Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions, Dreams, and Goals

It's hard to believe that not only is another year coming to a close, it's actually the end of a decade. People all over are going to be taking stock of what they've accomplished, what they didn't accomplish, and what they're going to try to do in 2011.

And, usually, by the end of January, all those good intentions have gone by the wayside. I gave up making resolutions long ago (although I occasionally make them for the Hubster—less chance of me breaking them that way). What I've learned, is that if you want to see success, you have to narrow your focus.

These don't work: I resolve to be a best-selling author. I resolve to make $100,000 selling my e-books.

Or what about some less lofty ones? I resolve to have 5000 friends on Facebook. I resolve to have 350 followers to my blog. I resolve to have 500 people 'like' this blog. I resolve to be part of the blogroll of 100 other bloggers. I resolve to increase the number of hits on my website by 10% a month.

Dreams are wonderful. But that's what most resolutions are. Dreams. Dreams are things you'd love to have, but they're also things over which you have no control.

The first group is made up of dreams – there's nothing much I can do about them because they depend on other people.

The second group is more goal-oriented. There are things I CAN do to help me achieve them—if they were actually my goals.

Goals have to be measurable. I learned that way back in college when I was getting my teacher certification. The course was "Behavioral Objectives" and we learned to set ways to measure whether we were getting through to our students. We could set a goal that at least 90% of our students would score at least 80% or better on an exam. This was a measurable outcome. If they didn't, we'd have to go back and figure out why. And, frankly, the usual answer would be "because I didn't teach the material effectively", NOT, "the students were lazy slackers."

Another thing I learned was that you had to take small steps. You had to figure out what skills were required for a student to answer a question on that exam correctly, and then work on practicing those skills. (Not teaching to the test—teaching skills.)

How do you turn those dreams into goals? Break them down into things you can do in small increments, and that you can measure. Being a best-selling author isn't measurable. But writing a good book is—and you have to break that down as well.

Write X words/pages a day/week until you finish the book. That's something you can track. So you take that lofty goal, break it into small pieces, and then figure out what you can do to achieve each piece.

Making $100,000 selling my e-books? A dream if I ever saw one! But as an exercise, how to break it down? Figure out how many books I'd have to sell at what price. Write more books. Market those books. Then break that down. "Market" is vague. What can I actually do? These have to be measurable. Offer sales. Samples. Advertise on X number of sites per month. Do 25 blog guest spots. And even then, it's ultimately not me, it's the buyers, who are responsible for my attaining that goal.

As for the second category—If I was serious about it, I might decide to offer incentives to people who clicked my like button, or followed my Tweets. Frankly, although I'd love to see those 350 blog followers, they're meaningless if the only reason they're following the blog is because they might win a book. Or I could give every follower a free bookmark. But would these followers be helping me in my writing career? Some yes, but I'm of the mindset that it's quality that matters. People who are actually reading, and then telling others about me, my books, my blog. Not those who clicked a button because I promised them a treat. Which is why I'm not setting those as goals. Because a goal has to mean something at the end of the day, and wonderful as it is to see 500 people liking my blog, begging them to do so isn't likely to bring me the people who care about what I'm doing.

(And if any of you have clicked through the tabs on this blog, or gone to my website, you'll know that if you want a bookmark, all you have to do is email me with your address!—And of course, I won't object if you click the "like" button or follow, or tweet, or send all your friends my way.)

Wishing everyone a great 2011. May your goals be measurable and attainable!


Wynter said...

I've seen many authors offer incentives for "friending" them or following them. But you are right - why have those followers and friends if they only sign on for a prize? Have a wonderful new year!

Terry Odell said...

Wynter - I suppose there are some valid reasons for having huge numbers, but nothing compels me to use the 'bribery' approach.
And a happy new year to you, too.

Nickie Asher said...

Good post!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Nickie - and happy new year.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I do giveaways once in a while, just for fun. I'm most happy when the winner turns out to be a regular visitor, rather than someone who just dropped by for the contest.

As for goals, I was such a writing loser in 2010 that I'm setting a new goal: write 500 words a day (not including blog posts and e-mails). I think that's manageable....we'll see.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Oops, I forgot to wish you and wonderful and successful new year, Terry. I hope you accomplish all your goals.

Jemi Fraser said...

Quality is always preferable over quantity!

I'm in the middle of When Danger Calls on my Kindle right now - and I'm loving it! Ryan and Frankie are terrific characters. :)

I hope you have a wonderful 2011! Enjoy!

Pat Marinelli said...

Hi Terry,

Great post on setting goals. I'm in the process of setting up mine for 2011. I plan to write one page a day (or more if it happens) and spend an hour a day editing or rewriting. All this must be done before I go online. I've discovered online is an addiction for me and once I get started I can keep going for hours.

