Your Best Writing Year Yet! – The Action Plan 4

THIS IS THE SECOND of a new series designed to help you create and achieve your writing productivity goals.

In last week’s article, Part 1, I showed you how to set your one-word intentional focus for the year and create your “big-rock” writing goal. Part 2 builds on the first, so if you haven’t read it yet, please do so now. Then come back and continue with Part 2.


First, A Word to Non-Goal Setters

I’d like to take a moment to address those of you who feel an aversion to setting goals. (If you’re already on board, skip to the “Moving On” section below.)

Did you look at last week’s article and think, “Goals work for some people but not for me”? If so, you’re not alone. Not by a long shot. Many people don’t like the idea of setting goals for a variety of reasons.

But here’s the thing: a goal is simply a destination. Do you normally just get in your car and drive without knowing where you want to go? Probably not.

So, ask yourself this: Where do I want to be as a writer in 6 months? 12 months?

Lay down your preconceptions of what it means to work towards a goal and trust me. The process I am laying out in this series works. If you really want to make progress in your writing life, re-read Part 1, create your one, big-rock writing goal, then meet us here again, at Moving On.


Moving On

By now, you have your one-word focus for the year and your Big-Rock SMART writing goal. If your goal is an achievement, you will have included your due date as part of your goals statement. For example, “To complete the final draft of my personal essay by March 1, 2018.”

If your Big-Rock goal is to establish a habit, you will have included your start date, how often you want to include this habit, and the date by which the habit will be established. For example: “To write 30 minutes each weekday for 6 months, starting January 2nd.”

You will also have written down your motivation (the Whys) for accomplishing your goal. If you haven’t written your Why statement(s) yet, stop and do it now! This step is vitally important, because when life happens and things get hard you will need to refer back to your Why statements for encouragement and to remind yourself why you began this journey in the first place.

The next step is to break your goal down into small, doable baby steps (tasks), each with its own due date. So let’s get started.

 [bctt tweet=”Your action plan is a living, breathing document.” username=”writingthrulife”]


Creating Your Achievement-Goal Action Plan

Brainstorm a list of baby steps you can take toward your goal. For example, if your goal is to complete a memoir that you’ve been working on, you might start with a list that includes items like this:

  • Calculate how many words I need to write between now and [due date].
  • Schedule writing time on calendar and set reminder.
  • Outline chapters.
  • Interview Aunt Jane.
  • Read 2002 Journal entries for relevant info.

Next, put your list in the order in which you want to do the tasks and give each task a due date.

You will need to break some tasks into smaller sub-tasks. For example, the task of interviewing Aunt Jane can be broken down into 3 sub-tasks, each with its own due date: 1) Schedule Interview; 2) Write interview questions; 3) Conduct Interview.

Or, you may need to schedule 15 minutes per day for 1 week to read and notate your 2002 journal (or any other research).

Giving dates to your tasks can feel risky, but you can adjust these due dates later if you need to (more on that later in this series), so go ahead and be bold. It’s the due dates that give the tasks their power.

Put each task on a calendar and post where you can see it or set reminders on your smart phone — whatever works for you. I’m going to talk more about task management in the next article.


Creating Your Habit-Goal Action Plan

When establishing new habits, it’s equally important to start with baby steps. AND it’s important to decide what time of day you will integrate your new habit. Use an already established daily activity to spark your new behavior.

If your goal is to write for 30 minutes five days a week, figure out when you will write. Some ideas: upon awaking, after breakfast, before bed, after dinner, during lunch break, after work before coming home, when the kids are napping (though if you choose this one, also choose an alternate for those times the kids are not cooperating!)

Start small. Plan to write 10 minutes a day to start. When you’ve successfully written 10 minutes a day for a week or two, you can increase the time to 15 minutes. You’ll continue in this fashion until you’ve reached your goal of 30 minutes per weekday.

Important! Add the habit to your calendar and/or set a daily reminder on your phone.


What’s Next?

Do the first task on your list. If you can’t do the first task in one sitting, break it down into multiple tasks or schedule working on it a few minutes per day until it’s complete.

When the first task is complete, do the second. Don’t overlap.

Remember: your action plan is a living, breathing document that you will refine and adjust as you work toward your goal.

In the next article in this series, we’ll how to stay motivated and manage your tasks.

So tell us, how will you get started? What’s the first task on your list?


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4 thoughts on “Your Best Writing Year Yet! – The Action Plan

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    Thanks for giving us some ideas on planning to fulfill our writing goals for the year. I am reminded of the value of establishing a consistent habit. I take my big goal and break it down into the daily habits that I need to incorporate in order to move forward. I’ve long since put aside “striving” and have replaced it with consistency. Striving (pressing) creates imbalance in me and then thwarts my plan/goal. I try to remember this phrase, “Progression not perfection.” When I was younger, I strove for perfection; and if I couldn’t be perfect in meeting my goals I either stopped or never got started. I soon realized that striving and seeking perfection was the source of my negative energy and my writer’s block. I’ve learned to be consistent and gentle with my plans and habits. I’m rambling, again! 🙂

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sara, thank you for your wise insights into the process of making progress (ramble anytime you want!). I love the idea of consistency vs striving, and progress not perfection. These are solid principles. Striving for perfection is a cause of procrastination and much angst. Taking one step at a time, and letting each effort be “enough” in the moment is how we succeed in moving forward.

  • Caren D.

    The first task on my list is to create some type of timeline for the first draft of my memoir. This is a big undertaking since I’m beginning to see patterns and connections from childhood through present turmoil. My first task is not to get hung up on the order but to get the shell of my story out on paper. Maybe map it out based on significant events in my life leading up to my present realization. Is this too broad?

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Caren, yes, that’s a good approach. It doesn’t matter at this point if it’s too broad. Just getting those significant events mapped out on a timeline is a great first start. Then choose one of those events to begin writing about. Preferably one in the middle, during the heat or thick of things. (I’ve found it’s best to start in the middle, because that’s what we really want to write about.) As your memoir develops you will begin to hone in on those events that are most important to your story and leave out those that are not. (And sometimes they are part of another, different memoir.)

      And if mapping out all those events seems daunting, like a “big undertaking,” then make your first step to create a timeline on paper. Then your second step can be to write 3-5 events on your timeline. And so on. Break it down until it seems too easy to NOT do.