Two weeks ago, we talked about how to create and prioritize a short list of your most important goals for the year. Today, we'll discuss how to break down big goals into small pieces you can work on every day or week or month.
There are two main ways to do this – plan toward a specific date, or plan a certain amount of work per period.
Let's say you want to submit your completed manuscript to Hallmark Publishing next month during their open submission period. 😉 You would write down everything that needs to be done and how much time you have to do it. As of today, the last day you can submit an unagented manuscript is five weeks away. If you want to do one last polish, send the book to a couple of beta readers to get feedback, and write a synopsis, you can break those pieces into even smaller chunks and figure out where you need to be at the end of each week. Much of the writing life is working toward a deadline like this.
But maybe you've never written a book before, or you're about to write in a genre you've never written in, and you have no idea how long it will take you to write it. In that case, say you're going to work 10 hours a week. After several weeks, you notice a pattern of about 500 words per hour, which comes to about 5000 words per week. You've researched the genre and know you need to have a 90,000-100,000 word manuscript. Now you can guesstimate when you will finish your first draft, and you can use this as a baseline for planning future first drafts.
Some tasks are more difficult to break down. For instance, my #1 goal for 2019 is to regain and actively keep the mental health I lost during burnout last year. But how do I quantify improved sleep, added peace, and more joy? After one month, should I try to find out if I'm 1/12th of the way to my goal?
In this case, I might choose to write at least four times a week in a sleep journal to record how well I'm sleeping and try to find patterns between good nights and bad nights. I might set aside 1-2 hours twice a week for “me time” to do something that makes me laugh or brings me joy, maybe going to lunch with friends or watching a movie of my choosing by myself or giving myself two hours of uninterrupted reading.
Figuring out how to pursue and track intangible goals can require more imagination, but you can think of ways to do it that work for your life and how your mind thinks. No matter what kind of goal or what method you use to pursue and track it, make sure to check in with yourself once a month to see if you're making progress. If not, tweak what you're doing and try again for another month. This is how you'll discover the best methods for you.