Last month, I wrote about creating a Strategic Plan for your writing career, focusing on drafting a Mission Statement. Many of you shared your thoughts in comments – some people even provided draft Mission Statements for the rest of us to consider. This month, we’ll take the concept one step further, looking at drafting Goals.
Goals are concrete statements about specific things you intend to accomplish in order to fulfill your Mission Statement. Goals bear a passing resemblance to “resolutions” — you know, those promises that you made to yourself about six weeks ago, the ones that have likely fallen by the wayside.
Strategic Plan Goals, though, function in a solid framework (unlike most vague resolutions), so that you are much more likely to achieve them. Solidly written Goals read almost like journalistic headlines – they include the who, what, and when of your personal story. (They don’t include the “why” – that’s in your Mission Statement. They also don’t include the “how” – that will be in your Strategies and Activities.)
WHO: Your Strategic Plan Goals should be about you, about what you’re going to accomplish. You can’t control other people; you can’t dictate what your agent, your editor, or your readers will do. Therefore, don’t waste your time creating Goals for your agent, your editor, your readers, or anyone else. Concentrate on the aspects of your writing career that you can control. For example, one aspect of my career involves staying physically healthy enough to write. While I could phrase this goal in terms of other people (“keep my doctor from … [prescribing statins for high cholesterol]”), my Strategic Plan will be much more effective if it’s phrased in terms of what I can do: “I will …”
WHAT: This is the meat of your Goal. The more specific that you can be, the stronger the Strategies you can create in future stages of this project. I can write “I will be healthy”, but that doesn’t give me any way of measuring when I have achieved healthfulness or give me any guidance with regard to specific steps toward healthfulness. Instead, I must enumerate what “healthfulness” means: “lose thirty-seven pounds, thereby lowering my blood pressure to at least 120/80 and my total cholesterol to less than 200…”
WHEN: Setting specific deadlines allows you to calculate progress (and to correct lack of progress) as you fulfill your strategic plan. Many businesses draft “three-year” Strategic Plans — three years sets a reasonable horizon, where workers can plan reasonably and are still able to predict conditions. Three years also limits the “overhead” — the amount of time that companies invest in planning, compared to the actual progress they make in their corporate business. Even if I create a three-year Strategic Plan, I might set a one-year deadline on a specific Goal. (Presumably, accomplishing that Goal will permit me to achieve other Goals down the line, within the time period of my Strategic Plan.) For my healthy-writer example, I would include the time limitation “within one year.”
Thus, one Goal in my professional Strategic Plan might be: “I will lose thirty-seven pounds, thereby lowering my blood pressure to at least 120/80 and my total cholesterol to less than 200 within one year.”
Other Goals in my Strategic Plan might include successive “healthfulness” goals (e.g., now that I’ve lost the weight, I’m going to craft a second-year Goal of building endurance.) In the alternative, I might complete all of my healthfulness Goals before I complete the rest of my Strategic Plan.
While there is no absolute number for the “correct” number of Goals, most planners find that they cannot adequately address more than a half-dozen Goals — at most! — in any given Plan period. If you find that you have a dozen Goals to achieve, you might consider shortening the time period of your Strategic Plan, so that you can stage successive Goals.
So? How about you? Take a look at your Mission Statements from last month, and consider the specific, individually-motivated, concretely-defined, time-limited goals that will help you to achieve your Mission. Anyone feel like sharing? Or challenging the assumptions that I’ve laid out here?
Mindy, looking forward to the conversation
ETA: My next post will be about “Strategies” – a break down of each Goal, setting specifics to accomplish the who-what-whens.