Friday, December 11, 2009

on the setting of goals

Last week, my friend Bonnie wrote a post on impaired executive function, which focused on her knowing what her goals are but needing to figure out how to get herself to focus on them on a day-to-day level. We had a lot of back-and-forth in chat about setting long-term goals and how we translate that to actually working on them. I tossed off a comment about having monthly goals and drawing weekly goals from them, and then I realized that I don't, not usually.

Here's the way this year has gone:
  • I came up with a short list of goals.

  • I created a spreadsheet, with different writing areas as rows and months as columns, and plugged the anticipated work into slots, thus giving myself monthly targets. (I also marked off August as vacation time, though the actual vacation was mid-July to mid-August.) Some things got put on the spreadsheet that were not in my goals, such as "post to Random Walks T/Th."

  • Every week, on the Daily Page & Word Count forum at Forward Motion for Writers, I would post a list of things I planned to work on that week -- including paying work, family events, and writing primarily determined by deadline. (Yes, the "Daily" forum is generally used on a week-by-week basis, with daily posting of progress. It's the way it has evolved.)

  • At the end of each month, I looked at how I was doing compared to my initial annual goals. I also created an updated worksheet in the spreadsheet, showing what was actually accomplished through that month and changes to the plan coming up. Some things (such as the aforementioned blog posts) got carried over, even though I wasn't doing them.

Now, a few years back, I read David Allen's Getting Things Done. I implemented part of it (I'd never heard of a tickler file before, but it's been great for getting bills paid, as long as I'm good at checking it.), tried part of it (the brain dump of projects took too long . . . ), and said, "Are you out of your mind? I don't have time for that!" to other parts (the weekly review).

It dawned on me this week that I already do a weekly review. Every week, I sit down and figure out how I did on my goals for that week and write down what I plan to work on for the next week. I just don't implement it fully. I don't look at my monthly or annual goals to see what I should be working on if I want to get to where I want to go. I also don't look at the "Someday/Maybe" list to see whether there's something I should be adding in because it fits where I am at the moment.

Next Action (Okay, not really, but it's more GTD-speak than "now on my to-do list"): Review the section on weekly reviews in the GTD book and start implementing it more fully in my week.

Of course, this doesn't address Bonnie's original question. I've got a week's worth of things to work on (some from this week include crit for Myrrdin, write on Jim Bob or Sundered Sword or both, work on short stories) and no really good way to get myself to sit down and do any one of them at a given time. (And on weeks like this, broken up by family and personal illness, little inclination to do any of them.)

I do try, of course. Some things are dictated by deadline -- a lot of my paying work, for example. Some things I find go best if I consistently do a bit each day -- such as when I'm doing a crit -- I like to do enough each day to immerse myself in the story, but not so much that I'm not getting my own work done. I find about 30 pages a day is a good target (not that I did that this week).

So, in addition to working on that weekly review, which should help me break long-term goals down into more manageable chunks, I may be experimenting with weekly-to-daily translations during this next year as well. Check back for further updates.

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