Priorities: Is it time for re-ordering them?

Do you have your priorities in order? Do you even know what your priorities are? When was the last time you assessed them, and considered whether you lived according to these priorities?

My priorities are fairly simple. Family. Writing. Friends. Everything else (and yes, housework is somewhere way down the list).

The top three are, to me, the most important ones, though even as I write this, I find myself switching them around a few times, adjusting. Because let’s face it: if we put them in order of priority, it means at one point or another, one of them will “win” over a lower ranked priority.

It’s not a very nice thing, is it? To consider that we’d choose our career over our friends? For some people, perhaps career ranks the highest for them. For me, sometimes this is the case. Which is where this post comes from.

Is your priority list shifting? Do you allow it and yourself that freedom, or hold yourself to a more rigid standard?

Last month, I was desperate to finish Christmas presents galore (I make most of them), get the house prepared for my party, AND finish the rewrite on a novel so I could get it submitted to a contest and have it out of my head for holidays. I wanted to achieve it all simultaneously, which is impossible. And to get it done, I had to shift around the priorities a little bit. Writing moved up higher on the list, and I had to sacrifice some of my time with my family to get things done. BUT, using a shifting priority list, I DID get it all done.

Keeping track of your priorities also means that on your writing day, sometimes you have to say no to other offers and possibilities – because that day, writing may outrank other priorities (like friends or fun). Whatever the case, I try to assess what’s most important to me at that time, and set my priorities and actions accordingly. Usually it’s the first three that continue to shift and dance amidst the positions, and remind me what I want, what I need to do to get it, and where I need to go.

So what about you? Do you think priorities must be set in stone, or are yours shifting as you need them, too?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Tangible Productivity Markers for a New Year

Do you have a new calendar yet? Have you written out goals and plans on it? Or do you let the days pass as they will?

As we begin a new year, I’ve been thinking more about using time instead of chasing after it all the time. Instead of having a bit of a loosey-goosey idea of when I want to achieve things, I think I’m going to try for more tangible dates and times. Why would this work for me? Because I work well with a deadline.

I’ve heard of others who write everything down on a calendar. I’m far from that place now. My desk calendar is usually too small to write anything more than a few letters beside each date. But, I do like my log book, where I write down how many words I’ve achieved each day, what I’ve accomplished.

Taking it one step further would be placing a date more firmly on those objectives. This year, I want to write at least two complete novels. That means it takes me usually about two months for the first draft, and pushing hard, I can do the next draft(s) in four months using my new plan. If I switch back and forth between two novels, giving each time to rest, that means I should be able to achieve my goal, right?

That’s the first part. So I can write that down in my goals, on a calendar. I think the second part is perhaps assessment at various points throughout the year. It’s June, the halfway point: what have you achieved thus far? Word count? Novels? Plans? Goals checked off? Where do you still need to go?

The next part that I’ve been considering is watching the calendar not only for what I need to achieve, but for what I have all ready achieved. Essentially, how can I reward myself? Pat myself on the back – even if I haven’t completed as much as I need to? Because here’s the thing: especially while you work for yourself, who else is going to tell you you’re doing a good job? I think the next part of the plan would be to insert rewards for some of the achievements. Have I met my goals by June? I can specify which goals or what number, and that means I’ve earned a reward, like buying myself a new outfit, or dinner out, something like that (seeing as fun isn’t actually against the law … so far as I know).

Yes, fine, it may sound a bit Pavlovian, but those dogs still hoped for the treat when the bell rang, didn’t they? Why shouldn’t I work just as hard and hope for a treat myself? If it helps me reach my goals, I’m all for it. What about you?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, and happy writing!

New Year, New Knowledge: What will you learn this year?

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max Depree

To me, knowledge is growth. Sometimes what we learn may be painful, sometimes it can shake us to our core and make us reassess everything, but that’s just a part of growing, of improving. So, as you work on setting your goals for success in 2013, have you likewise considered your educational goals?

For me, this is a new step, specifically looking at setting educational goals. But seeing as I now suddenly receive and ask for almost exclusively non-fiction books to add to my library, it seems my educational goals are alive and well without my asking. My goals will likewise primarily center around my writing: this year I want to improve the depth of emotion in my writing, go deeper into third person POV, and work on plotting, experimenting with different methods of pre-plotting and outlining to see if this makes rewrites go a bit smoother.

