Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reverse Goal-Setting: Magic Action for Writers

Goal-setting doesn't work for many book writers. Maybe we're too random. Maybe we need more flexibility than traditional goal-setting allows. Even those of us who love lists rebel three months into a prescribed plan. Our books are evolving in a new way, and the plan doesn't fit.

Enter Reverse Goal-Setting. With Reverse Goal-Setting, you start from the end and work backwards. You get flexibility. You get chances to adjust and modify as you go. You also get a reality check--and you create writing goals that are actually possible to achieve and still stay sane and happy in your larger life arena (with family, friends, work responsibilities).

Want to try it? Using the presume you did last week (see post below this one) you can launch your Reverse Goal-Setting pretty easily. If you didn't do last week's exercise, take time to do it now (10 minutes max) then come back.

Get a large sheet of paper. Create 12 columns or boxes, one for each month of 2009. Label them by the months, from January to December.

Starting with December's column, review your year-end goal from your presume. Ask yourself: What would have to happen in December for this January 2010 goal to be realized? Write three tasks for December 2009.

Move back one month to November 2009. What would have to happen in November for December's goal to be realized? Write three tasks for November.

And so forth. You get the picture. Continue backwards through the months until you get to now, January 2009.

Here comes the reality check. Look at where you are now, with your writing in its present state, with your other responsibilities. Is your year-end goal reasonable, even possible? Is it too big or too small? Does it feel good, well aligned with your other creative goals and your life responsibilities?

Modify, add, reduce, adjust as needed, until the year-end goal in your presume feels accurate and just enough of a stretch.

I learned this the hard way: Success in goal-setting is all about being accurate. It's also about adjusting the goal so you can succeed. Each time you succeed, your self-esteem as a creative person goes way up. Using Reverse Goal-Setting makes it easier to see where you're going to succeed with your writing goals--and where you're not.