I hope these goals work with my new "eyes." I just had cataract surgery on both eyes a week apart and new reading and comuter glasses can't be ordered for at least five weeks. It is so intersting and frustrating for a writer/reader to do from severe nearsidedmess all her life to having perfect distance vision and not being able to read or see your computer. Eye doctor told me to get a cheap pair of reading glasses and hang in there until I get a 'real' perscription glasses. Dispite this problem, I'm am determined to reach my goals.

Wish you well with yours.

Anonymous said...

I have similar goals with my blog. I'm now following you!! :) Hope you can pop over to mine soon. Looking forward to following your blog and getting to know you better over the next year.

Susan Macatee said...

I only set goals, Terry, that I'm fairly sure I can accomplish. In fact, when I checked back to last year's goals, to my surprise, I'd accomplished all but one. And that was because I'd hit a snag in the story during the first draft. I'm going to get back to it this year with a whole new vision for the story.

But all my other projects are done. Now, I'm working on new goals for the coming year.

Kathy said...

Terry great blog about goals. I had set a goal to finish the story I am working on in 2010. Didn't quite happen however the best thing I did was sign up for a Yahoo Group called Writing_Giam 100x100. The requirement is to write at least 100 words per day on your WIP or spend so many minutes editing or revising so many pages. Online courses, emails,blogs didn't count only actual writing. I am now four days away from my second 100 days. I have a really nice certificate for the first. It seems like 3 tries for me to make the 100 steady. Part of that is life but I have learned to say wait it is only 100 words just do it and that is all you have to do. It works I am always telling my aunt who had two books published through Publish America that you can finish number 3. She laments her old computer crashed and she has to connect two parts and join them and too much to be done around her house and she has no time to write. I keep telling her 100 words per day oh but she doesn't want to count words and so on. I stick out my tongue at her and give her rasberries (she can't see me we are online in instant messenger)in frustration. No I know I can't change her but I have to push at her. She helped me figure out I could do this. I figured after I read her two if she could do it at 70 plus so could I. I haven't managed to complete a manuscript yet lol. I'm actually doing much better with this story than anything else I have worked on writing. I have a beginning and ending and I never had the basic story idea figured out. I suppose my goal for 2011 will be to see how close I can get to polishing, editing, and revising until this is ready to find an agent and work on having it published. Oh and to get out of my sister's house into our own. I have to add in that I am so not a planner. I hate it because every time I set a plan out to follow something easy like last year had all things set for going to Nationals then we had to move and that fell out. I had planned to go to work within a few weeks of being at Fort Hood. Didn't work because I choose not to go back to working in a convenience store. Then husbands health blew up in our faces. So I say one day at a time is the only way. Then goals would be one step at a time.

Maryannwrites said...

I agree with Pat that I need to set a new schedule of writing first before I even go online to check mail, etc. Once I make some changes in my job situation, I will no longer have to go online first, so I am going to try her approach.

Wishing you all the best for the New Year, Terry.

Terry Odell said...

Patricia, thanks. 500 words is my minimum count, and I think it's doable. The question is always, "will they survive when I look at them the next morning?"

Jemi -- SO glad you're enjoying WHEN DANGER CALLS! Thanks, and Happy New Year.

Ciara - thanks for upping my follower count -- and I'll be sure to pop over to yours.

Susan, congrats on the goals. And good luck with 2011. I'm sure you'll meet them--you seem to understand how they work.

Kathy - thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes life gets in the way, but those things have to be taken into account when revisiting and revising goals.

Maryann -- I do my morning browsing, etc., while I'm having my coffee, because I'm not good for much creativity first thing in the AM anyway.

Terry Odell said...

Pat - sorry I skipped over you (your comment was too close to Patricia's!). Best of luck with your eyes!

Helen Ginger said...

Goals should be achievable, otherwise you set yourself up for failure. If you dream big, then at least be ready to consider achieving part of your goal as success.

I'm setting very few goals. I tend to make them then forget them within a month.

Hart Johnson said...

I laughed at you writing resolutions for you hubby-MAN, I would love to do that!

great breakdown though, on getting goals into measurable form--you are absolutely right--and on choosing the points you can control--sales? not so much... but PROMOTING or PRODUCING... those things you can do something about.

Terry Odell said...

Helen - if you have a goals list/log, you're less likely to forget. Prop it up by your computer.

Hart - yep, things you control are goals. The rest are dreams.

Doreen McGettigan said...

Great post! I also set goals rather than resolutions this year. Actually I never do resolutions so even the goals are something new.
I also stopped worrying about the followers and likes and so on.
Happy New Year to you!