Happy New Year, friends! I hope you’re having a great start to 2019.
I want to help you tackle the new year the right away–in a way that makes things happen–so I’m here already, bright and early, to help you get organised and set goals you’ll stick to!
In case you didn’t know, I love organising myself and setting goals. My Instagram feed is 25% books I’m reading, 25% books I’m writing, and 50% beautifully colour-coded pages full of goals.
Of course, setting them is only half the joy. Actually sticking to them is another trick altogether, and that’s where many people fail–they set goals that sound good but aren’t realistic.
Today, I’ll show you how I–dubbed the Queen of Organisation on Instagram*–organise myself and stick to my goals.
*Once, but, I mean, it happened, so.
Before we set any goals, we need to be careful not to set just anything.
The mistake many new goal-setters make is that their goals are too big. This isn’t to say you can’t aim high–in fact, I encourage you do!–but it does mean that you’ll get overwhelmed unless you make those big goals easier to manage.
For example, let’s look at one of my goals for 2019: this year, I want to get a new novella trilogy ready for publication. Let’s call it Dream Stalker.*
‘Publish a trilogy’ is too big a goal, because there’s so much involved. I need to write Dream Stalker, create a world, develop my characters, figure out the plot, book my editor and cover designer, find critique partners and beta readers, plan release week, build my marketing plan–
How does ‘publish a trilogy’ possibly do all this justice? You need to break it down into all those smaller steps and work at them one by one. Once you do that, big goals won’t look so intimidating anymore.
But writing a book might not be your top priority this year**. You can easily apply the above to every other goal, too! Let’s look at a few examples:
Want to get a job? Rather than write ‘get a job’ into your notebook, identify the steps you need to take to make it happen. What kind of job do you want? Is your CV up to date and reflects your dream career? Where will you find listings? How often will you check? Do you have a cover letter template you can easily personalise?
Want to move out? Make sure you know how much of a deposit you’ll need. What are you looking for? A certain number of bedrooms? A garden? Detached/semi-attached/attached? Do you have a solicitor to help you with the legalese? If you want to move in with someone, have you talked to them about it?
Want to learn a new skill? (*high five*) How will you learn? In a class, self-taught, or with a friend’s help? Are there any classes near you? How much do they cost? If you want to teach yourself, you’ll still need some kind of course material. Are you looking at books or software? How will you practice?
The main thing to remember with any goals you set this year is to aim high but to take small steps along the way. You wouldn’t shove a whole sirloin steak into your mouth–you’d cut it into manageable chunks. (or maybe you would? I don’t judge.)
**given that you’re here, though, on this blog, I bet it’s on your list somewhere!
Chances are you’ll have more than a handful of goals, and as we’ve seen above, some goals separate into many, smaller ones. It’s easy to lose track unless you keep notes.
What kind of things you track is up to you. Different people need/like different reminders. As long as you know what you’re doing, you’re good!
Personally, I couldn’t live without my bullet journal. I take notes for everything, track my goals weekly, and colour-code so I can see at one glance what needs doing and what it’s for.
Writing down your goals for the week ahead also helps you focus on what needs your attention. Plus, ticking your boxes as you get shit done is pretty satisfying.
If you’d like to know more about my journalling process, you can read all about how my bullet journal has saved my sanity and helps me stay organised.
You don’t need to take vast amounts of notes, just whatever helps you stay on track and wrap your head around everything you need to do to make your dreams a reality.
Not everyone works well with deadlines, so if you don’t, take away from this what you feel works for you.
I’ve had two experiences with deadlines:
- They are fantastic because they set me a timed goal, and I’m self-motivated enough that I want to hit it.
- I feel bad when I miss a self-imposed deadline for whatever reason, because I’m falling behind.
For the sake of your sanity, I advise you to set flexible deadlines. Having that end in sight can help significantly, but don’t make it so tight your stomach hurts!
And most importantly, make your deadlines realistic. Don’t set them early because you like the idea of finishing soon. Set them a little later because something somewhere will go wrong.
Often, projects take longer than we anticipated for any number of reasons. You can easily plan for that by setting your deadline a little later than you think you’ll need. Always leave wriggle room.
