Tuesday, December 5, 2017

4 Goal Setting Tips for Writers

by Cynthia Owens @EfficiencyAdict

It’s a December ritual—looking back on the current year and considering all the possibilities for the next. We celebrate, make resolutions to do better, and dream of what the new year could hold. However, statistics tell us that only 9.2% of those who make resolutions will achieve their goals.

I don’t share that to deter you. I list it so we know what we’re up against and can make a plan to overcome it. There are a lot of articles about how to achieve goals, but today I want to share four lesser known tips that have actually worked for me.

4 Goal Setting Tips:
1. Test Drive Your Goal. Before you officially start, do a test drive. Give yourself a few weeks to try out your goal parameters. See what works. Tweak what doesn’t. Then when you have your official start date, you’ll be primed to succeed. You’ve already been working your goal for weeks.

And yes, I did say weeks. A day or two isn’t enough. You need time to get through the emotional high of starting, and see what helps you on the days when nothing goes right.

2. Use Past Successes to Guide You. Think about when you succeeded at a previous goal. Then consider
  • How did you prepare?
  • How did you stay on track?
  • What helped you when you stumbled?
  • How did you get through those “I just don’t feel like it” days?

Taking time to ponder what helps you overcome in one area can help you become successful in a new area. Are you great at keeping fit or staying on a budget? Why? What habits do you have that make you successful? How did you develop them? More importantly, how can they be applied to your writing?

3. Don’t Fixate on the Start Date. You can start any time you want. If you’re still test-driving your goal on January 1st, great. You’re on your way. In recent years, I achieved two tough (for me) goals. One I started on April 1st with a test drive in the last few weeks of March. The other began sometime in December. The point? There’s no magic surrounding January 1st. Pick a date that works for you and go with it.

4. Change Your Mindset. If you’re a chronic starter, it’s time to change your mindset. How do you know if you’re a chronic starter? Let’s channel Jeff Foxworthy for a moment.
  • Do you have 13 storylines that never made it past chapter four? You might be a chronic starter.
  • Do your unread writers’ conference notes take up so much of your desk you haven’t seen your computer since sometime in October? You might be a chronic starter.
  • Do you have arguments with your characters on your lunch break because they’re tired of living only in your head? You might be a chronic starter.
  • Have you made the same resolution for so many years it can’t be erased from your whiteboard? You might be a chronic starter.
  • Have you put so much pressure on yourself you’re actually two inches shorter than what’s listed on your driver’s license? You might be a chronic starter.

If any of these resonate with you, be encouraged. It’s time to break the pattern.

Over the summer, I came across the book Finish by Jon Acuff. In it, he shares about the frustrations of being a chronic starter and gives practical advice on becoming a consistent finisher. Now this isn’t another buckle down, get more discipline, and just do it kind of book. It’s actually quite the opposite. Jon shows how a lot of the advice we’ve been given regarding goals makes them harder to achieve. In Finish he picks apart these progress-crushing lies and shares how to make the work for our goals both doable and fun. Much of his advice centers around changing our mindsets, giving us the power to handle the rough spots and the desire to keep moving forward.

If you’re a chronic starter, give yourself a present and check out the book Finish. You just might find you have a lot more to celebrate in the coming year.

What goal-related wisdom has worked for you? What tips do you follow that help turn your writing goals into reality? Share in the comments below.

Until next year—Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and happy writing!


Goal setting for Writers-What Finally Worked - @EfficiencyAdict on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia Owens is The Efficiency Addict, a technical trainer helping writers, speakers and small business owners work more effectively. She runs www.TheEfficiencyAddict.com, which specializes in computer training, business organization, career development and event coordination. 

Connect with Cynthia on Twitter and Pinterest.


  1. Cynthia, you can give Jeff Foxworthy a run for his money. :) I appreciate learning a new-to-me phrase, chronic starter. It makes me think, "I don't want to be that." Thank you for sharing this!

  2. I am not a chronic starter; I am a procrastinator. Hoeever, once I start, I can't stop what I am doing.
    I still would want to check that book, Finish.
    Great post, Cynthia! Blessings.

  3. Finish is on my reading list, too. Great post especially for those of us who miss the January 1st deadline every time! Thanks, Cynthia.