What about you? Have you got a hankering to learn something new? Is there something you’ve always wanted to know more about? There are so many options available to you, and I’m a HUGE fan of the public library, which is frequently a free or inexpensive tool to lead you to all kinds of knowledge, especially when they offer talks and workshops.

What about the internet? Classes and workshops offered through conferences, universities, colleges, and specific groups? Chances are that if you’re interested in something, someone else is too – and you just need to find them.

It’s an exciting prospect, deciding what you want to learn for the year. It’s practically like picking and choosing amongst the most delectable sweets. Choose according to your taste, your budget, but make sure you choose!

Imagine life without new knowledge, how limiting it would be. Why would you want to stay the same forever? If you don’t continue to learn, you’ll stagnate. One day you’ll wake up and realize the world has left you behind, or you’re stuck in a hole. Knowledge, learning something new, sets off new light-bulbs in your head. What kernel of a story will be hiding in even the dullest of history texts? What workshop will lead you to friends and experiences you couldn’t have imagined?

So, what will you learn this year? Does this knowledge play into the specific goals you’ve set for yourself this year? Or will new knowledge lead to pleasure and passion in your life? Do share!

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, happy writing, and here’s to learning something new this year, this week, and every day of your life.

Goal Setting for a New Year: 10 Steps to Easy, Achievable Goals

Welcome to 2013! Hooray, cheers, huzzah!

Okay, now time to put down the champagne flutes and get to work. It’s a new year, and that means goal-setting. Don’t moan and groan about it – what happened to all that cheering? Trust me. This will be WAY easier than living up to that new gym membership.

Step 1: Reflect. Reflect on the past year, on what you’ve accomplished, and what you still need to do. Knowing what you’re capable of and where you’ve been will be a big help in knowing where you want and need to go. But, don’t consider this limiting.

Step 2: Dream big. What do you want to achieve this year? What would make for a better, happier, more complete you? These can be new dreams or old ones. And the goals can be as big or small as you like – don’t compare yourself to anyone else. These are your dreams, your goals.

Step 3: Reality check. Not to dampen your enthusiasm, but step back and consider your goals. Is becoming an astronaut and flying to the moon an achievable goal for you this year? Did you complete all the necessary training last year? Consider what you achieved last year, and where you want to go. Some dreams and goals may be more long term than just over a year, and a realistic timeline will help you avoid disappointment.

Step 4: Research. Now you need to understand your dreams and goals. If you know a lot about them, than you may be able to skip this step. But if you’re going in blind, it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research, which will make the next step much easier.

Step 5: Break your individual goals into steps. So, you want to be a published author. What do you need to get there? First, you need to write a book of some variety (and the writing of that also has its own steps). Do you need an agent? You want steps which clearly show a progression towards your goal, statements that can be checked off as achieved or not, progressing logically from one to the next. This means they may be broken down into very tiny chunks, but that’s okay: that will help offer encouragement and signs of success later on.

Step 6: WRITE IT DOWN. I can’t emphasize this enough. Sure, you can think of all the goals you want, but will you remember them? What will hold you accountable? How will you remember what you’ve achieved or not?

Step 7: Plan for success and perseverance. You have your steps. Have you included all the things you need to do to succeed? When things get hard, how will you keep going? How will you celebrate your small victories and your big ones? Visualise and plan for successes, and prepare to avoid failure.

Step 8: Set a clear timeline. Try to be realistic with your dates as you pull out a calendar and write your goals down. A red circle on the calendar could be the push you need in that month to achieve success. Building in rewards and encouragement will keep you going when the going gets rough.

Step 9: Share with at least one other person. Perhaps this person has the same goals as you, perhaps they don’t. But putting your goals out there makes you accountable to more than just yourself – and could be a source of encouragement. Consider finding a partner or group to help you keep going, celebrating your successes, and all pushing for your dreams.

Step 10: Post and achieve. Put these goals somewhere you can see them and reference them throughout the year, as well as reflect on your achievements throughout and at the end of the year.

See? Not that hard … now I just better get to that myself. 🙂 Thanks for reading, and here’s to a great year for all of you.