Set a routine
Having a clear routine will help you stay organised tremendously. Once you’ve established one, all you need to do is follow it. Sounds simple, but that’s really all there is to it!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that simple, Sarina. New routines are hard until you’re used to them, I know, but you’ll only get used to them if you stick to them.
It may not be easy to hear, but the only thing between you and your routine is you. If you decide you’ll write every day between 9am and 10am, it’s your job to show up for that hour and write.
Still, easier said than done, I know. Your little Facebook icon is flashing because you have a message, you have five new unread emails, and you should really order that thing from Amazon before you forget.
There are so many distractions on the internet, aren’t there?* If you get distracted easily, I highly recommend writing your novels in Scrivener. Its full-screen mode is the best and will block out all those little notifications which can honestly wait an hour.
If anything else comes up, say you’re busy without guilt because you are busy. In the words of J. K. Rowling:
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”
Wise words, friends. Live by them.
*most of them are cats, of course
Join a peer group
There’s nothing like having the support of other people who do what you do. (read: like needing to stick to your goals because you’ve kinda told everyone that you would.*)
Last year, I joined my local group of writers and we meet up once a month (or try to, anyway) to discuss anything self-publishing related. We answer each other’s question, advice each other, and sometimes we critique each other’s writing, too.
Joining a peer group is beneficial for many reasons, but most of all you get to connect with like-minded people who understand the struggles and joys of your chosen business.
If you do this full-time, it’s also good to get out of the house and talk to someone in person every now and again.
But you might not have a local writer’s group. If that’s the case, see if you’ve connected with anyone on social media who might be interested in forming an online group with you. You can ‘meet’ via Skype, Google Hangouts or whatever works for you and your group.
Maybe you could even arrange meetings in person after a while. Many people are prepared to travel as long as it’s not unreasonable.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you not to meet just anyone from the internet, but I want you to be safe. Unless you’re sure they can be trusted and you’re 100% comfortable, don’t meet in person <3
*fun fact: I made mince pies for my colleagues on my last day at the day job because I’d told them a week before that I would.
When life happens
All of this is good and all, but what do you do when, well, life happens? Sooner or later, you won’t be able to stick to your goals–not perfectly, anyway. We get sick, appointments come up, a friend needs us, and sometimes worse happens.
Things come up. Sometimes you only take an hour or a day to deal with them, but other times they take much longer.
It’s unavoidable, so you can’t hold it against yourself when you fall behind because something came up.
We often read that we need to protect our writing time religiously. I agree–I shared a quote about this very thing in this post–but there are exceptions to this rule, too.
Your writing isn’t more important than your best friend who’s had an accident.
Your writing isn’t more important than your child’s football game.
Your writing isn’t more important than your mum who needs to talk.
There are some moments in life you simply won’t get another chance to experience.
And then there are the small things we all know can pop up, like birthday preparations, your parents visiting to surprise you, or someone needing to come out to fix your electrics because they broke down without warning the night before.
Sometimes, your writing simply isn’t more important.
Shit happens. When it does, take a deep breath and know you’re doing great. Sometimes, things will get in the way of your writing. That doesn’t make you a bad writer or a less dedicated one.
It’s important to remember, especially in the beginning of something new, that we don’t really know yet what will work. I’ve often thought that a plan would work brilliantly, only to realise a few weeks in that it wasn’t meant to be.
If you can’t write between 9am and 10am after all, move it to another time.
If you misjudged how long something takes (SO easily done!), adapt. You could schedule in more time for this activity, or you could assign a second time slot later in the day.
You’re bound to adjust things quite a lot at first, but don’t worry–that’s normal. Chances are, you’ll adjust your routine again once you’ve been working with it for a while, because things change. You might add a few tasks or take some out.
I had great plans (I thought) for CookieBreak at the beginning of 2018, but everything about this blog has changed so much during that year that my strategy had to change, too.
The only thing you can do is try things, see how it goes. Keep the stuff that works for you and replace the stuff that doesn’t until you have a routine that’s right for you.
Resources for you
I’d love to help you make things happen this year <3 If you’re at the stage where your book needs an editor or if you’d like one-to-one help with the self-publishing process, check out my self-publishing services.
Also check out my favourite tools for writers. I list some of my favourite books on writing, online courses, stationery supplies, programs… anything to help you make this your year!
What are your goal-setting tips? Make a tea, get some biscuits, and let’s talk all things organisation! <3
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