeting of the writing group for the duration of the session.
- I will respond to every daily writing prompt by 11:59 pm that day for the next 2 months.
Putting it all together
After taking your “I will write more in 2024” resolution and putting it through the SMART goal process, you should have a clear objective with a definitive plan to set in motion.
So, your SMART goal could be: "I will write and publish one blog post every week for the next three months to improve my writing skills and build an audience."
Or, it could be: “I will complete a 50,000-word first draft of a novel by March 31st because I have a strong desire to share my story with the world and will self-publish it by the end of the year.
What are your SMART writing goals for 2024? I’d love to read your goals via e-mail or in our Discord group.